First I must say that yesterday's post about the servants all packing up and leaving was a satire. I only have one servant. His name is Decibel the parrot, and his duties consist entirely of serving as a deterrent to burglars. He is extremely capable in this regard.
On to today's sermon: an entirely true tale of mother-daughter bonding!
In the good ol' days before Dubya did his little Sherman March to the Sea over our national economy, our family had a tradition. Every New Year's Eve we would eat one of these delightful confections. It's called a Yule Log. I always bought one at the neighborhood bakery.
This year when I went to the n.b., I ordered a Yule Log, and the sweet lil gal behind the counter wrote $35.00 on the order form. That's probably double what they cost last year, or nearly so.
Well, one has to draw the line somewhere. So I cancelled the order and returned home determined to make my own Yule Log. I knew I could count on my daugher The Spare to help. She is aces in the kitchen, so long as you don't ask her to clean up after herself.
Now here is Annie's free advice of the day:
If you Google a recipe and it begins: "This delicious cake might look complicated at first glance, but it's really easy to make, and it's always a hit at the church potluck" ... put a large body of water between yourself and that sucker.
Silly me. Spare and I printed out the Church Potluck Yule Log recipe and embarked upon it. We even called my dear friend Celeste, a superior church lady cook, and sought advice. Alarmed, she brought some of her own kitchen supplies over. She couldn't stay, though. She was going to dandle her grandkids on her knees, and they live in far-away Allentown.
Step One in Potluck Yule Log is making a thin cake that you roll up in a towel that is "sprinkled with candy sugar." Celeste warned us to heap a rich coating of "candy sugar" (a.k.a confectioner's sugar) onto the towel. So Spare and I whipped up the thin cake batter, which was heavy on the eggs ("beat until fluffy" -- should have been another tip-off). And we shook enough candy sugar onto that towel to send Brett Favre into diabetic shock.
When we inverted the towel onto the cake and re-inverted both, confectioner's sugar exploded into the air, onto the floor, table, and chairs. It was like a scene from Scarface. But it worked. We rolled the cake into the towel and let it sit until it cooled to room temperature.
There was something alarming about the listless appearance of the cake wrapped in the towel, but no matter. It was Xmas Eve and all that.
Step two was to whip heavy cream until frothy, spoon in sugar and vanilla, unroll the cake, and re-roll it with this filling inside. Except our traditional Yule Logs from the bakery always had chocolate mousse inside. So Spare and I decided to make chocolate mousse using Jello Pudding and Dream Whip. Spare didn't follow the directions on the Dream Whip box quite to the letter, but our concoction looked enough like chocolate mousse to fool a moose. So we unrolled the cake thing, de-towelled it, and began coating it with mousse as we re-rolled it.
We wound up with something that looked less like a log than an ancient piece of wall-to-wall carpet, rolled up for trash disposal with the padding inside it.
The directions then said to cut off both edges. So we did, and that was when The Spare suggested that I taste it.
It tasted less like cake than like a piece of wall-to-wall carpet, rolled up for trash disposal with the padding inside it. I told The Spare as much as I dumped the whole sorry thing into the garbage.
We were left with about a cup of The Spare's chocolate mousse mixture in a big bowl. We both stared at the dregs of the mousse. The Spare dipped her finger into it, sniffed, and tried. "Actually," she said, "This tastes pretty good."
Now this is where a Phi Beta Kappa degree from Johns Hopkins really comes in handy. I've got the PBK from JHU and rarely trot it out for use. Maybe I should put it into gear more often.
I stepped on a handy kitchen chair, reached into the top cupboard, and palmed three of my mom's 1950's-era dessert cups. In the meantime, The Spare found the ice cream scoop.
The Spare carefully decanted a scoopful of mousse into each cup. She went outside and got holly and some berries. I said I didn't think we ought to use the berries, because they're poisonous and they might accidentally sink into the mousse. So The Spare found some cake gel. She used green for eyes and red for a nose, holly leaves for antlers, and by gum, that mousse suddenly looked like a cute lil' old reindeer, staring up out of a 1950's-era dessert cup! It looked way better than this, I'm proud to say.
And please note how closely this resembles the fancy Yule Log above. Okay, yeah. This discrepancy was not lost on me and The Spare.
What fun The Spare and I had, bragging about our brilliant Yule Log cake all day! By the end of Xmas Eve dinner, my daughter The Heir and Mr. Johnson were fairly frothing at the mouth to try some. Spare and I made them close their eyes as we brought our brilliant creation into the dining room.
To say Heir and Mr. J. were surprised is an understatement. Thankfully, Celeste had dropped off some fresh cookies as a token of holiday cheer.
Spare and I laughed a good bit over this, and then Spare said: "You know, this would make a really great cooking show for t.v. You could have a kitchen disaster, and make something else out of it. You could call it, 'We Can Fix That.'"
Not only did I think that was a great idea, but I was deeply touched by the "We." Spare is 13, not the age usually associated with anything bigger than "I."
The moral of this sermon: If they sell it in a bakery, there's a reason. It's because You can't make it at home, so don't even bloody try.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS