I have made less than ten cakes in my entire life. The first ever was just a little over two years ago, when I foolishly made a casual offer to bake one for my fellow control room members at GSN Live. I didn’t think at the time I would actually have to go through with it, or that they would remind me of my promise every day from that point forward. I definitely didn’t expect a sign reading “Countdown to Gary’s Cake” to end up on the wall, forever reminding me that, among other things, I have a very big mouth.
But when you make a promise to your cohorts in the control room, you’d be stupid not to come through. You spend hours a day, five days a week, in a darkened room with these people, in close proximity, with zero windows and only one exit. It’s a foxhole environment. You’re acutely aware of all sneezes, sniffles and congestion levels detectable in a cough. You discuss current headlines, wedding plans, the previous night’s dinner, sporting rivalries (I just listen), family frustrations, pet situations, in-laws, dental emergencies, broken bones, broken relationships, and on the rare occasion, politics.
It makes sense, considering the tight quarters, that you all do your best to get along with one another. First of all, it makes the day go by faster. But there’s also that annoying little thing called live television… and when things start to go wrong in front of the camera, you need to make sure you’re all on the same side of the situation. And even if there’s very little you can do to save it, you hope you at least have some people around you you’ll want to laugh about it with, even two years later (The “oh shit” moment happens at 4:34).
I didn’t know how to make a cake in 2009. And I don’t mean a cake from scratch… even pre-made box mixes confounded me. I didn’t own cake pans. I certainly didn’t have things like flour, sugar and oil just sitting around my kitchen. And if I did somehow manage to successfully pull a cake off, I had no idea how one moved it from its place of origin to a second destination without leaving half its frosting behind on the passenger seat of a car.
But you can’t let down your control room. So I recruited MG who helped me purchase not only the necessities, but also suggested some candy lettering, because come on… gay men are experts at snappy little messages. Witness our Facebook updates. They’re legendary! And if we can do the same thing across the top of a cake using colorful little letters made of sugar, saying no isn’t even an option.
I have come a long way since that night. Most importantly, I no longer store my motor oil (yellow bottle with black top to the left of the glassware) on the kitchen counter. I also own what is officially called a “cake caddy,” so I no longer have to use half of a cardboard box as transport. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I own something called a cake caddy, but it fell from the top of the refrigerator and ended up with a nasty, ugly crack up the side. I claim that crack as a flex of masculinity.
“Happy Ricky Day?” you ask. That is in celebration of the porn name assigned to me by the booth. Some know me as Gary Green, others as “Ricky Longfellow.”
I also don’t use mixes anymore for cakes. It’s all from scratch now, one hundred percent. The booth didn’t happen to get their hands on the Sour Cream Cake I made below. That was all for MG, and deservedly so. If it hadn’t been for him, I never would have been able to make “Happy Ricky Day.” I would have just punked out and bought something from a bakery, and hoped that my co-workers wouldn’t give me too bad a time. And I might not have ever overcome the doubt that was firmly implanted in my mind up to that point that me and the kitchen had no business with one another.
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake from Epicurious.com
For cake layers:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup whipped cream cheese
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
For the cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, knocking out excess flour.
Into a bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a small bowl whisk together sour cream, water, and vanilla.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture in batches alternately with sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until batter is blended well.
Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth tops. Bake layers in middle of oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
Cool cake layers in pans on racks 10 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely.
In a bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
Add remaining ingredients and beat until combined well.
Arrange 1 cake layer on a large plate and spread with about 3/4 cup frosting. Top frosting with remaining cake layer.