Luckily, at Jude's little school the whole "teacher gift" thing is pretty low pressure. A collection is taken from the entire school, and the money is divvied up between all the teachers evenly. Anyone can pitch in however much they feel they can afford, and believe me, some of these people can afford a butt load. Us? Not so much. But we do what we can. (Is butt load one or two words, or is it hyphenated? Butt load, buttload, butt-load? This is the kind of thing that will worry me for days.)
But then...everybody ends up giving each teacher just a little something extra on their own. Just because you're supposed to. Which is probably stupid, and unnecessary, but some tiny part of my mother which lives deep inside me insists upon doing it because it's just what people from "good families" do. For some of the "afford a butt load" folks, the "little something extra" is something nicer than I will get from my husband this year. But for me, it really is a "little something". Last year, I made homemade Bourbon Chocolate Sauce, and the year before it was orange marmalade made from the oranges from our yard. And you know what? The teachers are always very appreciative and kind.
This year I wanted to do a little baking, and after some hemming and hawing, decided to make Rum-Doused Lemon Poppyseed Cakes. It's a recipe I've made for years, and it's delicious. It's supposed to be a Bundt cake, but I decided that I'd divide each recipe in half in two loaf pans, and make little pound cakes.Sounds like an easy plan, right?
I headed to the store and bought enough ingredients to make 5 times the recipe, which I figured would make 10 little loaf pans of cake, one for each of his teachers (art, music, p.e., yada, yada, yada) plus one for all the nuns and the secretary, and a couple for the neighbors. I was going to make one recipe at a time, because I think that multiplying baking recipes always screws them up, and then baking two little loafs at a time. But no problem, I'd devoted the day to baking and present wrapping.
I begin. The first two loafs go in the oven. 375 degrees for 55 minutes. Great. They come out...
...burnt. And strangely flat. But I was so concerned about the burnt thing that I didn't really take in the flat thing. Actually, they were burned on the outside and rare in the middle. Clearly the oven was too hot. I assumed the problem was either that I was cooking two small cakes instead of one large on, or that I was using glass loaf pans.
I lowered the heat to 350 and put in another pair of loaves...
Mystified, I checked the box of baking powder. "Best if used before August 2004". Sigh...
I didn't want to have to go all the way to the damned store for one stinking ingredient. But wait! I had baking soda. Perhaps I could make a substitution. Google...let's see...yes! I could make my own baking powder by mixing one part baking soda with two parts Cream of Tartar. Love it! I did it. Problem solved. Went for another batch...
At which point any normal human being would GO TO THE DAMNED STORE AND BUY MORE DAMNED BAKING POWDER. But no. Not me. Undaunted, I decided to try one more time, going back to the old, expired baking powder, and using twice as much. The result was...flat.
In the end, of course, I was forced to go to the stinking store and buy all new ingredients and start all over again. And finally they turned out very well. But now, I have all these terrible-looking cakes that I don't know what to do with. They taste good (I mean, they're doused with rum, what's not to taste good), they just look awful. I was thinking of cutting them up and using them in a trifle. Maybe Lemon Poppyseed Rum Trifle?
Right now they're in my freezer because I stubbornly refuse to just throw them away. Ideas? Anybody want a slightly flat pound cake?
And just because I can, here's the recipe. Make sure you check the expiration date on your baking powder before you start.
Rum-Doused Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbsp. grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. poppy seeds
1/4 cup light rum
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan very well. Beat together the butter and cream cheese until well-blended, then beat in the sugar, eggs and lemon rind, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and the baking powder, then beat this into the butter mixture. Stir in the poppy seeds. Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is light golden brown and springs back firmly when pressed, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack to cool. Drizzle the rum over the cake a little at a time, allowing it to be absorbed by the cake before drizzling on more. Transfer to cake pan, cover and let stand at least 2 or 3 hours before serving.