Better Bend Your Butter
I have to make a cake for a 70th birthday party tomorrow. I was the baker of the cake at the 30th, 40th, the 50th, and the 60th, so I have a tradition to uphold. I have all the ingredients laid out on the counter. Usually, I just throw in whatever I want, neglecting to measure anything for fear of making a mess. This time I have to painstakingly measure out each ingredient. Each has its time to go into the bowl. Not a minute before or after. The main ingredient that needs the most special care is the butter. You absolutely must have the butter at room temperature when you cream it. I know that this for a fact. If it is too cold the cake will be flat and will not crumb properly. If it is too warm it lumps up and does not allow the cake to bake evenly. The sides cook too rapidly causing the middle to bulge up into a peak. If you are going to frost the cake you must expertly slice the bulge off making a smooth surface for frosting and layering. If the butter is too cold it will break into pieces. If the butter is exactly at room temperature you can bend it beautifully. If you can bend your butter, you will have a well-crumbed cake. Well-crumbed cakes are important. Aren’t they? I am telling you about bending your butter because my mother used to walk the floors of our home with an Emily Post’s book open to just the right page for everything we were doing. She had special cookbooks that told you what to do each step of the way. She had an oven door that gave the correct temperatures, the correct measurements and all of the things you needed to know when you cook. I don’t know any of those things today and just put handfuls sometimes, or a palm full here, a palm full there, plus some sprinkles of things into a pot or bowl and it all comes out delicious. Well usually, but there are those very few occasions when I bomb. Now, my mother would never have allowed herself the leeway to fail. Perfection was my mother’s motto. It must have worked because after all she has the perfect daughter. Oh sure. But seriously, my mother is the only person who could make chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cakes and anything else she made more than once come out exactly the way it had the first time. I have her recipe file and I can tell you I have never, ever been able to make the dish, cake, cookie or brownie, made previously come out anything even like that former dish or baked goods. Here is to the perfectionist, bravo. Here is to all of us who may be on the way, bravo to us, too.