I must have been nine or ten when I made the first cake all by myself. It was a summer day and I had been trained in some simple cooking and baking already, under adult supervision. I honestly don’t remember if I asked my parents if I could make this cake, but I definitely remember baking it.

The box of cake mix enticingly displayed a perfectly baked slice of double-layer yellow cake with thick chocolate frosting. I remember staring at the box and thinking, “I want to make this cake.” I decided I was going to make the exact layer cake and homemade chocolate frosting. Did we have canned frosting? I have no idea! I just know we were having a beautiful yellow cake with homemade frosting for dessert that night. 

It didn’t take long to prepare the box cake and pop it into the oven. While it was baking, I started researching chocolate frosting recipes in our church cookbook. I was confused. Not wanting to call my parents at work with a frosting question, I dialed my Gramma Trebesch for help. 

For the life of me, I can’t remember what my question was, but I know my Gramma was helpful and even asked if I had other questions. I think she was surprised about my ambition. She wished me luck and we hung up.

After mixing the frosting ingredients together, I knew something was wrong. The frosting was all lumpy; not at all like the silky chocolate frosting from the cake box. I don’t think I ever saw frosting like it. I thought maybe it needed to set in a little, that it would smooth out after some time. 

I waited until the cake was baked and mostly cooled before I started panicking. The frosting was all grainy! I was determined and started frosting the first layer. It was a mess! Not only were the cake crumbs getting everywhere, as I didn’t know how to properly frost at cake at that time, but the frosting was clumpy. I started crying. 

Once again, I looked up Gramma Trebesch’s phone number and got her on the line. She was so patient with me as I choked out my frustration. We went over all the ingredients, one by one. Finally, she asked me to clarify what type of sugar I used.

“I don’t know, Gramma!” I cried, trying to remember the recipe. “Confusion sugar?!”

Gramma laughed out loud, “What, Sarah? You mean confectioners sugar? Did the recipe call for confectioners sugar?”

“I don’t know!”

Trying to calm me down, she asked again, “Sarah, did you use regular sugar?” I could sense her grinning through the phone.

“Yes, of course!” I steamed back. I was a bit of a sassy girl. 

I reviewed the recipe, knowing I hadn’t understood ‘confectioners sugar’ when I read it, and cried even more. 

“Oh, Sarah! Confectioners sugar is powdered sugar,” she brimmed softly. “You just used the wrong sugar.” I was furious she continued to laugh. Gramma assured me I wouldn’t get sick if I ate the frosting, but I would have to chew it a little. 

While my first cake was not a masterpiece, that was the first and only time I have mixed up granulated sugar with confectioners sugar. It’s also not the first time I’ve bombed a recipe the first time making it. 

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Thomas H Palmer.