reflections on a cake pan

When you are trying not to think about something the only option is to think very, very hard about something else. Like you can’t NOT think of a thing, you have to replace it with another thing. I’m trying to not think about something so every other thing I think about takes on a bizarre, almost reverent significance. For example: I got a new bundt pan this week.

I don’t really make that many bundt cakes (SO MUCH WORK) and I already had a bundt pan but I just… didn’t like it. It wasn’t cute. I bought it at a grocery store a few years back because I had a desperate need one day to bake a bundt cake, something I’d never done before, and since I was working that day I didn’t have time to go all over town looking for the perfect pan. So it’s plain and boring and flat on the base so the cakes that come out of it are flat on the top and LOOK that’s just not what I want in a bundt! Around Christmastime last year I was at my favourite store HomeSense with Symphony and she found a fancy gingerbread village bundt pan and was like “WE SHOULD GET THIS” but it was FIFTY DOLLARS and I’m sorry but I’m not paying $50 for a cake pan at HomeSense.

Since then though, I’ve found my thoughts being consumed by a desire for a new, fancy, cute bundt pan. As we headed into the colder months my mind drifted to them more and more often, and I would browse online trying to find the best price for the fanciest pan. When I ordered new rain boots the other week I almost tossed a sale-priced Christmas-themed pan into my cart as well but at the last minute I changed my mind, the sale price just wasn’t good enough. I still couldn’t stop browsing them though.

On Wednesday I had a pretty rough day of work, and so after the kids were in bed that night I asked Taylor to go for a walk with me, where else but my favourite store HomeSense (fyi I do always call it that, especially when speaking aloud). I just wanted to browse all the things and unwind from my day with no one screaming at me. I wasn’t actually planning on buying anything but as we rounded the corner into the bakeware aisle I thought to myself “I should check if they have any cute bundt pans!” and before I even finished the thought I spotted it: a Nordic Ware Fall Harvest Bundt Pan. What a frilly, fancy lil bitch it was too. A wreath in heavy cast aluminum, decorated all over with leaves and acorns, this was a pan to be proud of! I’d looked at the same and others like it on various websites in the past weeks and it was priced at less than half what I’d seen it at. SOLD.

The next day I was ready to bake. You have to wash a new cake pan before you can use it, and since washing dishes in an inherently mindless activity, as I filled the sink I could feel my thoughts veering towards the thing I don’t want to think about. I needed to focus in on something, and so I focussed in on washing the pan. I used the hottest water and some Mrs Meyers basil-scented dish detergent on a soft sponge, and after washing and rinsing the pan I held it cradled in my arms, still warm, as I gently dried it with a clean white cloth, carefully getting into all the nooks and crannies of the leaves and acorns.

I took the same care buttery and flouring the pan when it came time to add the batter; a variation on a brown sugar bourbon cake recipe I’d picked that morning. I’d wanted something worthy of the pan. Something autumnal but not pumpkin-y, something simple that would let the shape of the cake itself be the star, something fairly easy so I’d have enough time to get the batter mixed and the cake baked during the kids’ nap time. I’d picked up the butter & eggs I’d needed already, but I didn’t have enough brown sugar so I used 2 cups brown and 1 cup white, and instead of plain ol’ regular bourbon I used Kentucky Swamp Water, which is what I call a bottle in which I have mixed together all my least-favourite bourbons, including some maple-flavoured Knob Creek, so MY cake was MAPLE brown sugar bourbon. I also left off the glaze, as the directions cautioned that boiling bourbon might burst into flames, and I wasn’t keen to start a kitchen fire with a house full of toddlers.

The recipe called for a baking time of 70-75 minutes, but it was for a 12-cup pan and mine is 10-cups. I didn’t want to waste the excess batter so I quickly buttered & floured my 4-inch springform pan to make a mini cake as well, and since I was making one slightly-smaller and one much much smaller cake, I set a timer for twenty minutes and started checking from there. The last three things I’ve baked have all been over- or under-baked so I was also looking for a bit of kitchen redemption, and was bound and determined not to fuck up this time. In the end both cakes were ready after 38 minutes, which was weird because I thought the smaller one would bake faster? I’m actually baffled by it. While the cakes were baking the sweet smell of sugar, spices, and maple filled the house. All the kids were sleeping and the house was (mostly) clean so I had a minute to just sit, and as I sat there, smelling the delicious fragrance in peace and quiet I thought to myself: this.

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