The dark arts: Baking

We decided to make a trifle for Christmas Day. Trifle isn’t a fast thing to make, and the recipe called for stale cake, so we started this evening. The idea was to make a couple of layers of sponge cake which would be left for a day until the assembly stage of the project.

Total cake fail. I know nothing about baking, and it mystifies me. I think it must be one of the dark arts. We were supposed to do various unnatural things to some eggs that would allegedly make them behave in un-egg-like ways. They completely failed to sit up in mounds the way the recipe said they would. It might as well have demanded that we get the eggs to fetch a stick then roll over and ask for a tummy rub. Supposedly all these recipes have been tested in real kitchens, but the magazine doesn’t say what manner of warlock they were tested by.

Fortunately, I live in America, land of 24 hour shopping. I got in the car and headed to the local H-E-B supermarket to get some cake mix designed for idiots.


We live in a “transitional” neighborhood, which means our local supermarket is often a collision of social classes. The shelves have stickers to say which items you can get if you’re on food stamps, and the clientele runs from students to Mexican families to businessmen grabbing some supplies on the way home. It’s the only supermarket I’ve ever shopped at where they regularly play The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. I arrived at 9pm, so there were more black-clad shoppers than normal. A passing couple were involved in an animated conversation, and I overheard “So, how do you tell your child that everyone’s a shit?”

I grabbed a box of cake mix and some soy milk and headed to the exit. The cashier had a badge saying her name was Edna. I wondered if it really was. It seemed like an improbable name for an attractive young woman with dyed red hair and a nose ring. I wondered if maybe the real Edna was out back leaning on her walking frame and taking an unauthorized chain-smoke break. I should explain that my friend Jenny worked at an ice cream shop one summer. To save money, they gave her the badge of the previous girl who worked there, who against the odds hadn’t been called Jennifer. So now I always wonder whether name badges are a lie.

The cake mix is described as yellow. I suppose it’s just generically cakey aside from the color. Meanwhile, the failed cake from earlier in the evening looks and tastes like some kind of sweet breakfast omelette. I’m going to eat some of it for breakfast; it has sugar and plenty of protein, so why not? The rest will probably be a feast for one or more squirrels.