Recently, I finished a class on soft skills, put on by New World of Work and taught by the fantastic Natasha Palumbo. We covered ten skills that can help in the workplace, skills they don’t teach you when you’re majoring in English or pretty much anything else in school. One of the things we covered in the last class was resilience.
Historically, I’ve had a hard time with resilience. I think most people with depression do. One small failure can keep us from trying again or trying something new because it’s a glaring example of our perceived incompetence. That, paired with a poor view of my own self-worth, has been what’s kept me from finishing a novel and having a successful career doing what I truly love.
Today is my little sister’s 23rd birthday (which makes me feel super old since I’m five and a half years older than she is and I can remember the day she was born). She and my mom are coming over tomorrow to celebrate, and I’ve put myself in charge of dinner. Of course, this includes a cake. A vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, her favorite.
I love baking birthday cakes. I often bake my own. I used to have to compromise with my family by allowing them to decorate it because I was so adamant about baking it. (The result is that I cannot decorate a cake to save my life, but I can bake them pretty well.)
Now, for this particular cake, I could have gone and bought one of those box mixes (I remember my sister enjoying the “Funfetti” cakes as a child), but I’ve turned up my nose at pretty much all box mixes since my brief time in culinary school (don’t ask). I could have googled a recipe. There are probably many food and baking blogs with excellent recipes.
I couldn’t bring myself to do that, though. To me, birthday cakes are classics, and classic dishes require classic recipes. Therefore, I turned to one of the classic cookbooks of my grandmother and mother’s generations: Joy of Cooking.
Again, I know there are newer cookbooks. There are even newer versions of Joy of Cooking than the one I own, but I just can’t get over this 1975 version I found at a library book sale. It’s either the same edition as my mother’s or slightly newer, so it brings back memories of flipping through it as a teenager (not to mention the “fancy” Turkey Divine I asked Mom to make for my 16th birthday, which caught on fire and filled the house with smoke, something we laugh about now). I just love it, and I can’t see myself ever getting rid of it.
So this is what I used tonight. I can’t say whether the cake has turned out any good. I won’t know until tomorrow. I do know that I am very proud of this birthday cake (even if I ruin it by tomorrow evening), and I was much more confident using Joy of Cooking‘s recipe than I would have been using something else. Sometimes it’s okay to hang on to the classics–especially if they work for you.