I expected to be a little more refined by this point in my life. To have moved on from the struggling 20s to a sense of being more settled, having matured and grown up. Instead, I find the bar is still far out of reach and while I keep trying, I swear someone is moving it further and further away.
Those who know me are well acquainted with my bad luck with automobiles. It’s nearly epic, actually. The whole 5ish years I was a stay-at-home mom, I drove a 1998 Chevy Blazer that was riddled with … quirks. First the wipers grew a mind of their own, selecting their own speed and often refusing to be stopped by a mere flick of a switch. A bit of recall work should have fixed that nuisance but, alas, it returned. Then the air conditioning went. The leather seats I loved became pretty darn uncomfortable in the summer, but it was manageable. I didn’t grow up with air conditioning–it can hardly be called a necessity. When the heat went, I had to remember to dress warmly and plan to pull over periodically to de-ice the windshield, if necessary. Most of my trips were in town, so it didn’t matter much, but driving to school and back could get interesting at times. I was pretty annoyed when the 4WD went, and the fix that was supposed to fix that didn’t work, but hey, I had some flexibility. I just wouldn’t drive if the roads were bad. The Blazer was paid for–it didn’t owe me a thing.
When I returned to the work force we decided to replace the Blazer with a more reliable mode of transportation. My Christmas gift that year was our first car loan in years on a 2005 Volkswagen Beetle with less than 90,000 miles. It was Sundown Orange and it was a dream by comparison. At least, until the transmission started acting up. By the time I had had the car for 7 months, I could no longer drive it. Once the car was well warmed up, the transmission got jumpy and it wasn’t exactly safe to drive. Stuck between a rock and a hard place–having the loan to pay but no extra money to replace or repair the transmission–it found a shady spot in the driveway to hunker down and I was back to driving the Blazer.
By the Fall, my husband needed replacement transportation. Enter my grandfather’s 1992 Geo Metro Convertible. It was as basic as a car could be with hand-crank windows, a tape player, and little noise reduction padding. But it was free, so it was the right price for me. By the end of October, with winter looming and no desire to drive a rear-wheel drive vehicle 40 miles round-trip every day, I started driving the Geo. It was a small victory in that it was the first time I had driven a standard transmission since my partial paralysis to my left leg–it scared the hell out of me at first, actually–but I grew used to it and drove it the next 6 months.
All the while, the Beetle remained, a constant reminder of how the best laid plans don’t always work out the way we expect.
This June, a co-worker replaced her 1997 Subaru Outback Wagon and offered it to us, free. It came with rust holes in the rear wheel wells and the caveat that it may not last 6 months, but it didn’t cost me a thing other than the registration. And right now, that works for me. It has air conditioning. It has heat. The wipers work the way they’re supposed to. And the seats are my favorite–leather. It may not be flashy, and today the exhaust fell apart on the way to work, but it works. It gets me there and back. Which is more than I can say about Clementine, that damn Bug I want to squash in my driveway.
While I may have a questionable vehicular past, it has taught me much, too. Tolerance. Appreciation. When your gas gauge can’t be relied upon, your tripometer is your best friend. Always stash a rag somewhere safe under the hood. If you smell something sickeningly sweet, you better check your coolant. That when your engine is overheating, you need to check the radiator for leaks, add water to the coolant tank, as needed, and blast the heat to draw the hot air away from the engine–at least for a few miles, til you can get it looked at. If you turn the key and the car doesn’t start, you can tell by the sounds if it’s the battery (and possibly the alternator) or the starter that’s the problem. There are certain places jacks go if you have to change a tire. (And scissor jacks should be outlawed!) Rain-X should be handed out with all cars–but most especially with those that have schizophrenic wipers. I can check my own oil and have to, often. I can add more, too.
No, this is not the glamorous life I had hoped to lead by this age, but it’s not such a horrible thing. I don’t have a fluffy, Angel Food Cake existence, but there is salted caramel from time to time, and we eat cake, too, even if it’s a little more dense. It’ll be okay. There will be time for that later, right?
- 1 cup (16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 2¼ cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed
- ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ teaspoon fleur de sel (flaky sea salt)
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar (sifted, if you want to avoid lumps)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour (or coat in baking spray) a 10-cup Bundt pan and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar, beating until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes).
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating the first before moving on to the next. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Beat in the vanilla extract.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture, starting with the dry and ending with the buttermilk in 3 additions.
- Spread in the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then place a cooling rack over the top and invert the pan, releasing the cake onto the rack. If it doesn’t release immediately, let it cool a little longer. You may need to loosen the sides with a butter knife.
- In a small saucepan, heat the butter, brown sugar, and cream.
- Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Sprinkle the fleur de sel over the surface and turn the mixer onto 7 or 8 for 2 minutes.
- Turn off, add the confectioners’ sugar, and whip again for another 2-3 minutes, scraping the sides as needed.
- Place some wax paper or aluminum foil under the cake, still on the rack, and pour the glaze over the top of the cake (I spooned it over the top, adjusting to try to get an even coating).
- Let sit for 2 hours before serving.
Here’s how you can be a part of Bundt-a-Month:
- Simple rule: Bake us a Bundt using caramel
- Post it before July 31, 2013
- Use the #BundtaMonth hashtag in your title. (For ex: title could read #BundtaMonth: Caramel Swirl Bundt)
- Add your entry to the Linky tool below
- Link back to our announcement posts
Here are this month’s caramel creations from the other Bundt-a-Month bakers:
- Brown Butter Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel Icing by Holly from A Baker’s House
- Caramelized Apple Bundt Cake by Lora from Cake Duchess
- Caramel Pound Cake by Veronica from My Catholic Kitchen
- Chocolate Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel by Alice from Hip Foodie Mom
- Double Glazed Caramel Mocha Bundt by Stacy from Food Lust People Love
- Dulce de Leche Bundt Cake by Renee from Magnolia Days
- Dulce de Leche Swirl Pound Cake by Anuradha from Baker Street
- Orange Caramel Bourbon Bundt Cake by Paula from Vintage Kitchen Notes
- Salted Butterscotch Caramel Bundt Cake by Laura from The Spiced Life
- Salted Caramel Mini Apple Cake Bundts by Anita from Hungry Couple
- Snickers Bundt Cake by Karen from In The Kitchen with KP
- Toffee Pecan Bundt Cake with Caramel Drizzle by Anne from From My Sweet Heart
- Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Bundt Cake by Kate from Food Babbles
Even more Bundt fun!