Connections: Apron Strings

Evvy didn’t need me or any other grandmother to tell her how to go about it

An image of a grandmother with an apron tied around her waist showing someone young how to make a cake came to mind last week. I am not certain whether it was wishful thinking or guilt. The truth is, I never bake much of anything and don’t even remember making chocolate-chip cookies when my kids were kids.

What actually happened in my kitchen last week was that my granddaughter Evvy, who just turned 13, was hanging around my house, saying she had nothing to do. She took me up on it when I rather halfheartedly suggested she bake a cake. Turns out, she is a whiz at baking cakes.

It’s a new world, we know. Evvy didn’t need me or any other grandmother to tell her how to go about it. She just went to her iPhone and found a recipe. Fortunately, the necessary ingredients were on hand: flour, sugar, eggs, milk, Hershey’s cocoa, safflower oil. But, oh dear, when it came to pans for a layer cake, there were none. I could have sworn we used to have many, many cake tins, left over from the days when my daughter used to take any excuse to bake a cake — snowball coconut cakes for birthdays, bundt pans for blueberry cakes, orange frosted with chocolate. . . . Anyway, taking this discovery in stride, Evvy used one square baking dish and one shaped like a star. We would have two single-layer cakes rather than one tall one.

I was amazed to observe that Evvy had her baking techniques down pat. For example, she cut parchment paper to place at the bottom of the pans so the cakes would be easier to get out, and even just the cutting out was a tricky feat with the pan shaped like a star. (I don’t know why I have parchment paper around; probably for some exotic specialty my husband cooked one night.) She used a toothpick to test for doneness when the timer she had set on her phone buzzed (I knew how to do that part!). Finally, she put plates on both sides of each pan so the cake would be easy to turn right side up once it slipped out of the baking tin.

As I sat wondering how to make icing, Evvy had it down to a science. There was heavy cream in the refrigerator — I guess I’d bought it to eat with the last of the strawberries — so she whipped it up, then took a simple plastic bag and turned it into a pastry bag by making a hole at one corner and holding it just so. My goodness. In no time the cakes were decorated with swirls, stars, circles, and slashes. It was a celebration.

I asked Evvy’s father afterward if he had taught her to bake. The answer was no. Not him, he said, noting that he had recently made a cake from a Duncan Hines mix. But he added that Evvy sometimes makes a cake in a cup.

Old fogey alert: It turns out that Evvy learned to bake — and bake well — via YouTube, Instagram, and maybe some reality television shows about baking competitions. Social media have replaced me, and maybe you, and done a swell job at it. Well, I guess grannies have other things to do these day. I’m off to yoga now.