Baking Under the Influence

Amy S. Upclose

A few years ago my friend Robert, a violinist, gave me the most wonderful book called I Like You:  Hospitality Under the Influence by the legendary Amy Sedaris.  For years I have been a fan of both her work, and that of her brother David.   The book is filled with extremely helpful tips on being the perfect host, being the ideal guest, tantalizing recipes, and decorating for parties, expressed in Amy’s own humorous way.  Her clever writing depicts her own sardonic sense of humor and anecdotes, while at the same time educating the reader on various topics.   Over the years, I have referred to this volume on occasion, and am continuously surprised.  I also laugh out loud every time I open the book (because it’s really funny)  Amidst the humor and cute illustrations, there is a cornucopia of vital information, many of which can be classified into feng shui guidelines and things that are just good common sense.Pink Roses in Blue and Gold VaseOne of the things Amy addresses is the rule for bringing flowers to a dinner party on page 24.  She mentions that, if one shows up with flowers for the host or hostess, it can sometimes cause more aggravation than enjoyment for the individual – because one has to stop, react, cut, and arrange the bouquet, which causes the host to have an extra job when they are already busy “hosting” and performing other actions.  Amy advises that if you do bring flowers, bring them already in something, like a vase or urn.  If one really wants to bring flowers, I suggest bringing a potted plant, like an orchid or lily; all one has to do stick it somewhere.  And, you leave the host with some beautiful, creative wood energy behind after the party.  Or, and Amy also suggests this, send a bouquet of flowers as a thank-you gift after the party   “Now that’s class!” says Amy, and I couldn’t agree more.  (When I go to dinner parties, I usually bring a bottle of wine or sparkling cider.)  The book is filled with other helpful items such as this, which would make Emily Post very proud.

There are various sections in the book, some of which are  Entertaining the Elderly, Lumberjack Lunch, and Grieving, focusing on different scenarios where one entertains.  And the recipes are scrumptious.  Although I’ve tried a few others in the past, I decided to brave a new one this time:  Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, located on page 226.  It was my first time making this classic dessert, and I was excited.  I made a couple of alterations.  Instead of using pineapple juice, I used the syrup juice from the can of sliced pineapple – which worked well.  I also substituted almond milk for milk and margarine for butter, both also worked.  And I added maraschino cherries.  Although Ms. Sedaris makes no mention of this in the recipe, the photo in the book shows the finished cake with maraschinos.  I feel you can’t have a pineapple upside-down cake without them; it doesn’t seem right somehow.  For some  fire energy, I added red ones (but green would work, too, for a more mid-century feel).

Navajo Pride and Pineapple

Then I ran into a road block.  The recipe calls for a round pan.  I only have square or rectangular vessels.  So I looked around and found an Angel Food Cake pan (belonging to my roommate).  I’ve never made Angel Food Cake, so I was surprised that the pan was in two pieces.  Well, I thought, how different could it be?  So I greased the pan, and followed the recipe accordingly.  Everything went well, and into the oven it went.  It took a little longer to bake, I’m guessing because of the circle in the middle, but otherwise it looked and smelled wonderful.  While it was cooling, I went out to dinner, and then flipped it over when I got home.  To my horror, a lot of the brown syrup/butter mixture (stage 1 of the recipe), had leaked out between the two parts of the pan.  This changed the creation dramatically.  It became more of a pound cake with fruit rather than the sugary pineapple dream that I was searching for.  It was delicious, but definitely not what I was expecting.  It became more of a breakfast food rather than a classic dessert.  I still enjoyed it very much.  A picture of the finished product is below.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Now, I want to try this again, but using a round pan, which would make it much more accurate to Amy’s original recipe.  But what is the best feng shui cake pan?   The auspiciousness of an item depends on many things – such as shape, style, color, and material.  For example, a metal cake pan would create a different energy for a cake than a silicon cake pan.  Both work great, but each would offer a different chi to the creation.    I conducted a web search and found some amazing options, a few of which I plan on purchasing soon.

Burgundy 9 Inch Cake PanAmazon has some amazing options (And I love their free Super-Saver Free Shipping, should one spend $25.00 or more).  Above is the Burgundy 9 Inch Round Cake Pan.  This would have been ideal for the recipe – and it’s my favorite color:

Daisy Cake Pan

Splendid for Easter, this aluminum cake pan from Wilton is perfect for any spring event – especially those involving baskets and egg hunting:

Baby Buggy Cake Pan

Another Wilton brand pan, this is the Baby Buggy.  One online photo I saw of the finished cake actually had a baby in the carriage, made from tinted frosting.  I found it somewhat creepy.  But I think, if I was to use this pan, I would fill the carriage with lilacs or roses:

Castle Bundt Cakes

From Nordicware, we have the Sand Castle Bundt Cake Pan.  Made of heavyweight aluminum, this mold transforms ten cups of cake batter into a wondrous Arthurian abode.  I love the finished product on the right, all earthly in its sand castle beauty.  I’d like to try this with a white vanilla cake, or with various shades of jello:

Honeycomb Cake Pan

From Chef’s Corner Store, a wonderful online resource, we have the Honeycomb Pull-Apart Cake Pan.  Also made by Nordicware, this is perhaps my favorite of them all.  I think the pineapple upside-down cake could work with this quite nicely, and offer a very geometric take on the dessert.  It would also be good for making pull-apart Monkey Bread:

Rose Bundt Cake Pan

A more classic bundt pan would be the Rose Bundt, also from Chef’s Corner.  This would not have worked with the pineapple upside-down cake at all, but I’ve love to try a red velvet one using this:

The rose and honeycomb cake pans above are also available at, for about the same prices, but they do offer better deals on shipping.

Vintage Rose Metal Cake Pan

Some of the best cake pans, both for functionality and beauty, are vintage pans.  Above is a very similar Nordicware rose bundt pan from a seller on Ecrater.  I love the red metal:

Puzzle Piece Mold

Indulge Simply Delicious, a highly auspicious Ebay store, offers the Puzzle Pieces Silicone Mold.  Silicone is such a versatile material, as one can bake, cook, refrigerate and freeze it.  I would love to get this for brownies, or for making fancy ice cubes for punch bowls:

The craft items in the book are also very clever, such as how to make personalized lighters on page 288.  I also really like the fashionable bookends on page 277, and the homemade bath sachet on 267.  There is also a highly informative list of items one should always have on hand on page 299 entitled Be Prepared.  (I need to get a lemon press.)

I Like You Book

There are many places to order I Like You online.

I highly suggest acquiring this book for your permanent library, if you are the type of individual who is social, and likes to throw and/or attend festive gatherings (This should be everyone).  I plan next on trying her recipe for Pesto Sauce, and a kind of roast poultry dish called Chicken of the Taverns.  Or maybe I’ll make the stellar Meat Loaf recipe on page 170 using my new Castle Bundt Pan.   Mmmm…