Signs Everywhere

The first part of my Independence Day was again spent in the middle of Atlanta, watching my son and 54,999 others take part in the annual Peachtree Road Race 10K. It’s really a great race to run, as well as watch. I have only participated twice; the distance and course are just a little more than my left knee can handle, so I’ve become a cheerleader instead.

That’s my boy up there on the left, after we met up at the post-race family area. He’s holding this year’s motivational sign. Yeah, we have kinda messed up senses of humor around here. The first year’s sign was “Run fast, Josh! Don’t embarrass your parents!” Last year’s read “Go, Josh! Run fast or walk home!” It’s quite entertaining to see his expression as he reads the sign while running past.

A sign of another kind really moved me. I read it and walked past, then walked back to ask if I could take her picture. Truly a priceless moment for me, the quiet inspiration of a total stranger.

* * * * * * *

We’ve been working on a tradition the past couple of years and spending July 4th with another family. It actually worked out this year that we did the race together (my friend T ran her first Peachtree while her hubby cheered on) before heading to their house for a cookout. It just so happens that T’s birthday falls around this time, so we also were able to celebrate the big day (31 — wooohoooo!). We got home from the race and I whipped up some potato salad and a cake to take with us.

T loves my cakes and I love making them. Unfortunately, I didn’t get started on her cake until about 90 minutes before we had to leave. And the results were … well, see for yourself:

My family has affectionately begun referring to this as “the earthquake cake.” I really made so many mistakes along the way that there’s not one single cause for what happened. If you’d like to avoid something similar, consider these points:

• It is possible for a cake to be too moist.

• Icing a slightly warm cake is never a good idea.

• Halving a ganache recipe only works if you actually measure all your ingredients instead of eyeballing them.

• A cake board underneath your assembled cake is a must when using ganache.

• Sticking a warm cake, freshly coated in warm ganache, in the freezer to harden a bit for transporting is not always the best idea — especially if there’s not a cake board underneath, because your ganache will harden and cling to your wire rack like concrete.

At some point in the not-so-distant past, a cooking disaster like this would have sent my OCD into overdrive and necessitated the disposal of said cake into the trash, never to be seen again. But I really didn’t want to disappoint my friend and I was pretty sure that, in spite of its appearance, it was going to taste just fine. Awesome, in fact.

After a good laugh and many jokes at my expense (especially after one whole section of the top layer stuck to the cake dome), everyone dug in to what turned out to be one of the best tasting cakes I’ve ever made. Not even crumbs were left.