Oozing banana cake — Accepting failure and knowing your weak spots.

For my second part of Teachings of Food I’ve decided to delve into something that I used to fear more than anything else: failure.

I still do, but I used to too, as Mitch Hedberg once said.

I love cooking, but I hate baking

It doesn’t make sense on a surface level observation. Why would I hate baking if I’m so passionate about cooking? It’s all creating food isn’t it?

Well, yes, but there is one cruical difference between the two. If you compare cooking to painting a picture, baking is woodworking. If two pieces don’t go together, if you don’t take exact measurements and if you make mistakes, whatever you’re working on will be ruined.

A picture can always be saved, taken in different directions or left for others to judge and appreciate. A wobbly cabinet with a short leg will always be a wobbly cabinet with a short leg.

Since the day I really got into cooking I treat it like an art studio, where I jump between the chopping board and the spice rack, experimenting and calculating as I cook.

In baking there is a precise amount of carefully selected ingredients, and an exact temperature, that has to be followed if you want anything other than flavored flour. I’ve done my fair share of flavored flour.

This doesn’t mean I will never bake again

I’ll let you in on a little secret — I failed the exam for the course “Introduction to Marketing” when I went to university. Not once either.

I failed it six times.

The seventh time I got a score equivalent to 80%, and I won’t dwell on the how and why. But since my current career is in marketing I find it somewhat funny.

Just like baking, I’ve failed horribly in my current field, both during school and on projects while working. But should I leave marketing because I don’t comprehend a concept, follow exact instructions or are unable to finish once?

Of course not. How on earth am I supposed to learn marketing then?

Most failure have very little consequence or repercussions. There are certain things that you cannot fail due to the law or because I can be a matter of life and death, but in our everyday lives those situations are rarely present.

I mean, no one will put up a post-it note on the fridge to remind them you accidentally spelled it “wierd” instead of “weird”. No one will lose conscience and die because you forgot to send that email yesterday. Never in the history of mankind has there been a riot because someone didn’t play “Let it Be” perfectly when practicing the piano.

If you want something to actually be upset about, try learning something new and never do a single mistake. Because if you don’t make at least one, you haven’t learned shit.

But I probably won’t bake if there is someone else that wants to

As much as I endorse taking on new challenges and learning new things, you will do tremendously better if you know your limitations and weak spots.

I’m still pretty bad at asking for help, thoughts and extra sets of hands. Thinking I should be able to do related tasks I plow through, and put all my effort into trying to get things perfect while working for two or three.

I’ve been on sick leave for burnout for almost six months at the time of writing. If you’re looking for something to convince you to find your weak spots, this is hopefully the smack in the face you need.

My girlfriend, on the other hand, is an excellent baker and a very thorough personality with an eye for precision. If we want to make any baked good, I know my weak spot and step aside. With the exception of the recipe below, she’s the one that’s the ninja badass with the baking soda and flour.

I can learn from watching her, occasionally suggest flavor pairings and things like that, but after learning about weak spots the hard way I’m fine with being a crap baker. I mean, I’ve never been good at woodworking either.

Oozing Banana Cake with Hazelnut Paste and White Chocolate

  • 0,5 tsp cardamom powder
  • 4 dl wheat flour
  • 1,5 dl granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 2,5 dl oat drink
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 bar of vegan white chocolate
  • Vegan hazelnut paste to taste
  • 50 grams of margarine + enough to cover your baking tray
  • breadcrumbs for tray
  • icing sugar and mint leaf for garnish

Combine dry ingredients (cardamom, flour, sugar & baking soda) in one bowl and the oat drink with all three bananas in another. Don’t add them together, because you just realized you forgot to melt the margarine. Fuck.

Melt 50 grams of margarine in a small pot and whisk together with the oat drink and bananas. Now, add the dry ingredients bit by bit so that it doesn’t get lumpy. Whisk like crazy because you accidentally poured half of it in and made lumps the size of Guatemala in the bowl. Crisis averted.

Realize you didn’t account for the bananas when you started, so add more flour until you get a thick and creamy batter.

Swear loudly because you forgot to preheat the oven to 175 degress celsius.

Spread some margarine in your baking tray, pour your breadcrumbs in and coat it. Try to get it to the brim, accidentally throw breadcrumbs into the air and scare your cat to death as the sound of a thousand maracas echo when the bread crumbs hit the kitchen floor. Open a beer and get the vacuum cleaner.

Pour your batter into the tray, and put the tray in the oven which is now heated thanks to a quick cleaning intermission. Let it sit in the oven for 35 minutes, while you melt your white chocolate in a bowl. Just put the bowl on top of a small pot filled with water, and stir the chocolate.

Take out your cake, realize the middle is still oozing and be sad. You failed a banana cake. But since you’ve read about adjusting and adapting to failure, you add “oozing” to the recipe to make it seem intended. Feel like a boss as the taste is still baller.

Pour the melted white chocolate over the entire thing, and let cool in the fridge while you chill out for a bit and consider another beer. When cool, take out the cake and get yourself a slice. Show how bad you were at puzzles as a kid by completely destroying the slice.

Spread hazelnut cream on a plate, add your cake on top and sprinkle icing sugar through a siv on top of that. Add your leaf of mint.

Enjoy.