big flops

plum blueberry upside-down cake

Sometimes cooking is pure joy – relaxing and gratifying. Ingredients are effortlessly assembled, the cooking time is perfectly measured and the dish turns out exactly as you envisioned it. You feel like the King Midas of culinary world – whatever dish you touch turns to pure gold. Who needs restaurants when you can cook such great food?

Of course, there are times, when the opposite happens. Every dish you try to make somehow goes awry. The pastry dough will have too much water added to it, the soup will somehow become too salty and inedible, forcing you to pour its entire contents down the drain. I find that it is when I am stretched professionally that my kitchen skills falter.

I know, it's quite gross-looking!

In the last few weeks, the subprime woes have reared their ugly head. Bear Stearns’ hedge fund debacle sent jitters through the market, spilling into indices across the globe. And working in finance has been challenging and stressful, not to mention the hours seemed to grow longer and longer. Somehow my cooking skills and probably excitement faded after 14 hour work days. And I think that the food sensed it somehow and turned my tired, negative energy into a flop. Or rather two notable flops this week.

The recipe here adapted from Bon Appetit, seems to me like a good, wholesome recipe – plus its 98% approval rating indicates to me that the fault lies not in the recipe, but in my hands. I think that the reason it looks so disgusting on the picture (although it still tastes pretty good) is that I screwed up somewhere in the process. Where? When? I’m not too sure, my memory is very fuzzy on this matter. I remember rushing through it and wanting just to be done with it. I had plums I wanted to rescue and I had seen this recipe earlier and wanted to give it a go.

the plums were tasty, but lacked in looks

Sometimes we fail and sometimes we succeed. I think that these flops are indicators that I need to recharge my own battery and take a breather – I’ve been working for the last 8 months without a break. And a break is precisely what I’m going to be doing starting tomorrow early morning, when KS and I will start our road trip to South Carolina where we’ll visit Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Kiawah Island and a few other places. We’ll eat fresh seafood, indulge in ice cream, bask in the sun (with sunblock, of course) and maybe take a golf lesson or two to pass the time. We’ll be back at the end of the week, well-rested and caught up on sleep!

Have a great week!

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
6 large plums, halved, pitted, each half cut into 6 wedges

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup milk

Lightly sweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir 6 tablespoons butter, brown sugar and honey in heavy medium skillet over low heat until butter melts and sugar and honey blend in, forming thick, smooth sauce. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Arrange plums in overlapping concentric circles atop sauce.

Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat remaining 6 tablespoons butter in large bowl until light. Add sugar and beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in extracts. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk, mixing just until blended. Spoon batter evenly over plums. Bake cake until golden and tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool in pan 30 minutes.

Using knife, cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Place platter atop cake pan. Invert cake; place platter on work surface. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently lift off pan. Serve cake warm with whipped cream.

Serves 8.

Bon Appétit
June 1995

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