People, I threw the rule book out the window today. And my rule book is just full of rules, like don’t buy weird shoes, always use a pencil with an eraser, and, whatever you do, don’t bake.
Today, I baked a cake. Baking is a science. It requires care, precision, and both the ability and the inclination to follow directions. I’m not great at following directions. I’ve always taken that to mean that I’m wild and creative and that I just cannot be tamed by preheat-the-oven-to-this and add-two-heaping-tablespoons-of-that. But today I found the perfect opportunity to break this long-standing rule. Four friends came over for wine, risotto, and a wardrobe edit. I thought to myself, Hey! I’m a white girl with a blog, a floral dress, a bobby pin in my hair, and a charmingly tiny kitchen. I can certainly bake this pistachio citrus pound cake for dessert. Let me tune my radio to Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! while I do.
Now, if there’s anything the internet has plenty of, it’s porn, haters, and tales of baking disasters. But, if you’ll permit me, I’d like to tell you the tale of this pistachio citrus pound cake.
It all started simply enough. I bought a lemon, a lime, and an orange.
It wasn’t long before I encountered some problems.
Problem: Drawing on intuition instead of information provided in the recipe (information that was, in its defense, in plain sight), I mixed the sugar with the dry ingredients, not with the butter and eggs.
Solution: Realize your mistake, come to terms with it, and proceed as if nothing happened. I hear science is all about proceeding as if nothing happened.
Problem: Once I actually started reading the recipe, I saw that the butter needed to be at room temperature. Meanwhile, the twenty cold slabs of butter I just sliced sat there in the glass bowl, being cold.
Solution: Put the bowl of butter in the still preheating oven for a minute—just a minute—to warm it up.
Problem: I’m nothing if not a multitasker, so I decided to spend that minute clipping my nails and plucking my brows. I’m also nothing if not persnickety about grooming, so, when I remembered about the butter 15 minutes later, it was already liquid.
Solution: Buy fancy European butter at Zabar’s so you never know how much to get when the recipe calls for two sticks. Overbuy. Use the extra pack of butter and start again. This time wait for it to warm up on its own.
Problem: I read on to see that the butter must be beaten with a handheld mixer. I had no such device.
Solution: Whisk and elbow grease.
Solution: Wooden spoon and elbow grease. .
Solution: Rubber spatula and elbow grease.
This should be a story about how I ruined a simple pound cake, about how I fought the science of baking and the science of baking won. There should be scorched pistachios and patches of raw flour. Something should have caught on fire. But this isn’t that story. This is a story, instead, about how the pistachio citrus pound cake—the most delicious brick of carbohydrates you’ll ever taste—withstood an hour of torture at my clumsy hands, kneading it, coaxing it, finally finagling it into what it was supposed to be:
We ate the risotto, drank the wine, edited the wardrobe, and, of course, ate the cake. Erica laughed like this:
And Lindsay told that story:
Elizabeth folded my clothes into disturbingly uniform squares, and Tran took this picture of me right after my lamp made that hilarious joke.
Yes, I threw the rule book out the window today. And you saw what happened next.
Update: The next morning, the cake was as solid as a rock. But we’ll always have the memory of when it was perfect that one magic moment.