So with the introductory disaster, gathering up my wits to bake for the second time, proved a more daunting challenge than I had anticipated. My friend, Indrani, who was a trained chocolatier and a baker, asked me to give it another try. She said of the like “success is most often achieved by those who do not know that failure is inevitable.” I told her that she was quoting, Coco Chanel. So she turned around, gave me a hint of a smug and said with her hands throwing up in the air dramatically, “the highest purpose of intellectual cultivation is to give a man a perfect knowledge and mastery of his own inner self!” Okay, she was quoting again but that wasn't a bad speech after all. However, I don’t know whether it was her inspirational speech or my zeal to prove to my mom that I wasn’t that bad, gave me a renewed enigma of hope. But this time, I was determined about not deploying a premixed mixture. Probably I thought it wasn’t made for my level of expertise!
Anyway, since I wasn’t sure from where to start, I turned back to the most reliable source of information, ‘You Tube’. But, the most reliable source, had a barrage of choices to offer, and my head was spinning by the end of the day. Spirits dampened, motivation deluged, and reality setting in with a looming question, where do I start from?
I settled for the basic sponge cake recipe, more so, because it was the easiest of all.
So, now that the recipe was marked, the next probable step was to get hold of all the ingredients. Now, remember my first tryst with the whole cake making business started with a premixed mixture; hence, I wasn’t quite sure of what actually goes into the cake. Yes, I had seen my mom baking, but, who cares about the foreplay, I was interested only in the end result.
Finally, that all the ingredients were in place, I was ready to get ‘my hands dirty’! So, in went the components one by one and finally my batter was ready. I gave it a quick mix with the ‘whisk’, pulled it up to check the consistency. Satisfied with the viscosity of the batter, I lined the baking tray with stripes of butter, and dashed it with some flour and poured my batter into it. As before, I wasn’t giving myself an invisible pat on my back or silently congratulating myself on my accomplishment. Rather I sent a quiet prayer above, put my baking tray inside the oven, and hoped it wasn’t a disaster, again.
I was nervously tramping back and forth the entire perimeter of my kitchen, biting my nails off, hoping this wasn’t the end of my baking adventure. My cake had been baking for about 15 min now. I was calling Indrani every 5 minutes giving her a live telecast of the bake. Her reassuring words were falling in deaf ears. My mind was busy procrastinating the degree of the catastrophe!! Finally, I smelled the cake. A sweet aroma which was so indulging in itself that I could drop all my work, and wait impatiently to dig in. An aroma which could make anyone feel better about the world.
I was fretfully hovering in front of the oven, waiting restlessly for my cake to cool down inside the oven, before bringing it out and checking on it. The 20 minutes wait was making me jittery and anxious. Probably it was the longest 20 minutes of my life. Finally, the interminable wait was over. There was a sudden mood of frenzy and magic all around the room as I opened the oven door. The billowing smell of crystallised sugar and flour still lingered in the air like jet trails. And then there was the smell; the smell of hope and fulfillment, the kind of smell that brought people home, the smell that had the imminent strength of swiping people off their feet.
As I sliced the cake, the hedonistic pleasure that I was deriving with each slice, was inundating me from within. I was so swamped up in the feeling of accomplishment and gratification, that I was carried away into a state of oblivion. As I took the first bite, time stopped. I simply closed my eyes and let the cake melt in my mouth. And as it did, realisation of the extent of indulgence that ‘baking’ brought in my mom, suddenly seemed meaningful.