Not long ago a family in my church was in need of help with a few meals. I wanted to be there for them. I gladly signed up to bring a dessert with the best of intentions.
Unfortunately, I am not always strong in the planning department. When the day arrived, I found myself short of time and long on demands from my own family schedule. I wondered what I should do.
I suppose I could have run to the store to pick something up, ready made. There are lots of choices at the local market these days and I'm sure I could have found something that would have tasted good and filled out the meal just fine. That would have been a relatively quick and practical solution.
Still, somehow that seemed to defeat the purpose of what I had signed up to do. I mean anyone can pick up a cake from a store. I have this idea that thoughtfully preparing the food is a meaningful part of the process of providing a meal. Being mindful of someone else and their needs while spending time in the kitchen is a gift I both offer and receive. It felt important so I set aside some time in the afternoon to bake.
What to Bake?
Next, I needed to figure out what I was going to make. Rummaginig through my pantry for inspiration, I found a yellow cake mix and a can of pumpkin. That reminded me of a recipe for a Pumpkin Praline Cake I had made a few times before. This cake can be put together fairly quickly. What's more it is quite reliable and rather forgiving. It takes no special skill and is not finicky about the weather or drafts or the temperature of the ingredients. Still it does come fresh and warm from my own kitchen.
I do like to cook and, at times, I have the freedom and opportunity to make some fabulous desserts from scratch. On another day I might have pushed the cake mix aside and declined to make anything prepackaged. Or I might have stressed about my personal expectations and ended up with a rushed disaster or something I took time driving to the store to pick up and then delivered along with a lot of excuses. Sometimes pride and ambition makes us worry about things like that. And sometimes our ideals of simplicity only serve to complicate our lives.
On this day I was bound by certain limitations. Still I wanted to do something to help, and the act of making the cake, of pouring and stirring and placing it in the oven, of glazing it and arranging it on a tray, warm, seemed more important than whether or not some of the ingredients came from a mix. Based on my personal constraints I took a slight shortcut and made a cake I had confidence would turn out right and in time. I made it with care and offered it with love and concern. Sometimes the fussy standards we set for ourselves are just not the point. What matters is taking the time to care.
Pumpkin Praline Cake
(From a yellowed magazine clipping)
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin
¼ cup brown sugar, light or dark
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar, light or dark
½ to ¾ cup chopped pecans
Combine cake mix, pumpkin, brown sugar, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Beat for 1 minute. Add eggs. Beat 2 minutes more. Pour into greased bundt pan.
For topping/glaze: Melt butter with brown sugar. Add nuts. Pour half of mixture on top of the cake batter.
Bake cake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool in pan for 15 minutes then invert onto plate. When cool, drizzle remaining glaze on cake.