Peanut Butter Object Lessons: Pound Cake Style

I’m learning to pivot. To adapt when plans change or when life throws me a curve ball.âšū Traditionally, any unexpected hiccups in my routine, from a closed road to the loss of a job, would cause an onslaught of anxiety. It could be debilitating, nearly rendering me catatonic.

Because of this tendency, I crave structure in my life. I just never know what kind of shenanigans the chemicals in my brain will cause. I want to control whatever I can, knowing that some things will always (or mostly) be certain.

Living with multiple mental health diagnoses (Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder and Generalized Anxiety) doesn’t mean that I’m a victim, or that I’m slave to my emotions or thoughts. What it does mean is that sometimes I have to fight to get through everyday tasks. Thankfully, I’m lucky to have a caring team who love and support me through the ups and downs, dark days, hospitalizations, and paralyzing uncertainties.

My go-to self soothe skill: Baking

Baking is, and always has been, therapeutic for me. There is something very soothing about kneading bread or taking a warm batch of cookies out of the oven. Sometimes though, I can get a little too wrapped up in the results instead of the process. (See my post about Reginald and the Peach Cake that Almost Wasn’t.)

Yesterday’s adventure (and make no mistake, it was an adventure), illustrates my journey. Or at least, it’s a decent reminder that I can accept my situation while working to improve it.

It all starts with peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Pound Cake

I firmly believe that peanut butter is the eighth wonder of the world. I will eat it anywhere, on anything, in any form. I love it. So when I stumbled upon a recipe for peanut butter pound cake, I was overjoyed. So happy in fact, that I rushed over to show my husband. He doesn’t care much for sweets, and I’ll admit that the picture looked like any other bunt cake, but he graciously exclaimed over it with me.

There was nothing particularly eventful about preparation. The batter was tasty and I let my dog, George, lick the bowl. He heartily approved.

But here’s where things got dicey.

I got the bright idea to make mini pound cakes. Unfortunately, I got the serving size guess-estimation all kinds of wrong. All wrong. I thought that if the recipe said it served 10 to 12, then it would surely be safe dividing it into 18 muffin tins. Pound cakes don’t typically rise much because of how dense they are. So I filled those puppies nearly to the top.

Take a guess at what happened.

Cake Explosion!

The spillage was volcanic. 🌋 While I managed not to set off the fire alarm, it smoked so badly that I had to turn on the vent and open up my windows in 30 degree Cincinnati weather. ❄ As you can see, I left the sad cakes finish, concave, connected, and hugging the pans though they were. Somewhere, deep inside me, I still clung to a flicker of hope. I thought that if I could get them out of the pans, perhaps I could pile the sunken centers full of icing or cream or something to disguise their deformity.

Not so much.

No such luck.

I wanted to cry and laugh. But I determined NOT to be beaten (or pounded) by my pound cake, so I pivoted.

Trifles and Cake Pops for the Win

I went hunting in my fridge and pantry and found my saviors. I made some chocolate pudding. Then I beat together some cream cheese, more peanut butter, powered sugar, and folded in some cool whip.

Now I’ve never made a trifle per se, and I don’t have the appropriate serving dish, but I did not let that stop me. I layered goop in a bowl and sprinkled some candy on the top. (I always buy marked down candy after the holidays and keep it in the freezer for emergency baking situations. Yay, for Halloween Butterfingers!🎃 )

That being done, I still had half of the cake and cream cheese goop left. I almost dumped it. But then I’m staring at the bowl and realize that I mash cake like this intentionally when I make cake pops. HA! Take that! You peanut butter bastard!!

I couldn’t help but sing ‘Patty Cake’ to myself during this process.ðŸŽķ “I rolled them, and pat them, and marked them with a P…” Normally I wouldn’t have melting chocolate on hand, but lucked out having leftovers from the buckeyes that I made at Christmas.

The results

When I finished, I was super pleased with my ingenuity and my non-freakout-ishness. I made a list of who would be the recipients, dividing the cake pops into baggies and halving the trifle. I needed to run some errands, and almost decided to make a dessert delivery, but thought I should probably try the trifle first.

I’m not gonna lie, the first bite was heavenly. But I quickly discovered this dessert had more flavors than I anticipated. Specifically, it had notes of smoke. The kind of flavor-layer that takes a minute to hit, and then when it does, it punches. Pound cake indeed.

It wasn’t as bad with the cake pops. I could isolate the smoke because I was looking for it, but I don’t know that it was completely obvious. I mean, now that I’m posting this blog, I’m kind of outing myself. But they are just too pretty not to share.

So the trifle did not get delivered. (Sorry Charles and Kevin.) But I stashed the pops in the freezer for some random time when a friend comes over for coffee. Maybe they’ll be preoccupied with the latte I’ll make them. Let’s hope. ðŸĪž

Unexpected object lesson

To sum it up. Sometimes my life is like a peanut butter pound cake. It’s a wild ride of ups and downs. It’s not giving up, but choosing to carry on despite the lot I’ve been given. The analogy isn’t perfect, I know. But what I do know is that this struggle isn’t unique to those who suffer with mental illness. This is just part of being human. The whole lemon/lemonade thing. 🍋

I’m learning with therapy and support that changes aren’t necessarily “bad,” and I can and will cope through the dark days. You can do it too.

So let’s have a cake pop and carry on!

What about you? Do you use any self-soothing skills to get you through anxiety attacks or difficult days? How do you manage acute moments of stress? I’d love to hear your methods and compare tactics.

5 comments

  • It’s okay about the trifle! 🙂 It’s amazing that baking soothes you because it requires so much precision. Maybe that’s because of your need for structure.

    Photography soothes my anxiety, and it’s also good for me because walking around gives me exercise, which is also good for mental health. It’s not so good this time of year, of course, but I’m looking forward to spring.

    Re: peanut butter: Have you ever just taken a spoon and dipped it into a jar of peanut butter and eaten it? Silly question. Everyone without a peanut allergy has!

    • There is a magical moment when you take the first dip of peanut butter in a new jar. I almost make a ceremony out of it. You just have to stand there and enjoy the moment in all it’s peanutty deliciousness.

      Also, I’m working on the photography thing.

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