21 April 2008

Coco-nutty madness!

How long had I been standing there? Five minutes? Ten? And still I was no closer to making a decision. I regretted leaving my cell phone in the car, this was supposed to be just a quick dash into the grocery store to pick up a cake, but I was standing in the aisle staring at the cake mixes paralyzed with indecision unable to call anyone to be a sounding board. I had volunteered to bring a cake to work the next day to celebrate Alan's birthday and Michele's promotion. While slyly asking Michele about her favorites she mentioned carrot cake and German chocolate which oddly enough the Haggen's bakery department had a cake for sale that was half of each, maybe that was the best choice - but it wasn't pretty. I wanted to bake a cake in my pretty sunflower cake mold but choosing a flavor was proving difficult - chocolate is always a favorite but wouldn't show off the flower mold well. After way too much time debating flavors I actually made a decision - lemon - light, springy, tasty. I picked up some powdered sugar to make a frosting and eggs since I don't keep any on hand and headed out. Little did I know that making that difficult all- important decision of flavor was going to be the easiest thing about this cake.

Once home I fixed dinner and did some chores, it was around 8pm before I started mixing up the cake mix adding a few "extras" to make it taste more homemade and less like a box mix. The pretty sunflower mold is a strange silicone mold that is non-stick and the box said to lower the oven temperature to 325 for non-stick pans which is what I did. Mistake number one. Silicone may be non-stick but it doesn't need to have a lower oven temperature. The cake took nearly an hour to finally bake in the middle and by then the edges, especially the edge of the petals were getting a little dry. Once the center was no longer jiggly I took it out and set it aside to cool for a little while. As great as silicone is, condensation happens quick and you can't let baked goods sit in the mold for long. With the aid of a cutting board and a few flips I had the cake on a wire rack to cool flower patter right-side up. I don't know if it could have been prevented but the next thing I knew the cake had a large circular crack all around the center of the flower - the center of the cake was too puffy compared to the edges. It was going to need lots of icing.

Once the cake was cool and nearly ready to be frosted I had the brilliant idea to toast some coconut flakes to put on top of the icing to add a little more flavor and fun. I spread out a bunch of coconut on a cookie sheet and placed it in the oven on the center rack and turned the broiler on. I knew it wouldn't take long but having it on the center groove farther away from the broiler it would take longer than if I had it directly under the broiler. While I waited I draped myself over the physio-ball to stretch out my back and watch NCIS. I was caught up in the story and not paying attention to the time until I started smelling the wonderful toasty-ness of coconut. I checked on it once and thought it needed another minute. But by the next commercial break it was much longer than a minute and the aroma coming from the oven wasn't quite as pleasant. I jumped up and ran over to the oven and opened the door and was annoyed to see that most of the coconut was now black. Then suddenly it burst into brilliant blue flames! In shock I slammed the oven door shut not knowing what to do. The smoke alarm quickly went off with it's ear piercing wail. Now mind you, it is after 10 pm at this point and I have new neighbors to which I was not being very gracious towards. I quickly went over and opened the window above the kitchen sink and grabbed a dish towel, ran to the front door and opened it wide, and started waving the towel at the alarm. It quickly stopped harassing me. I went over to the oven to take out the offending pan of coconut and realized that the oven had gotten so hot that it automatically locked! I turned the heat off in my house and the blower on, went upstairs and opened the bedroom windows in an attempt to air out the stench but the consequence was that my home quickly cooled down to a chilly 58° degrees.

A half hour later I heard the oven click signaling the oven was unlocked. Opening the oven door unfortunately allowed enough oxygen back into the oven to ignite the lovely blue flames once again. I started to panic - what was I going to do? I couldn't throw water into the oven. I couldn't just let the coconut burn. I didn't have anything large enough to cover the pan to smother it. Baking Soda!! Isn't that what is supposed to help put out a grease fire? I grabbed the bottle from the cabinet and with a few vigorous flailing shakes emptied the entire contents of the new bottle of baking soda mostly into the oven with enough hitting the baking sheet to stop the blue flames. With the fire finally subdued I left the oven door open to cool down the oven and the pan. It is now past 11 pm.

Thankfully this all happened on a Tuesday night, the night I set out my garbage, so I could directly throw out the stinky black coconut ash. Around 11:30 I donned my oven mitts and took the pan out of the oven and started carrying it outside with the idea of dumping it directly into the garbage bin that was already out at the curb. I made it to the driveway before I decided the pan was still way too hot and was concerned the pan and or coconut would melt the plastic garbage bag so I set the pan down right on the driveway and went back inside my chilly home and waited some more, desperately wanting sleep.

Sometime after midnight with oven mitts still needed and spatula in hand I scrapped the burnt clumps into the garbage wondering if the pan was ruined or salvageable. But I didn't care enough at the moment to find out I just wanted to sleep. I left the pan outside on my front porch leaving it for another day, went inside and turned the heat back on, closed the windows, and crawled into bed. What an adventure! I started crying I was laughing so hard as I retold the story the next day at work. In case you are wondering - the pan was salvaged and I got rave reviews for the cake.

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