I’ve baked cakes that didn’t taste (or look) like a masterpiece; they’ve been under-baked or a little dry, but I’ve never had a cake turn on me on so many levels. This angel food cake fell apart in my hands like I had shot it!
My husband was looking for healthier desserts online and pulled off this angel food cake recipe. He proudly came home with egg whites “already separated” in that milk carton container. He busts on my cooking all the time; I couldn’t believe I knew something he didn’t!
“Ha ha, you can’t make an angel food cake with that! The pasteurization does something to the proteins, it says so right on the box!” Luckily he bought regular eggs too, but with so many items missing from the store during COVID-19, should we really be wasting a dozen eggs on a cake?
With an entire day off and nowhere to go, I casually waited until afternoon to get started on our make-up cake. I studied the recipe—wait for the egg whites to become room temp (weird), and blend the sugar extra fine for 2 minutes (what a pain, right?).
A scavenger hunt followed as the clear vanilla extract hid at the back of the cabinet. Wow, I even remembered the cream of tartar for a change! Next came the gentle layering of batter into our newest tube pan, the expensive one that comes apart so you don’t have to scratch the pan with a knife while extracting the cake.
I congratulated myself on the perfect execution of the technique with some wine. Thinking ahead, I finished the bottle while the cake was in the oven. The dishes didn’t seem to mind waiting. In my defense, I needed an empty bottle to invert the pan onto to cool.
The cake smelled done well before the timer went off. Sure enough, it was brown on top. I flipped it over to sit on the bottle, a bit of acrobatics I’ve nailed countless times before. But this new pan didn’t fit—what?! I flipped the cake over again and then back only for it not to fit on another bottle.
By this time the whole pan was coming apart. In that moment I panicked and tried to cut out the remnants. I confessed to social media for some emotional support.
“Is that angel food?” “Did you use those egg whites in the carton?” “Are you OK?” My more optimistic friends recommended icing or making a trifle. Alas, when I tasted the cake there was no fix—it tasted like charred, depressed egg whites.
In the past, my brain would have told me “See, you are a terrible baker.” “I can’t do anything right.” “There you go again, wasting time and money on a useless cake.” I would have thrown the cake away, ashamed to let my husband see it.
My mindfulness practice helps me see this mess of cake differently. I can accept imperfection without it being a character flaw. My brain doesn’t overreact and can process this as my experience for the day, giving me time to be kinder to myself (and grateful to have a story to tell!)
Meditation and breathing is like baking a cake—you can follow the recipe and sit with all the right ingredients yet have a unique experience every time. Your mind may not feel calm after, a lot of thoughts come as you release stress. It doesn’t mean you are murdering mindfulness—bake up some self-compassion.
Breathe. The only person who should expect to be Martha Stewart in the middle of a pandemic is MARTHA STEWART!