Monday, June 13, 2011

The particular madness of lemon cake

Heading to a reading by Aimee Bender tonight. Her book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake recently came out in paperback so she'll be at Newtonville Books to read, answer questions, and sign books.

Hopefully she won't mind if I hug her.

I don't write magic realism, but while I was reading her books, I had a breakthrough in my writing, so I feel particularly excited to meet her. The book is about a girl who can taste her mother's feelings in the food she cooks, but the story is really about the things we all keep hidden and Bender just happens to use a little magic to frame it. While I was reading it, along with one of her short story collections, I began to get a feel for how to layer emotional complexity into a story, so there was a little magic for me too.

Anyway, I'm having a few friends over after the reading and I got the idea to make a scratch lemon cake (I know, right). The cover of the book has a picture of a beautiful a layer cake with chocolate frosting, but I'm no where near equipped to handle such a beast, so I am making a simple bundt cake. Except of course it isn't so simple.

I had to zest and squeeze six lemons. And squeeze the juice from two more. The thing I continue to hide from myself is that I actually despise baking. The measuring, the precision, the mysteries of room temperature butter - make me insane. As much as I wanted to embrace the zen of zesting lemons, really, I didn't like it all. It was stressful. I needed 1/3 cup of lemon zest for this recipe, which turns out to be a ton of freaking zesting. Like, at one point I got a hand cramp. And my butter sugar mix was not creamy. It was lumpy and the lumps made me a little angry. The truth is, I am so much more of a buy the cake from a lovely bakery kind of gal.

The cake is in the oven, so as I write this, the success of this attempt is still uncertain. I am nervous about the cake sticking to the pan. And I still have to make a sugar glaze. And, yes I am hoping for a little magic.

But just enough so that I get the cake finished and not enough that my friends can tell how much I hated baking it. Though maybe this lesson, for both my writing (as in this particular post) and for my life, is about not going for the obvious.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I loved that book! And I LOVE that you made a lemon cake - have fun!