The Dark Night of the Home Baked Goods
Like many other people at that time, I began baking in the spring of 2020. I’d avoided much baking in my tiny kitchen in West Baltimore, using the lack of counter space as an excuse. But when it became obvious that the pandemic was worsening, and Amazon Fresh delivered everything I needed from eggs to flour to nuts, I listened to the voice in my head that said, fuck it let’s do this, and got my cookie sheets out of storage.
I’ve done a decent share of baking in the past, though much of it was from a box going back to my tween and teen years. Whenever my dad got a craving for sweets, which wasn’t super often, he would call out from the den, “Cori, would you make your dear old dad some brownies?” If I wasn’t feeling super angsty, and if we had all the ingredients – including chopped walnuts Mom kept in the freezer; he always wants brownies with nuts in them – I would oblige.
My favorite box-cake-based recipe going back to childhood was a double orange refrigerator sheet cake, made from a Duncan Hines Orange Supreme cake mix, orange Jello, Dream Whip and French vanilla Jello pudding. That orange cake mix was easy to find on store shelves in the ‘70s through the ‘80s, then got progressively harder to locate, but in the last few years I have found it again. And yes, the cake is still one of my favorites.
I’ve always known that baking is a comfort activity for me. It’s a tightly controlled, yet creative, process. Measure out the ingredients in these proportions, combine them using these specific tools, bake at this temperature for this period of time, follow the process for cooling and final presentation, and if you did all these things and didn’t make any substitutions that weren’t mentioned in the recipe, you’re likely to net positive results. I don’t have to make it up as I go along. That’s for cooking soup or a pasta sauce. Or moving through life.
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