“Magic” Still Happens

Vintage poster of magician from 1899
Wikimedia Commons CC BY-2.0

Have you ever tried a recipe you secretly doubted would work out?

They’re often the ones with the word “magic” in the recipe title, and they seem to promise the impossible.

The “Magic Chocolate Pudding Cake” below is a good example. The recipe instructs you to press a firm batter into a baking pan, and then pour flavoured boiling water on top of it. It claims this will magically transform into cake and sauce during the baking process.

You may be a bit dubious about this, however. The batter seems too solid and unyielding, impenetrable to the liquid atop it. You don’t see how this “magical” transformation will ever happen.

As you put the baking pan in the oven, you may think, “This will never work out. This will be another culinary disaster my family will tease me about for years to come, like the time I tried to cook a Thanksgiving turkey but forgot to turn the oven on.”

But lo and behold, the recipe does succeed after all! The two differing natures of the mixture are indeed transformed into something new and delicious, and your family thinks you’re a genius in the kitchen.

Unlikely transformations can still happen in our lives, too.

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When Bad Cakes Happen to Good People

Cake Explosion Photo by Raffi Asdourian on Flickr CC BY-2.0

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, recipes don’t turn out the way they’re supposed to.

Your soufflé turns into a pancake; your cookies are as hard as hockey pucks; or your cake is a soggy mess. Any way you slice it (if it’s even possible to slice it), the recipe results in a total disaster.

Sometimes it’s due to a mistake on your part. You accidentally added twice the amount of an ingredient called for (guilty!); you used Shake ’n’ Bake instead of graham cracker crumbs for the dessert base; or you put the pizza in the oven for 450 minutes at 15 degrees, instead of 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Or maybe the fault lies with someone else. The recipe’s author might have led you astray by inadvertently calling for 1/2 pound of flour instead of 1/2 cup’s worth. You only discover later that the recipe contained errors when you see a correction printed in the next day’s newspaper or blog post. But by then, of course, it’s too late: your family is using the rock-hard muffins you made as door-stops.

Often, you didn’t see a recipe fail coming at all. You followed the instructions to the letter, but it still didn’t work out. The ingredients may not have behaved as you expected due to humidity, altitude, or their age. Your oven may be hotter or colder than you realized, or your flour is harder than the type tested in the recipe. It wasn’t your fault, but just the nature of baking.

As Marian Keyes puts it in her cookbook, “Saved by Cake,” sometimes bad cakes happen to good people.

It’s the same in our lives, isn’t it? Sometimes things go wrong even when we’ve tried to do everything right. Our lives don’t turn out the way we expected.

But there’s good news for the believer in God: He can redeem any mistake and turn things around for your good and His glory.

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Get Ready for God to Act

Pouring cupcake batter into prepared muffin tins.
Photo by Gina Dittmer.

When you read a cake or muffin recipe, it will usually instruct you to preheat your oven and get your baking pans prepared before describing how to make the dessert itself.

But why do it in this order? Why not make the batter first, and let it sit there in the bowl while you leisurely grease or line the baking pans and let the oven slowly heat up?

There’s a very good reason to have everything prepared before you start the actual baking, and it has to do with how leaveners behave.

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The Banana Paradox

Who doesn’t like banana cake? Even people who won’t eat bananas seem to like banana cake. It seems to be one of those desserts that is universally liked.

And what kind of bananas do you use to make a banana cake? Only the most uniformly yellow, firm, spot-free, perfect ones, right?

Wrong.

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