Baking and Translation Fail

I consider myself to be an average baker. I don’t use box mixes, I’m willing to try more challenging things (such as bagels, doughnuts, hamburger buns, but not an expert by any means.

It was a friend’s birthday this week and I wanted to make her a cake. I opted for “My Never Fail Carrot Cake.” I’ve made this a dozen times and it has come out perfectly every time and is so delicious, I think I’ve only shared it a few times… And really, what’s not to love about a cake that has two cups of sugar in it?

Luckily, I have all the ingredients available to me in Kazakhstan. I assembled, mixed, poured, and popped it into the oven.

A bit of backstory. All my cakes have turned out strange here. They are always really dense, don’t seem to rise, or are still a bit fudgy in the center after letting them bake longer than the allotted time. I chalked some of this up to the oven (perhaps the temperature is off?), the flour (maybe it’s different than our all-purpose flour in the USA?), or the fact that I’ve only tried new cake recipes thus far. Any which way, my cakes typically come out looking not as they should, which is why I opted for “My Never Fail Carrot Cake.”

Well, halfway into baking, it was clearly going to fail me too despite it filling the apartment with sweet, wonderful smells.

Even though it didn’t look right, I thought maybe if it tasted decent enough I could still serve it. I cut into my sample cake, which was still quite fudgy, covered it in the mascarpone frosting I made (no cream cheese in Kazakhstan), and took a bite. This did not taste like my cake. It had a weird, chemically aftertaste. With two cups of sugar, how could this have a strange, salty taste? I had to investigate, enough of these cake fails.

I immediately went to my bag of sugar to see if this was the culprit. Nope, definitely sugar. I checked the recipe, definitely added the correct amounts of each ingredient. My attention turned to my baking soda. My husband bought it when he got here and used it to make pizza dough. I’ve used it for baking and tried to use it for cleaning, but it didn’t react with vinegar, which seemed impossible to me. Maybe it was old or expired? I looked at the label, really paid attention, and noticed something wasn’t right. I used the old Google Translate to confirm my suspicion. I’ve been adding extra salt, not baking soda, this whole time. It explained so much.

I thought this translation folly was too hilarious to even be annoyed. I am reminded to not be lazy with translating, even when people I trust tell me otherwise. And it means there is hope for good cake in my future while in Kazakhstan!

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