Picking up a new activity injects new experiences. We gain new perspectives and it affects our way of thinking, how we deal with people and solve problems.
One Saturday, an Italian friend baked a tiramisu cake. It triggered a forgotten distant memory.
My experience of baking my first cake. A new activity I picked up. All by myself. Without attending any classes. No teachers.
Just plain old googling, reading recipes and following instructions.
Lemon drizzle cake — it was a huge success!
Success = Edible and my friends liked it. They had more than once slice
I didn’t think it was difficult. Though I know of friends and relatives who find baking tough.
I mean, googling easy bake recipes and going through the step-by-step process.
How complex can that be?
The Starting Point
I wanted to bring something personal for my friend’s first birthday party in London.
Cake? I saw a couple of homemade cakes before and from what I heard, it sounded totally doable.
I’m a beginner so I googled “easy cake recipes”.
I wanted a delicious result and people should like it.
So I filtered down my selections to 4–5 stars rating.
“Easy” is relative to individuals.
Hence, I went one step to narrow down to recipes that needed only one hour or less.
From my research, lemon drizzle cake looked like a no-brainer.
This was the recipe: Lemon Drizzle Cake.
Simple detailed instructions, 1 hour baking time and five star reviews from people who have tried it before!
Awesome! My first cake turned out well.
From there, I ventured into the lemon poppy seed cakes, marble cakes, chocolate cakes etc over the next two years…
And throughout my baking journey, I learned three important life lessons.
Short-cuts Are Not Meant For Beginners
As an impatient beginner, I skipped a step of flour sieving.
I thought it wouldn’t matter. The flour looked fine as it is and I could save some time!
Or so I thought.
However, when I tried to mix the lumpy flour with sugar and eggs, it resulted in larger clumps!
In the end, I had to spend a longer time mixing everything together.
Similar to life, taking short-cuts might seem very attractive initially but without the right foundation, it could add in more work later on!
If you aim to achieve your dreams, set yourself up for it.
Get the right groundwork. And everything else can be built on top of it.
Practice Makes Perfect
The old saying, Practice makes perfect rings very true.
For my first cake, embarrassingly, I took three hours starting from 9 in the evening till midnight.
Instead of the one hour stated on the recipe!
What happened was this.
When I was measuring out 200g of sugar on the scale, I intended to save some time (yes, again!) in the preparation process.
Rather than a slow and steady approach, I increased my pouring speed.
I lost control and 300g of sugar ended up on the scale instead. I stopped, spooned back the sugar and remeasured till I got the right reading.
This happened a couple of times.
Initially I took at least double or triple the instructed time. However, I was undeterred.
I set a personal goal of improving my techniques.
To reduce my preparation time with each attempt.
Eventually, I succeeded in keeping within the stated time for a simple recipe.
I proved to myself. Though I wasn’t a natural in baking, mastering a new skill was just a matter of practice.
Applying Core Principles
Before I baked my first cake, I was under the impression that baking different cakes were totally different experiences.
I was only half right.
Although steps could differ, but the principles behind each cake is similar.
Right at the start, I felt buying an electric mixer was a big investment for a beginner baker.
Henceforth, I manually stirred everything together most of the times even if the recipe might require a mixer.
After I acquired an electric mixer, I put it to good use for different cakes. Even if the recipe does not include that as a requirement.
I discovered that an electric mixer gives an even mix and introduces more air into the mixture, producing even texture and reducing the likelihood of any clumping.
Baking preparation techniques from one recipe could be applied easily to another similar recipe.
Similarly, what I learned from one experience can be stored as future reference for another.
All in all, I didn’t fall in love with cake-baking.
In fact, I’ve stopped baking for the last two years.
However, I’ve enriched my life with three unexpected valuable life learnings.
And they have continued to be constant reminders.
Keeping me grounded in my day-to-day life.
What have you learned from a new activity you’ve picked up?