I had big Valentine’s Day plans guys. Big ones.
I was going to make heart-shaped, red velvet cookies.
They were going to be beautiful. Just like these.
See, gorgeous, right?
I was going to take them to work.
And then everyone was going to love me.
And then I was going to share the process with you.
And then you were going to love me.
Because Valentine’s Day is the day that it is most appropriate to use chocolate and sugar to earn other people’s affections.
That’s what St. Valentine is famous for, right?
The recipe calls for one box of red velvet cake mix.
So last night I strolled into HEB like the queen of baking and originality that I still believed myself to be, only to realize that a) I was shopping with every single even slightly attached male in College Station, b) everyone on the planet had the exact same thought (let’s bake red cake for the red and pink holiday), and consequently c) they were completely sold out.
Now, I usually try to avoid the more populated areas of the grocery store, which includes: the Easy-Mac aisle, the General Mills end of the cereal aisle, and the corner of the refrigerated section where they sell pre-made cookie dough. I generally have the baking aisle to myself.
But not on February 13th.
The shelves of boxed cakes had been ravaged. Basically, the only thing left behind was a Simply Organic Gluten-Free Carrot Cake. Because it’s a special breed of person who wants that as a Valentine’s Day treat. And let’s be real, they don’t tend to congregate in College Station, Texas.
So I’m standing in the baking aisle, staring at the cake shelf, when this guy turns the corner, clutching a basket and a list, and looking for all the world like a freshman trying to find his first class. He stopped and looked down at the empty shelf, then back at the list, then back at the shelf, then back at the list, as though it was going to explain the extraordinary lack of cake.
I felt bad for the guy. I did. We’ve all been there – 9:30 pm on February 13th. Our carefully made plans, crumbling before our eyes when we realize that no, the grocery store does not have an endless supply of holiday themed food. And we are too late.
I thought about suggesting a recipe to him. But then I thought about explaining that he’d need to get vinegar and buttermilk and food coloring and maybe cake flour.
It didn’t seem worth it to do that to the guy. Better to let him go buy some chocolate covered strawberries.
I went home and tried to recreate the box cake mix from an actual cake recipe. I thought “just combine the recipes” and “you can be like a real baker who makes things up.”
No. I can’t.
I like recipes. I like instructions.
When I go off the recipe, I end up with a concoction whose texture is far too liquid to be a cookie, and far too thick to be cake.
I kept adding small amounts of flour, hoping it would thicken into dough.
So I just tried to bake it and “see what happens”.
And what happened was really dry, puffy cupcakes.
The Velveteen Baker I am not.
There was a time when I would have cried over this – really – all the wasted effort, all those not-be-realized aspirations. Instead I turned off the oven, rinsed off the worst of the dishes, and went to bed.
I consider this a sign of personal growth.
Anyway, I hope that guy has a nice Valentine’s with his whoever, even without cake.
This is, after all, not a day to celebrate our confectionery skills, but a day to celebrate the very human people that we love, failed plans and all.