The yellow cake of yesteryear

22 Aug

My brother, a weight lifter with a passion for protein, has never liked desserts.

I, a vegetarian with a weakness for sweets, have always liked baking.

So, to ensure I’d have a market for my products in the days before either of us was gluten free, I used to specialize in the only brother-approved dessert: yellow cake, made from a recipe in my gigantic, red Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, and topped with homemade buttercream frosting.

After a year and a half of gluten-free eating, however, I’d forgotten—and despaired of ever again tasting—the satisfying sweetness of that cake.

But then, Monday night, feeling experimental, I gathered up some water, butter, McCormick pure vanilla extract (guaranteed gluten free by the company), and eggs, set up for the first time the mixer I inherited after my Grandma’s death last year, and poured in Betty Crocker’s gluten free yellow cake mix.

The directions are explicit (mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes), but they ensure a light, almost frothy batter—quite a surprise to me after years of probably undermixing batters by hand! My first lick of that batter off the mixer’s beaters was heavenly. If I don’t like the cooked version, I told myself, I can always just eat the batter next time!

But the final product proved even better. Unlike any of my previous baking attempts, the cake rose beautifully, although it was slightly undercooked in the center and disappointingly rubbery around the edges. I blame my oven or my ovening skills, not the baking mix, for those minor deficiencies, however. I frosted the cake, as I once did, with a mixture of confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla, and Rice Dream enriched vanilla beverage.

And every morning this past week, I ate a piece for breakfast at my desk. At just the right temperature, about 35 minutes after removing the piece from the refrigerator, that cake transported me back to my favorite childhood yellow cake. The sweet, smooth frosting balanced the lighter flavor and texture of the cake. But even alone, the cake had distinct character. And it didn’t taste remotely gluten free.

Either I am too far removed from my last real cake experience to have any point of reference, or Betty Crocker has achieved a dessert miracle. And I can’t wait to share it with my brother.


One Response to “The yellow cake of yesteryear”

  1. Tiffany August 26, 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    That sounds awesome, Anna! I have had my share of cake today (too many birthdays and events) and your description made me want more!

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