Mad Science Cake

When I was little I used to make my mother crazy. I probably still do.

Specifically, I would pull out all of the baking supplies in her pantry and “cook”, dirtying every pot, pan, and spoon in the process. I rarely cleaned up after myself. My poor mother. I have sympathy now for what I simply didn’t know then. That sometimes the idea of washing one more dish makes you want to strangle the person responsible. That food stuffs are expensive and that the waste by someone who abjectly refuses to follow a recipe, despite their inability to create anything even vaguely resembling food, is dispiriting. To say the least.

Still, Fiona and I play at “kitchen science” as she calls it.

Today, I handed her a few cups of water with food coloring and one with oil and let her mix them in a bowl.

“Mommy,” She said with a gleam in her eyes, “I need more ingredients for my science!”

I pulled out flour and baking soda and gave her a couple cups of the one and a couple of tablespoons of the other.

She dumped all of both into the bowl and stirred. The mixture began to look a lot like cake batter.

I remembered my experiments as a child. Fondly. My mother probably remembers them with horror.  “Fiona,” I asked, my eyes probably an answering slightly mad gleam to her own, “Do you want to make mad-science cake?”

“Yes!” she declares. And, really, what child wouldn’t?

I thought about what we’d already added. “Do you want to add sugar?”

madscience“Yes!” She says, and I hand her a half a cup of sugar.

The gray-green gooey mixture looks almost right, but is still missing something. I ponder this for a few minutes and ask her if she wants to taste her creation. She pokes a cautious finger at it and licks it. Her expression is thoughtful, so I repeat her gesture.

It tastes like paste. Gray-green, faintly sweet,  paste.

It lacks flavor. It lacks that kind of fizzy sensation that cake batter should give on the tongue. I glance around and notice that I have a couple of lemons in the fruit bowl. We juice one and pour the juice into the concoction. It fizzes and as it’s mixed through the batter it lends flavor and bubbles. I taste the madness again and it has that fizzy bite that I associate with batters that will rise.

We greased a cake pan and poured it in. And all over the kitchen table.

I put it in the oven at 350 and checked on it every 10 minutes. While it baked I handed Fiona more ingredients and let her mix them as she wished, without advice or interference.

After 30 minutes we pulled it out and, after letting it cool for a few minutes, turned it out of the pan and cut a couple of pieces.

The flavor was… disgusting. The texture was gluey. The aftertaste of too much baking soda still lingers on my tongue. Even after a full cup of coffee.madsciencecake

No wonder my mother hated my experiments. I’m reasonably certain that I demanded that she taste each and every one. Love is not telling your little scientist that her creations are an inedible, tongue destroying, heart stopping hockey puck of disgusting. Thanks, Mom!

On the other hand. It looks like cake. Which means that Fiona insists that we did awesome. And that her Daddy will love her cake. Which will be hilarious.  I look forward to watching this. I mean really isn’t that the point of mad science. To try something and see what happens?

Next time I think we’ll add (a lot) less baking soda and (a lot) more sugar. Also, some vanilla or other flavoring extract. When we get it right, I’ll give you the recipe. I can’t give you this recipe. I’m reasonable certain that the green color is to warn you that it’s toxic.

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