Once upon a time there was a lovely young woman called Maryann. She had dark chestnut coloured hair (at that time…although now it’s purply-brown and was at one point very blonde and at times quite auburn) and ka-ka-brown cow eyes. Her smile was as large as Steven Tyler’s and she was very happy. There was one thing that Maryann hoped to do one day and that was to bake and decorate a chocolate cake. On this particularly sunny day, her wish came true. The ending, however, was not what she had expected.
Maryann was thrilled to finally have a kitchen of her own. She had moved out of her parental home and was now in an apartment with her sweetheart, Wiseguy. It was also her sweetie’s birthday soon and she was going to bake him a lovely cake! Now, she knew that she had to start slow with her new hobby of baking so she decided to play it safe. She purchased a box of Duncan Hines chocolate fudge cake mix and debated purchasing the sugary, sweet frosting as well, but then decided that she would impress her loved one by topping her gloriously, chocolatey cake with REAL whipped cream. Yes! She would buy that 35% whipping cream, and make billowy, thick pillows of creamy goodness. Maryann also bought some candles and, to make it fun, cake writing gel to write “Happy Birthday” on it! What a wonderful surprise it would be for her hubby!
“Ok,” she began reading, “preheat oven to 350 degrees”. She opened the oven door to ensure that there was nothing inside. Why? Because one day, at her mother-in-law’s house, she turned on the stove, smelled something funny after a little while and realized that there were pans with oil in the stove. YIKES! Lesson learned and etched her happy little brain.
“Next I need to put contents of package into a bowl and add one cup water, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, and 3 eggs.” She had heard about this thing called mise en place which in French means something like “everything in it’s place”, but in cooking it means “make sure you have all your ingredients out and ready to go and also your measuring cups and measuring spoons and baking dishes…basically everything you need to make this cake should be right in front of you.” The pretty Maryann got out her measuring cup. She poured the oil into the cup (exactly 1/3 cup) and put it into the mixing bowl with the cake mix. Next, she poured one cup water into the measuring cup. Perfect! Into the bowl it went. She heard the oven ‘beep’ letting her know that the oven was preheated to 350 degrees. Yay! Time to get mixing!
She whipped that batter with an electric mixer. A couple of taste tests to remind her of her childhood. After a few minutes she stopped the mixing and eased her lovely greased cake pan closer to the bowl. She emptied the fluid, chocolate contents into the cake pan. With her spatula she tried to get every last bit out of the bowl into the cake pan to make sure she had a nice, big cake for Wiseguy. Tap, tap, tap to even it out and then into the oven it went. She set the timer for 30 minutes (it was a rectangular 9″ x 13″ pan). She couldn’t wait until it was done!
Time passed. The timer finally chirped. Her birthday cake was ready to come out of the oven and cool for a bit. Oh the excitement! Oh the pride! She had done it! She opened the oven door and…ohhhh….she had done it alright. Her cake was almost flat! How could she possibly screw up a boxed cake mix? Really? Seriously? Was she never going to learn to bake anything? Sadly, with her oven-mitted hands, she pulled out her pancake-style chocolate birthday cake and sighed. She gently laid rest her unfortunate experiment on the stove top to cool. Maybe it could be salvaged somehow. If it tasted good then all was well. Taste is one thing, but…
After 15 minutes she tried to cut out a piece. It crumbled in her hands. Huh? It tasted fine, but it all fell apart, like cereal out of its box. The lovely Maryann had to admit that she would never, ever be a baker of anything. She went back to her kitchen counter to gather up everything to wash when she noticed something odd.
Three large size eggs were sitting on her counter. Why were there eggs on her counter? Had she taken them out to make something else? She HAD put those other 3 eggs into her cake mix right? She looked at them. With the suddenness of a swooping eagle going for its prey, Maryann realized, “Oh my! I forgot the eggs.” Yes, if you look back to paragraph 4 (it begins with “Next I need to”) you will indeed see that after the ‘ding’ of the oven the eggs were omitted prior to the exuberant mixing.
There you have it. The story of the lovely Maryann and her first attempt to bake something. She didn’t give up though. She now bakes cookies, pies, pretzels, oh and boxed cake mixes. Maryann learned from her mistake, was grateful to have learned it and is now excited when trying new recipes. Mise en place is her motto and way of baking and cooking.
Moral of the story: If at first you don’t succeed, be grateful that you had the mistake to learn from and use it to make greater things in your life.
If at first you don’t succeed remember “mise en place”, buy another cake mix and ADD THE EGGS FIRST!