Friday, 27 March 2015

Monkeying Around with Birthday Cakes

Pin It

When my sister told me that her daughter, who turned three last week, had requested three cakes for her birthday party, I immediately volunteered to bake one of them.  I adore my niece and nephew and have had a blast getting to know them better since moving back from London, but I still see them rarely enough that any opportunity to impress them is worth jumping on.  It only got better when my sister told me the only other request my niece had made: that the party be 'a monkey party'.

I remembered a cake I'd seen on Smitten Kitchen, years back, a monkey face that looked surprisingly easy to put together.  A quick google confirmed my suspicions that this was something I could definitely handle, and I spent the rest of the day at work printing recipes, doubling and tripling ingredient lists, and blocking off the day before the party in my phone calendar.  I was going to go all out this time.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Ruminations on Perfectionism and Lemon Cream Pie

Pin It

One of my favorite things anyone has ever said to me about writing was a Voltaire quote one of my wonderful teachers passed on to us in the early months of my MA: "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good".  After years of angsting about writing rather than doing it, my bookshelf littered with beautiful, empty journals too pretty to write mediocre things in, that sentiment resonated hard in my heart.  I determined to give myself credit simply for doing, even just for trying, or simply for remembering an idea – anything to encourage myself to build up momentum instead of stopping in despair.  And it worked, most of the time.  Okay, the beautiful journals still sit empty on the shelf, but now I buy myself unimpressive, blandly designed journals and write in them without concern for perfection.  And when I was in Italy, my amazing friend and writing coach Magda held me to a deadline of 5,000 words a week, and I gave myself the space to write about anything I felt inspired to write – of course, what this means is that I now have somewhere around 40,000 words to sift through and fill holes in, and the majority of what I have is off-plot-line or too heavily biased toward subject matter that was less excruciating to write about, but it's a start.  And that was good enough, at least for the moment.  

My attitude toward baking is similar: as long as people can eat it and enjoy it, I'm happy.  My baked goods rarely come out looking beautiful or professional, and they're almost never consistent in size/texture/bake, which is the main reason I never even considered doing GBBO.  Still, my laid back attitude sometimes leads to legitimate failure in the kitchen (two weeks ago I made some very dense 'muffins', 70% of which I threw out).  And it doesn't always hold up in the face of potential let-downs.  I have definitely had my baking meltdowns, as well as plenty of cases of simple 'that wasn't good enough' melancholy.  For example, the lemon cream pie I made last weekend hit a few too many snags and had me feeling pretty crappy for a while, and now that I want to post about it and I'm looking at these photos in the light of day, after spending all evening editing them with f.lux on, then turning it off and trying to undo the damage, all I can say is 'I'm sorry'.  I'd like to re-do all of it – the pies, the photo editing, even my hair in the photos – but I'd rather get this post up and keep the small amount of momentum I'm beginning to rebuild here in this, my little bakery corner of the internet.


So in the spirit of doing rather than perfecting, let's get cracking on this post about lemon cream pie!  (Sorry I'm not sorry about that pun.)