Sunday, January 01, 2006

Cake in a Box

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I have never been anyone to spend much time in the kitchen, but this year had to be different. It was Houston's birthday, and there simply had to be cake. I don't remember what lies I told myself in 2004. It was shortly after the diagnosis, and nothing had really sank in. I actually have very foggy memories of that entire time period. I imagine that I just ate it anyway and made myself ill, but I can't actually tell you for sure if we had cake at all.

I am an only child. Was an only child. Now I'm an only adult. Does any of that make sense? In 8th grade my French teacher, Frau Cox, told me that it was expressed en fracais as "Je suis unique." That sounds better to me. I am unique, as I am sure many of you are.

As such, my parents, like something straight out of the sixties (which they were), decided to raise me differently. The only responsibilities I had were cleaning my room and doing well in school. I know that my parents were trying to afford me opportunities that they didn't have. Unfortunately it was crippling. I didn't develop the perspective to appreciate what they had done until well after they were done taking care of me. I moved out when I was 17. A military brat - my father had orders to report to Fairbanks, Alaska. I settled down in Denver, Colorado.

As a child who didn't ever learn to cook or clean, my idea of baking cakes were these marvelous little boxed mixes that went in the microwave. I think they were Duncan Hines. I ooh'ed and aah'ed and wow'ed myself at my baking prowess as the dinger told my family it was time for yet another chewy spice cake. As ill equipped for life as I was when I left home, I had my microwave spice cake.

Eventually I did graduate to more complex mixes, but I never did learn to bake a cake on my own. As my income increased over the years I discovered specialty bakeries. They were even easier than mixes. I was a little more removed from the kitchen every year, until I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2004.

This year however, there had to be cake, and it had to be gluten-free. I'm sure that not all cities were as fortunate as Denver in 2005. In August we were blessed with the opening of our very own gluten-free bakery here in Denver. Deby's Gluten Free Bakery and Cafe, where everything on the menu is 100% gluten free. Cakes, cookies, breads, and pastries stock the shelves and display cases. They can be made to order as well, but...

I have been working very diligently this year to spend more time in the kitchen. Cook more foods for my family. Imbue our diet with what good energy and love I can impart to it during the process. I thought it would be nice to make the cake myself, and very conveniently Deby's produces a mix. Reading through the directions I was relieved that I got through my fear of egg whites over last summer. Much baking in the gluten-free world seems to center itself around folding dry ingredients into a large bowl of stiff peaks. This was no different.

I followed the directions, which include 1 cup of pureed pineapple, which astonishingly enough leaves no trace of fruity taste or fibrous texture. I smeared the thick batter into the cake pan and baked it for 25 minutes. A beautiful chocolate cake emerged from the oven.

It cooled for several hours and I coated it with a homemade buttercream frosting before serving it with candles alight to my huband smiling widely. The buttercream is an adventure for my next post and the photos should be avoided by those with heart conditions. It didn't come out pretty, but the cake. Mmmmm. Moist chocolate ribboned its way through the cake which held together as any respectable gluten bearing cake would. There was simply no difference, and if you are comfortable with egg whites, is simple as any Betty Crocker mix ever was to bake. I don't ever recall finding anything this good at the end of an instant cake before, and over the following two nights of eating the leftovers it never dried out as I had expected it to.

I have plans for 2006 that include attempting gluten-free baking without mixes. It seems that the only thing I have given up since my diagnosis is convenience. I can have everything I had before, sans gluten, if I am willing to put forth some effort. This cake mix brought a little bit of convenience back into my life, and made me feel a little less deprived.

Thank you, Monica. I didn't think I'd ever eat cake from a box again. (As silly as that sounds, I know!)

(Monica is the incredibly friendly, jovial, knowledgable and helpful owner of Deby's. Deby is her incredibly sweet and helpful 10 year old daughter.)

1 comment:

Joy said...

Sounds heavenly! I am happy to report (although very much late to the party) I found the cake and icing recipie I owe you. I am sending it your way. BTW I love your pictures and your enthusiasm (bordering on ecstatic)!