Burning Questions

My friend Pat has some burning questions she needs answers to, like can a cake catch on fire and burn down your house?  Sometimes you just have to put on The Talking Heads and crank it up (and if you're too young to get that reference, you need to revamp your record collection.) You don't know what a record is either? Oh dear.

Can a cake catch on fire and if so, does it emit deadly gases?

I never expected to be asking these questions but after my Pistachio Cake mishap, they seemed relevant in trying to determine whether I’d almost killed my son, I was suffering from some serious memory problems or was simply inflicted with Baby Boomer Attention Deficit Disorder.

This unusual tale began one Saturday morning when my cell phone rang as my husband and I were driving home from an errand. My oldest son, home for the weekend, had walked into the house from his own errand to be greeted by the oven timer buzzing at full blast (though not enough to awaken his brother upstairs).

“Oh my God,” I gulped. “I forgot I put the Pistachio Cake in the oven. Is it on fire?”

My husband’s eyes were the size of saucers. He had that “do I need to call 911” expression (due no doubt to my history of “visits” from fire apparatus with sirens blaring).

After being assured no flames were coming from the oven and there was no need to call the fire department, I asked my son how the cake looked.

There was a long pause. “Well-done,” he finally replied.

I disconnected the call in a panic. Not about the cake, mind you, but that I’d spent time making it, put it in the oven and then, well, completely forgot about it.

“Ohmigod, I wonder if I should be tested for Alzheimer’s or ADD,” I moaned. “What if I’d burned down the house and killed our son?”

“I don’t think cakes can catch on fire,” my husband replied.

“But what about deadly gases? I could have killed him.”

“I’ve never heard of anyone dying from cake fumes or pistachio gases,” he said, his eyes now back to normal size. “But maybe now you’ll stop complaining about me forgetting things.”

Unlikely. However, I am happy to report the cake was only slightly darker than usual and tasted as wonderful as always. I love this cake. It's easy to make and it can be used as a breakfast item or a dessert. It's the only Bundt cake I've ever made that doesn't stick to the pan. It freezes so well no one can tell you made it a week earlier.

And now I know it doesn’t catch on fire easily. This could be important in the future.

Here’s the recipe for the apparently indestructible Pistachio Cake:

1 pkg. butter cake mix (if unavailable, use yellow cake mix)

1 box instant pistachio pudding mix

1/2 c. oil

4 eggs

1/2 tsp. almond flavoring

½ tsp butter flavoring

1 cup sour cream (fat-free is OK)

(a few drops of green food coloring if darker color desired)

For topping:

½ c chopped nuts (sliced almonds, walnuts, whatever)

3 TB sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or spray) 10-inch Bundt pan. Blend all cake ingredients well. Mix 1 minute on low speed, scrape side, another 2 minutes on high. Make topping separately.

To assemble: Put half the topping in bottom of pan, then half the cake ingredients, rest of topping and rest of cake.

Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes (toothpick test), cool on rack 10-15 minutes, check sides. If ready, flip out, or wait another 10 minutes.

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