Oh, boy. Let's begin at the beginning. My father-in-law was in town for work recently and came over to have dinner with Dan and me on Valentine's Day. In honor of the occasion and the holiday, I decided to make us all a chocolate cake. Nothing fussy, no fancy piping or heart-shaped cut-outs or sugary pink decorations. I envisioned something more homespun: two layers of cinnamon-spiced chocolate cake covered in a thick layer of chocolate frosting. I would serve the cake on my pretty scallop-edged plate. We would eat it with mugs of chai tea. It would be perfect.
And then I overfilled both cake pans and it all went to hell. Dear readers, don't overfill your cake pans. Let me be the cautionary tale.
I would hate for your apartment to fill up with smoke about two hours before your guest arrived. You might think the burning smell is coming from bits of old food at the bottom of your oven that you should have cleaned last week, but no, it's the damn cake.
I would hate to imagine you having to pull the pans of half-baked, still-oozy cake out of the oven, finding globs of burning batter at the bottom of the oven.
I know you'd probably want to wait for the oven to fully cool down before you cleaned up the burning mess. Really, I'd hate for you to reach into the hot oven and burn your wrist scraping up cake ash. And yell about it to no one in particular.
I'd hate for you to have to open all of the windows to air out your apartment, especially on a 20-degree day.
Once the oven has cooled off, you'd be smart to put the cakes back in to finish cooking. After you scrape off the batter that leaked over the sides of the pan, of course. Which I'd hate for you to have to do, chipping your nail polish and all.
And once the cakes are cooked through and slightly cool, I'd hate for you to try to unmold them in a hurry, leaving big chunks of cake sticking to the pan. The layers will be so uneven and have so many craters and cracks, there is no way they can be stacked on top of each other, even with the most skillful cutting and shaving with a serrated knife. I'd hate to see the look on your face when you realize this.
And I'd hate for you to start picking at the lopsided cakes in frustration, eating big pieces which make the layers look even more ragged. There is nothing worse than feeling gluttonous and like a failure. But at least the cake tastes good. A little too good...you keep eating it.
Chocolate frosting might save this fugly cake. You would be smart to make some and set it aside in the refrigerator to thicken up. But don't leave it in there for too long--I'd hate for it to harden and turn grainy, leading to further frustration and freak-outs. (Luckily, re-cooking it over a double-boiler will do the trick, leaving the frosting shiny and satiny-smooth.)
You may quickly realize that slapping frosting on a busted cake won't really save anything. And I'd hate to see you contemplate throwing both layers in the garbage.
No, you will not throw it away. Instead, you will serve it forth by cutting the cake in the kitchen where no one can see. You'll cut slices only from the center of the cake, making almost passable squares that no one will question. And you will take a bite and say, "This tastes exactly like a boxed Entenmann's cake. All that work for a boxed Entenmann's cake."