Or, as I presented it to my friends and coworkers, the spice cloud cake.
I pulled out all the stops for this cake. First, it’s a chiffon cake. These fuckers are impossibly fussy, and that is why I love them. Second, there was a bake off at work. If you want me to go above and beyond, tell me there’s a prize. Tell me that someone else wants it. Then maybe hire someone to clean up in my wake.
In theory, the spice cloud tastes like falling gently through a feather pillow made of chai masala. In practice, it is a mildly spiced, very light, very fluffy four-layer cake with whipped cream frosting. This cake was three days and two rounds of test baking in the making. I used two recipes, three cameras, and every baking pan I own.
I won! Which was super gratifying. But, for me, the recipe isn’t finished. The flavor isn’t strong enough. It needs to be paired with a stiffer icing. There has to be a simpler way to bring in the spices. On the other hand–lots of people liked this cake. I had a lot of fun making it. And maybe this recipe is right for someone reading the blog.
When I describe my baking to other people, most of them say, “I could never do that.” Bullshit. None of this is particularly difficult. I can figure it out. They can do it. They don’t want to.
They don’t have to want to.
None of this is an obligation.
I don’t know why you bake, or why you read this blog, but I’m telling you right now: you do not owe anyone fancy baked goods. You just don’t. (Unless they pay you a fair and equitable wage and offer comprehensive health insurance.) Never, ever, ever make a cake so fussy that it stops being fun. Don’t ever feel obligated to turn a hobby or a favor or a gift into an ordeal because you feel like you ought to work harder. Does baking challenge you? Does it soothe you? Do you feel better while you’re baking than before you started?
Good. That is enough. If you want to go further, you can—but no force in the universe other than your own genuine desire should push you into a project that makes you feel overwhelmed instead of fulfilled. Especially not a sense that you aren’t good enough. The cake that you enjoy making is the best fucking cake in the world. Making a fancy cake won’t make you more worthy. You don’t need to be more worthy. You are enough.
For me, the fussiness is the point. I adore all those steps. I love to tinker. Creating something new is the whole point for me. (Other than yelling on the Internet. I really like yelling on the Internet.) So I’m going to keep playing with this recipe, because that is what I want to do. This brings me joy. I hope that reading about it brings you joy. Read and create in ways that feel right. You deserve that freedom, and you sure as hell deserve that happiness.
On to the actual cake making.