Lest you think my birthday is somehow special, I hasten to mention that Millie makes "from scratch"angel food cakes for almost EVERYONE's birthday: like Caesar, she includes 'friends, Romans, and countrymen' in her wide flung generosity. Her chickens may contribute the raw materials, but the beating, the baking, the delivery on either the blue/white china plate or the melamine chicken plate is all a personal labor of endurance and love.
Clearly, Grandma thought of her cakes as works in progress. She would laugh out loud to hear me express it this way, but she had high standards for her cakes and sought always to express in writing what she innately sensed through repetition and experience.
Millie has the same humility...I don't know if I've ever eaten one of her cakes that 1) she was satisfied with ("It fell","Ít stuck", "It's uneven"...or the perennial "Its just not quite right.") or 2) tasted like anything other than what I imagine the Lord sent down as manna.
All the directions and notations in the world cannot capture the nuances of "from scratch". Consider this advice: Sift cake flour four times...fold in flour and sugar mix 1/4 cup at a time, counting 15 strokes....add vanilla and fold 25 more strokes...beat each egg 21 times....Pretty calculated, huh? One expects the measures to include a decimal point or two of significant digits..With directions this precise, even a novice should be able to reproduce a "from scratch"masterpiece, right?
But wait....here's the rub...Beat the egg whites until foamy...beat the eggs 'til soft peaks form....fold the sugar one cup at a time gently 25 times by hand. All of a sudden the clinical precision of the recipe has diffused into haze of subtle judgement calls, the kind of make or break decisions that leave novices rigid with deer in the headlights terror.