A couple weeks before my first ever trip to Yosemite, I thought long and hard about what I could do to make the experience memorable to-the-max. My mind went straight to wood-fired munchie possibilities, and then for some reason I remembered a lame Food Network segment where a bunch of overweight people in Civil War era garb dug holes in the ground, planted their dutch ovens and harvested some tasty looking cakes. That's it! I thought. So, for better or worse, I decided to give it a try... which translated to winging it- something you're never supposed to do in baking. And I knew this.
First things first: I borrowed a Le Creuset dutch oven because it is superior to all other cookware- to the point of possibly saving, or improving, my half-assed confection. This is what I prayed for while making it, anyway.
As with any trip, essential items were either completely forgotten or left behind. Lucky for us, Walgreens had a kiddie's beach bucket set on sale and the plastic shovel was as good as any spatula I've ever used. It's also where I paid five-freaking bucks for a mini whisk.
Smile! You just got raped!
The operation was undoubtedly rinky-dink. Truth is, I was in vacation mode and didn't even bother bringing a pineapple upside down cake recipe with me. There were more fun camping-related items to think about anyway, like waterfalls, breathtaking granite formations and that liberating feeling you get when the wind kisses your ass as you pee into the vast forest.
So I told my inner Martha to fuck off, bought a yellow cake mix and figured I'd just follow those directions, spray my fancy pan, slap down some pineapple rings and cherries, bake that bitch and make cartoon hearts shoot from my man's eyes. Besides, anything one eats while camping naturally tastes better- just by the exotic nature of consuming a hot slice of cake in the middle of the wilderness meant that I'd be a winner at something, right?
Because of my camping mate's aversion to maraschino cherries- an essential component for my retro cake's aesthetic- I went with Trader Joe's Dark Morello Cherries instead. They were good but not that chewy, semi-plasticky red matter that I fished for in fancy Coca-Cola drinks as a kid.
Trader Joe's brand Kentucky Bourbon: Fit for any occasion.
Fatal error #67: I should not have poured the entire box of cake mix into the oven. The bourbon prevented me from realizing that I was conceiving Frankencake.
But, everything looked deceivingly proper.
Doesn't it look like I have my shit together?
Hiccup #73: I didn't know the temperature of the fire, so I checked on it every 10 minutes or so. A pastry chef friend of mine told me to touch the center of the cake and if it bounced back (without leaving wet stuff on my paw) then it'd be done. So, I went with that, and the cake took about 45 minutes to cook.
Even with all the drink, when I pulled back the lid, I knew campfire cake numero uno was toast. Those damn crispy edges stuck to the sides and had to be stabbed away, for one, and if we wanted the cake to cool properly, we'd have to wait overnight because it was so thick. Physics and common sense in general were laughing in my face.
After flipping the abomination- in two parts- I realized my biggest oversight of all: This cake needed a glaze or sauce or ice cream or something! Ack! Surprisingly, it tasted good- it was even moist, but the scorched pineapple and cherries (albeit tasty) made the whole thing look real sad.
Bottom line: the campfire cake needed a sauce more than a recipe and a sober chef combined. So, we got (more) sauced instead, ripped into Frankencake, and gazing at the bright stars, fantasized about a kiddie beach bucket filled with vanilla ice cream and two shovels.
(photos and clean-up by eric wixon)