July 27th, 2012

promise tea

Magical Microwave Cake

After another NetGalley session with my agent's digital publishing expert, I have to add another tip: If you want to be taken seriously as a reviewer, learn to write. I don't mean that you have to have perfectly polished prose or that blog reviews need to be as formal as a newspaper review, but for heaven's sake, show some understanding of the basic rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation. For instance, you don't form a plural by using an apostrophe. Once or twice, and it may be a typo, but when every single review on your site reads like "This book had lot's of interesting character's. I like book's like that. Their problem's were realistic," then my inner grammar nazi has a hissy fit and I'm going to reject your galley request. I don't see how anyone can read a lot and consider themselves a reviewer and still make that mistake. I know I as a reader wouldn't be able to trust someone who writes like that to know a good book when it smacks her in the face, so I doubt that reviewer would be much of an influencer.

Just looking at the above paragraph is making me itch to edit it, even though I did that on purpose for effect. But all those apostrophes are so very, very wrong.

Anyway, in addition to dealing with more business stuff, I got about 4,000 more words written. I'm remembering how tired and hungry intense writing makes me. I was in bed with the lights out by 9:30 last night, and I spent much of the past two days feeling like I could eat a small farm. There was also an intense need for cake, to the point that it can only be referred to as CAKE. When I get that CAKE need, nothing else will do, and cake is more difficult to keep around than candy or even cookies. It's hard to make in really small quantities, and sometimes in a severe CAKE mood I could easily eat half a cake, which is bad, but if I don't eat it all at once, it doesn't keep well, and even freezing it isn't entirely satisfactory. I can get individual slices of cake or single cupcakes at the grocery store or at the coffee shop next to the library, but that requires knowing my CAKE needs in advance, which doesn't always happen.

But then I read something in the newspaper that is so brilliant and that may fulfill most of my future CAKE needs. They call it "3-2-1" cake, but I'm already thinking of it as Magical Microwave Cake. I don't know who came up with this -- the article was from a wire service and uncredited -- but that person deserves a Nobel Prize. You take a box of angel food cake mix and a box of any flavor of regular cake mix and combine them in some sealable container (like a gallon-size Ziploc freezer bag or a Tupperware dish). When CAKE comes calling, you combine three tablespoons of this mix with two tablespoons of water in a microwave-safe mug and microwave on high for a minute. The result is a cupcake-sized bit of cake. I tried this last night, and it really does work. You can make a cake during a TV commercial break. It's a miracle!

It's not entirely perfect, though. The angel food mix is what makes this work, probably because it contains all the egg whites, but adding the box of angel food means that whatever regular mix you use is severely diluted. I used devil's food, and the result was too sweet and not nearly chocolatey enough to satisfy the CAKE need. I tried adding about a teaspoon of dark chocolate unsweetened cocoa powder to the mix in the mug, and that was much better. It also had the texture you get from "baked" goods cooked in the microwave, so it's foamier and more moist than usual, without any kind of outer crust. I may experiment with baking in a foil pot pie dish in the toaster oven. That will take longer, but I can deal with an extra five minutes or so if the result is more cake-like. I suspect that the microwaved cake is too delicate to really frost it, unless you use a pastry bag or other squirtable frosting. I may experiment with sprinkling chocolate chips on top of the batter before microwaving and see if they melt into something frosting-like, or you could use a dollop of hot-fudge sauce on top.

And, hey, even if it's not perfect cake, it is nice to have something on hand for when the CAKE urges hit. Generally, nothing else hits the spot, and that means I tend to eat a bunch of other stuff, only to eventually give in and bake a cake, and then I eat too much of it. If I can have a single cupcake when CAKE strikes, then I'm happy with that cupcake. Supposedly, a single batch of this mix will make about 48 cupcakes, and the mix keeps for months if you seal it well.