January 7, 2024

Snow Day Bake

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Snow! Not a tremendous amount but the grass is covered and the quiet was lovely this morning. I love the quiet. No doubt, the quiet will be broken soon enough with electric snowblowers, but for now, it’s very quiet. It would have been nice to have enough snow to shut everything down but since we’re right on the ‘freeze/no freeze’ and ‘snow/not so much snow’ line, that wasn’t going to happen with this storm. My relatives, further up the coast and in a state where snow is much more common, are getting The Real Deal of a storm. I’m a wee bit jealous. 

This storm has been predicted for a few days, which is handy for a snow day bake (SDB for short). A SDB feels a bit like waiting for the fire station siren to go off on a snowy morning, indicating that school was cancelled when I was a kid. There was enough time to think about what recipe needs to be tried out and lay in the supplies with this storm. “My” weather guy, who grew up sort of locally but now lives down in New Zealand, said it might not amount to much where I am but that was all I needed to get moving on a bake. In celebration of our first SDB in a long while, I splurged on fun paper plates for the passing out part. It’s the passing out part that I love the most. 

Now, don’t get me wrong; I love to bake. It is something that brings me great joy. Others in my family sew, knit and engage in woodworking, which they find relaxing. Those are lovely pursuits too and I am proficient at them all, with 10 fingers to show for it after more than one session with scary saws; it’s not the same as baking. The thinking about a project is the same, the getting ready is also similar (and often just as expensive with the price of butter and chocolate) but the almost immediate joy from completing a bake, and sharing it about, is what separates brownies from quilts or knitted sweaters.

Today’s bake was a chocolate cannoli cake, from a recipe recommended in a baker’s group online. For folks I’ve never met in person, they have some amazing suggestions for great bakes. Last night, as the first flakes started to fall, I began the fabrication process, which is just a fancy term for making something.

The ricotta cheese combo sat overnight, mellowing out with the zest of one full orange. It smelled divine when I took it out of the fridge this morning. The chocolate cake part easily came together, since most of the prep happened last night; I was eager for the baking to begin. The wonderfulness of that smell gathered speed as it baked, with my small kitchen filling quickly with the chocolate, orange and ricotta. The recipe called for a 25-30 minute oven time but mine took a bunch longer, as sometimes happens, and after nearly 50 minutes it was out, looking impossibly billowy and yummy. Which means the hardest part is now ahead of me – waiting for it to cool enough to slice it. 

As I mentioned, it is the sharing part that delights me the most, and the waiting means delaying the fun part. While there is much about where I live which is worthy of grousing about, the fact that my neighbors can be reached without putting on my coat and boots, is a bonus. Cooled, and with the dishes washed, I put the cake pieces out on fun paper plates, wrapped up each plate and tied the packages with red bakery string, making loops for the everyone’s doorknob. Because that’s the part of the SDB I really like – the surprise I get to give my neighbors. They don’t know it’s coming, if this is ‘enough’ snow for it to be a baking amount. It was.

While it is fun to hand out a slice of cake or a cookie to someone face to face, and I do that too, there is something magical about the unexpected treats. The more we learn about what makes for a happy life (I wrote about that here), how important it is to have connections and purpose, the more convinced I am that a major part of what has been so special to me about baking, is the sharing part. The connecting part. Remembering what people like or what allergies they have, the fun of seeing their faces light up with a long forgotten memory – the wisp of a recalled happy time, we can sometimes get from a smell or flavor. 

I hope my neighbors get that trace of something special this morning, as they open their doors and find the little treats hanging there, waiting. I hope they too, find the day celebration worthy. 

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