This is a story about cake. This is a story about feelings. This is a story about a cake AND feelings. This recipe is not of my creation; I followed Joe Pastry's recipe pretty much to the 'T'. I dare say his Opera cream cake beats out the recipe I used to follow in my old culinary school text. So please do click on the link to his blog for all of the individual components of the cake (joconde biscuit, espresso buttercream, espresso cake syrup, ganache, and chocolate glaze) and the helpful step by step photographs since I'm not going to be that nice to you. Besides, the part where I didn't follow his recipe to a T was a screwup on my part. But after I said to myself, “Way to go, genius” upon realizing that I had only added 6 egg yolks to the powdered sugar and ground almonds instead of 6 WHOLE eggs and that was why I had a very stiff paste on my hands and not a light fluffy batter, I had to decide whether I would trash it and start over, or just separate 6 new egg whites (because the recipe needs 6 egg whites in addition to the 6 whole eggs) and try adding it and see what happened.
I went in favor of trying to salvage my almond cement, but upon just dumping in all 6 egg whites at once (again, not the brightest thing I've ever done), I ended up with severe almond-y lumps that wouldn't break apart no matter how much the beaters gave it what for. Again, decision time. Start over now having wasted some serious time and ingredients, or bake a cake that would have very noticeable lumps of almond meal in it? I went with Option C, which I just created on a whim. What would happen if I threw it all in the blender and gave it a few whirls? I shrugged and gave it a shot. Finally, success: a smooth, fluffy mixture of whole egg, ground almonds, and powdered sugar! I tried to pat myself on the back (with mixed results), but at least I could now finally add the all purpose flour and clarified butter to the batter and bake it, and the final sponge cake that resulted was just right.
Some people go fishing or take a yoga class, or any other number of activities, to find the place where they engage in self-reflection. Me? I bake. I was baking this cake for my own birthday/housewarming/ divorce celebration, and my birthday is a good time for me to reflect on the past year and what I want for myself in the coming year. So while I was doing all of my scrambling to fix my error in not following the recipe correctly, my inner self said, “This is just like life.” You fix what you can when you can. You learn from mistakes and grow as a person. Most importantly, you learn to love yourself imperfections and all, because you WILL make mistakes. That seems like an obvious statement, and maybe it is obvious to most people, but as someone who was struggling with depression for a long time, I felt like I was a failure for not being perfect. But in this past 8 months, (and mom and assorted relatives offended by language, skip ahead to the next paragraph) I've decided FUCK THAT. Fuck feeling shame for being human and making human mistakes. Life is too short to keep beating yourself up for every perceived imperfection.
And also importantly, life is too short to keep holding on to people who can't or won't love you just the way you are. The Ex- Mr. Portlandivore declaring he wanted a divorce eight months ago was actually the best thing he has ever done for me. I can finally be me just the way that I am: I gained a good deal of weight but then I lost it four years ago. I am still in the process of figuring out what I want to be when I grow up and I'm 33 years old. I've been prone to bouts of depression almost my whole life. So what. Welcome to being fallible like the rest of humanity. There's also a long list of characteristics that make me kind of an awesome person. Learning to accept me warts and all has actually made it a thousand times easier to learn from my mistakes and grow as a person. It's also given me the wonderful opportunity to date someone new who is kind, emotionally supportive, and thinks the world of me despite my obvious flaws. If that wasn't enough, I discovered that the people who truly matter are the ones who will stick by you in good times and bad. Their support means the world to me and I love them dearly.
So if someone had told me on my birthday last year what this current year would hold, I would have thought I couldn't handle it. But guess what? I can, and I did. Don't get me wrong, any reasonable person with feelings is going to hurt like hell when they're rejected by the person who is supposed to love and support them the most. But in that rejection, just like in rescuing a cake from impending doom, if you happen to learn important things about yourself and the end result is love (or a tasty cake), you didn't fail.