May 6, 2015

15 to 15: Now You're Cooking

So here's the rundown.  Last Wednesday was April 29, 2015 - exactly 15 weeks until our 15th anniversary.  So in a countdown to the big day, I decided to start a weekly series of anecdotes from our 15 years of marriage.  I am calling it 15 Weeks to 15 Years.  Since everything needs a hashtag, it would be #15to15.  I am utilizing the blog because I have a propensity to yammer a lot when I'm writing and no one would want to read a long status update.  So be looking for these weekly entries.

I like food. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. In fact, a rocket scientist may not be able to figure that out. He (or she) would probably be thinking, "That guy will never fit on the rocket."  But average people would figure it out, probably as I was ogling their cheesecake. Moving on. 

Another thing to know about me is that I do not drink alcohol. I'm not saying that I rarely drink it; I never drink it. I never have even had it. I have had it in food, but I've never had a drink of alcohol. It is a personal conviction for myself  I am sure if I had started drinking like most other people, I'm sure I would enjoy it. I also am pretty sure I would weigh 500 pounds and have a drinking problem. So I'm glad that I've never started. 

A third thing to know is that I love cooking - which partners nicely with the first thing to know. I also love baking. And Heather loves baking. We both are good at it as well. We have our own speciality items: Heather makes amazing Christmas cookies; I make great pies. Heather has also gone to great lengths to make sure my family history has been included in the baking. She makes my Grandma's pecan pickups recipe. She baked me a lemon pound cake for my birthday this year. I really appreciate it. This story comes from a place where these three facts intersect. 

We got married in August of 2000. And then we got pregnant with Josiah in December of the same year.  (Obviously I didn't get pregnant. That would have been on the front page of the Weekly World News - it has the eighth largest circulation in the whole word.) He came along one month after our first anniversary. My birthday is in April. When that rolled along, I was substitute teaching in Clay County, Florida. Heather wanted to make me a cake. She didn't want to buy it. She wanted to make it. And it wasn't just any cake. She wanted to make me a Black Forest Cake - my favorite cake growing up. 

For those of you who don't know, a Black Forest Cake is a German speciality- a chocolate layer cake with cherries and frosting. I love cherries and this was a cake my parents had gotten me several times growing up. No one else in my family really liked it. It was just for me. Some people make the cake with whipped cream, while others use buttercream. Heather was going to go all out. She had a recipe she found where she was making the cake from scratch (not a mix).  She was making the buttercream icing. And she was making the cherry mixture. Very sweet of her. 

The cherry mixture required soaking the cherries in kirsch. I had no clue what that was. Apparently it is cherry liquor. And that isn't something usually stocked in the average kitchen pantry. So my sweet little wife drives to the local liquor store - four months pregnant and showing - to buy a bottle of kirsch. The liquor itself cost more than the cake would have cost at a bakery. But heather didn't hesitate. She walked out of the liquor store with a paper bag shrouding the booze (did I mention pregnant?) and headed to the house. 

She started working on the cake. She was compiling all of the components. She made the cakes and the buttercream. And she started the cherry mixture. The recipe said to soak the cherries in the kirsch for thirty minutes. As she was working, it got late. She decided to put everything on hold until the next day. She wasn't sure what to do with the cherries, so we decided it probably would be okay to leave them soaking overnight. If thirty minutes is good, eight hours is better!

The next day she went ahead and built the cake. We had dinner with her parents and then it was cake time!  It was beautiful. She had shaved chocolate all over the outside. The homemade buttercream was smoothly and expertly applied. It could have passed for a professional bakery job. I couldn't wait. 

The cake part was delicious. But there were two problems. The first was that the buttercream was so rich it was almost sickness inducing. The second was that my dear wife had basically made a drunken Black Forest Cake. The smell of alcohol wafted up from the cake. It was very potent. It is amazing how much alcohol cherries can soak up overnight! 

I didn't want to hurt her feelings after all her hard work. And we had only been married for eight months! I wanted to stay married. So I ate it all and kept in gushing about how great it was. Then I got very sleepy. I kept having pieces of the cake for several days after my birthday and got very sleepy every time. Once again, I was the only one eating it - trying to spare my sweet wife's feelings while getting buzzed every evening. 

We have laughed about this over the years. Everyone knew that the cherries were blitzed. We realized that there was a reason for the thirty minute time frame. I was so overwhelmed by the sweet gesture that I couldn't stand to turn the cake down. But we have never made it again. I've actually kind of fallen out of love with Black Forest Cake. I'm not blaming Heather for it. I haven't found any version that was as good as the memories of the ones I had as a kid. Heather's was not the best version I had, but it was the most memorable. It is a cute story of newlyweds trying to make each other happy. And it also is the most experience I've ever had with alcohol. Heather has made me many cakes over the years. None of them truly have the place in my heart as the drunken cherry cake, though. 

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