It’s not that I can’t cook. I mean, in the words of Rachel Green, How hard can it be? After all, you just follow the recipe. “If it says boil two cups of salt, you just Boil Two Cups of Salt.” So….yea. I can follow a recipe. It’s just that cooking is neither my gift, nor my joy, nor even the job I would put anywhere near the top of my list if the whole world lived together and we were doling out chores for the smooth operation of the whole.
In Omaha this month, we were running out of time to complete all of Charity’s brilliant purple snack ideas (for her daughter Violet’s First B-day party – how cute is that?), but I was all determined and in-the-spirit and demanded we get started anyway on the purple-tinted white chocolate frosting for the peanut butter balls I had so carefully stirred and rolled. But something went horribly wrong in both the mixing of red and blue AND in the melting of white chocolate. It got all clumpy and awful and completely ruined for dipping, plus the purple was too blue. So we smooshed lavendar and purple M&Ms into the top of the peanut butter balls instead, which worked out lovely but wasn’t even my idea. Charity was a peach about the whole thing. Felicity is probably laughing even as she reads this and would never have let me live it down at the time. It was classic Serenity – failing at cooking so simple the word balls is in the title.
But this week when someone called and asked me to provide a dessert for the hard-working college students and young leaders who hang with my sixth grader and teach him the bible through programs and events at K-Life, I agreed without a hint of panic; I’m always looking for what I’m supposed to give, and this was perfect. And not only that. When she said it was a traditional Christmas dinner – ham, turkey, the works – I knew immediately what dessert I wanted to make and it was way, way over my head.
It’s my absolute favorite – my favorite to eat, my favorite to say – I mean, it’s three of the prettiest words: Red. Velvet. Cake. And I knew I wanted to not only make it, but I wanted to make it The Aunt Joyce* way, which I had never done before.
I tried to talk myself out of it. I mean – the Multiple Levels of Fail that were possible with this undertaking were not to be underestimated. It has four layers that you make by cutting the normal two layers in half. It has an old-fashioned milk-and-flour frosting that has to be blended for, like, fifteen minutes. That has to be chilled. And then it has to be frosted without ruining the creamy whiteness with all the red crumbs I was bound to stir up with my efforts.
You can probably see where this is going. Otherwise, believe me, you wouldn’t be reading about red velvet cake right now, more like an expose on how we’re not all meant to do All The Things. Instead, I totally nailed it. It tastes like heaven – I know because I scraped the cake pans and the frosting pan myself. It looked perfectly white on the outside. And perfectly Christmasy too with two red and white striped peppermints on the top. Apparently I can do All The Things. Or in the words of Joey,
When you want something bad enough and your heart is pure, wondrous things can happen.
*I totally cheated and used a box for the cake. For the frosting you cook a cup of whole milk and 3tbs flour, stirring constantly. Chill that. Cream 1 cup butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup sugar until super, duper fluffy. Blend the two mixtures together until smooth and spreadable. Always keep refrigerated.