In Which I Attempted To Master the Fine Art of Toaster Oven Cake [Cake Fail.]

I am an excellent cook.

 It’s true. Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade, and I know my way around a kitchen. This is due largely to the fact that all of the women in my family are fantastic cooks-and I grew up spending vast amounts of time in the kitchen with my Mom (a woman who makes the most divine homemade Chicago-style deep dish pizza that you have ever had in your life.) I spent most of my growing up years living in countries with no boxed mixes, thus, I learned to cook without the shortcuts we have become so accustomed to as Americans. Icing in a little plastic tub? Not even an option for us. Cinnamon rolls in a tube? …come again? I didn’t even know what “break and bake” cookies were until I was at least fourteen. Once when I was about eight and my family was living in Ukraine, someone sent us a box with Hamburger Helper in it. My brothers and I staged a protest and refused to eat dinner that night.

 We’re food snobs. In my family, you risk a world of shame being heaped on your head if you attempt to buy a pre-made Pillsbury pie crust from the grocery store. Soup is never from a can, pizza is never frozen before you eat it, and every cake devoured at my house (and believe me, there are many) is spread with Mom’s frosting-not Duncan Hines. If you have to rip open a bag, pry the lid off of a jar, or the “recipe” tells you to add three eggs, some water and oil-the odds are, you’re just not cooking, baby!

 Yes, I’m a food snob through-and-through. …or I was.

 But then I moved to Africa.

 If you’ve seen any of my pictures or heard any of my stories, the odds are that you already know that I live in a one room studio apartment with no kitchen. I do all of my cooking on a two-burner hot plate that routinely blows the electricity-and so as of late, I’ve been down to using one burner. (And that’s only AFTER I unplug the mini-fridge and turn off all of the lights.) In an incredibly endearing effort to enable me to cook more, the men on my team bought Christy and I a toaster oven for Christmas. Because Ben’s birthday is tomorrow, I decided to try and make a cake.

 I swallowed my pride and started with a “Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Fudge Marble” cake mix that Dayton had stashed away for a rainy day. (And given the fact that it has rained for all of five minutes in the four months that we’ve lived in Senegal, he decided that we should go ahead and use it.)  The “recipe” called for three eggs (which, by the way, there were pictures of incase I’d forgotten what one looked like), a cup and a half of water, and 3/4 cups of oil.  (Also pictured. Thank you Duncan Hines.)  A picture is worth a thousand words, and I’m going to let mine show you the travesty that ensued on Wednesday afternoon…

Step one: preheat the "oven". Utilize google to figure out what on earth 350 degrees Farenheit is in Celsius.

Step two: Mix the four (?!) cake ingredients together, and then consult the back of the box for instructions on how to swirl. ...seriously?

Step three: ...put the cake into the toaster.

Step four: twenty minutes later, get prematurely excited about the fact that it's starting to smell like cake.

Step five: become alarmed when five minutes later, you smell burning. Remove the cake from the toaster, and discover that the middle is a lovely charred black, while the outside have not even begun bake.

Step five: six and a half minutes after that, when the distinct smell of burning starts wafting through the apartment, RUN to the toaster. Discover that the middle of your cake is a charred black lump, and the outsides are entirely raw. Perfect.

Step six: reconcile yourself to the unfortunate reality that just as cakes were not meant to be comprised of only four ingredients, they were also not meant to be baked in toasters.

Step six: reconcile yourself to the unfortunate reality that, just as cakes were not meant to be comprised of only four ingredients, they were also not meant to be baked in a toaster oven.


  1. Oh, so sad!

    While I didn’t grow up overseas, my mom did teach me how to COOK too. I didn’t know brownies could be made from a mix until I went to college.

  2. Also speaking from college experience, toaster ovens just aren’t made for full-pan cakes. However, putting cake mix into a cupcake tray or oven-safe cups can provide (relatively) better results.


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