By definition, a foolproof recipe is one that is so simple it cannot be mishandled, damaged or misunderstood—even by a fool. Or in my case, someone with the cooking ability of a hamster.
Ever since I started cooking (12 months ago), I began writing foolproof recipes onto 3x5 cards and storing them in a recipe box. It makes me feel deliciously domestic, though I currently have only two cards in the box: one is a recipe for corn-on-the-cob and the other is for instant oatmeal.
I hope to add more, but I have trouble finding recipes with clear, concise directions and measurements that will yield predictable results. Don’t tell me “a dollop of butter” or a “pinch of salt” (I “dollop” with a gravy ladle and I “pinch” with a full hand—just ask my husband’s hinny). I’ve always been a literal person. I did well when 2+2 always equaled 4, but when the teacher introduced hieroglyphics to the equation, like ≈ and π, I checked out. In my head, approximations don’t compute.
Paula’s Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake recipe claims to be easy, but I’ve fallen into the easy trap before. My mom took away my Easy-Bake Oven after a run-in with an undercooked mini muffin. All the same, I’m eager to add that third 3x5 to my collection, so I give it a shot.
The picture that accompanies the recipe shows a beautiful, round cake sitting on an elegant plate. The recipe, however, calls for a greased 13x9-inch baking pan. I stare at the recipe, trying to figure out how to transform a rectangle cake into a round one. When I feel an aneurism coming on, I decide that the cake will miraculously become circular at some point during the baking process, like the way I can transform a baked potato into a charcoal briquette.
So I move on to the filling. Now, I admit to being a bit of a semantics snob, but that’s because I grew up with a mother who unknowingly makes up words, like “boughten” and “analysize.” So when I see “filling” I assume that it’s just that: the stuff inside the cake, like Twinkie cream. But the recipe doesn’t call for a top layer. Doesn’t that make it a topping rather than a filling?
Brain. Starts. Hurting.
Before rigor mortis completely sets in, I do what any self-respecting 33-year-old would do: I call my mother.
“Don’t think so much,” Mom says. “And I hope it turns out, ‘cause it sounds delightable!”
I wince. “Delectable.”
The filling issue comes back to haunt me when I use canned pumpkin-pie filling instead of canned pumpkin (who knew there’s a difference?). And I couldn’t find powdered sugar in a box or cream cheese in a package, only powdered sugar in a bag and cream cheese in a box. With so much against me, I don’t even worry when only 2 ½ eggs make it into the batter (the remaining half fell into San Andreas Fault—that space where the counter and the stove meet).
When I pull the cake from the oven, I’m disappointed to see that it’s still in the shape of a rectangle and the filling still sits on top. But when I taste it, I realize that a miracle has occurred: It is, by definition, a Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake. And it is, by definition, awesome. Now if I could only make it round.
Move on over, Paula—I’ve got three cards in the ol’ foolproof recipe box.
Andrea Goto lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia. Her kitchen experiments (known as “cooking” in more conventional homes) most often end with a mushroom cloud of smoke or a call to Poison Control. In spite of this, she’s deeply loved by her husband who prefers neon-colored cereals to all foods homemade, and her 4-year-old daughter who will eat almost anything, as long as you call it “chicken.” Need more Andrea? Follow her at www.andreagoto.com.
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Join Paula, Bobby and Jamie for a book signing at the Lady and Sons restaurant in Savannah from 2 to 4 pm. Only 350 tickets will be given out starting 1 hour before the book signing. No cameras permitted; a professional photographer will be on site to take your photo.
Join Paula and family for a Party at Sea to the Eastern Caribbean (San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Maarten - roundtrip from Miami) aboard the Celebrity Reflection presented by Alice Travel. Click here for more information, and please note that the Paula Deen cruise is only available by booking directly with Alice Travel. We are running out of space, so book as soon as possible!
Paula Deen is coming to Buffalo, NY to perform a live cooking show and let VIP ticket holders enjoy a delicious Southern feast with a menu created by Paula herself! Both events will be held at Samuel’s Grand Manner in Williamsville, NY which offers a refined elegance in a classically modern setting. The VIP lunch will be held at 12:00pm on February 8th and will go until approximately 2:00pm (doors will open at 11:30am). The lunch will include a hearty helping of Southern style cuisine which is personally selected by Paula, a Southern Cooking Bible cookbook, a photo op with Paula where she will also be signing autographs, a gift package, and preferred seating at that evenings cooking show! The cooking show will begin at 3:00pm on February 8th and run about 60 minutes long (doors will open at 2:15pm). Paula will be cooking up some of her favorite meals live for you at Samuel’s Grand Manor! Seating is unreserved and is “first come, first served”.
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Join Paula and family for a Party at Sea aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas to Labadee, Jamaica, and Cozumel (roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale) presented by Alice Travel. We will be having special, separate events for kids on this one with Jack Deen hosting the kids program! Click here for more information, and please note that the Paula Deen cruise is only available by booking directly with Alice Travel Book now before the prices start going up on the cruise and air!