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An occasional series whereby Jule admits she is not Julia.

Julia Child did not have to spend her evenings slicing many dozens of newspaper pages for the Association for Alternative Newsweeklies awards. So I’m sure that’s why after I did and then came home to bake, I ended up with this mess:

What this was supposed to be was the first step in what has become an annual tradition: Grandma Hig‘s Boston Cream Pie for my husband’s brithday. Grandma Hig is his grandma, a fantastic baker. She made our wedding cake a few months back, trucking the cake, the buttercream, and all the necessary gadgets from the Adirondacks. It was fantastic. Everything she bakes is fantastic. So I am not only not Julia Child, I am also not Grandma Hig.

Here’s what went wrong: I never follow directions on how long to bake something. I rarely even time it. I have a theory that good bakers can tell when something’s done by smell, primarily, and a poke or two as a secondary test. If you’re paying attention, I swear this works. I have baked a successful cake or two using the smell-and-poke process. Here’s one from Joe Dempsey‘s last day at CP (it was tastier than it was attractive…):

Problem was, I wasn’t paying attention. I got watching The Wire, last two episodes of Season 4, got a good whiff of baking cake and yanked them out too early. They didn’t rise properly and when they cooled, they sank into golden, lumpy discs. Sure, sure I was going to slice them in half, fill them with cream and cover them with chocolate, anyway, but I just couldn’t call these worthy of Grandma Hig. I got frustrated and was about to throw them out when I figured out…

How to Salvage: Cake balls! Try this: Bake a cake, dump it—warm—into a bowl and then mix in a container’s worth of frosting (or make your own). Stick it in the refrigerator for about an hour, then roll the cooled mass into balls. Dip in chocolate, roll in crushed, toasted nuts or dust with cocoa powder. It’s sort of like a birthday truffle, Midwest mom-style.