The other day I made my mother’s almond pound cake recipe, which I hadn’t made in over 25 years. This is my favorite cake of all time, both in flavor, texture and memory. As the cake bakes, a harder top layer forms that naturally cracks a bit, leaving the cake below moister (especially the day after the cake is baked). I seriously doubt that you will find a cooking show that purposely shows you how to make a cake that cracks on top, but I always look forward to both the harder layer and the moist deliciousness underneath.
Cooking and baking aren’t my favorite activities, but it was my turn to bring dessert to my women’s Bible study this week. But “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven” (Eccl 3:1). For a couple of days now, I’ve thought about sifting the flour, creaming the sugar and shortening, cracking the eggs and adding them one at a time, and mixing it all together. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
At the peak of Peter’s confidence in his relationship and love for Christ, Jesus tells him that He has granted Satan permission to sift him (and the other disciples) like wheat. “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.'” (Luke 22:31-32) For most of us, thoughts of sifting wheat make us think of the soft fluffy powder we use in baking. But when Jesus spoke of sifting, He was referring to a very violent action used to separate the grain from the stalk and the chaff. Using a threshing machine very much like a combine on today’s wheat fields, it tore the wheat apart, separating the valuable portion from the worthless portion.
Then I creamed the sugar and shortening. During creaming, small air cells are formed and then incorporated into the mix. This mix becomes larger in volume and softer in consistency. This reminds me of our hearts becoming soft and pliable, and open to God’s love. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ez 36:26)
We just discussed the importance of softening our hearts. It’s important for us to remain vigilant to keep our hearts soft because circumstances in this broken world can easily harden our hearts. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pet 5:8)” During the second stage of creaming, eggs are added in portions. The yolk contains a fat that coats the surface of the cells formed in creaming and allows the cells to expand and hold the liquid added (egg whites, milk etc) without curdling.
The portions are small, one at a time for eggs. I’ve discovered recently that I can’t subject my heart and mind to binge-watching worldliness on TV, because it desensitizes me to worldliness. In baking, curdling is the result of having more liquid than the fat-coated cells have a capacity to retain. Biblically speaking, to curdle means to congeal or to harden (Job 10:10).
While we live in the world, we are not part of the world–we belong to Christ. But we will experience trials and tribulations (sifting), which inwardly produce in us perseverance, character and hope (Rom. 5:3-4). The top of my cake appeared hard and cracked. “Do not let your adornment be merely outward” (1 Pet 3:3a). But hidden underneath the top layer was perfection: “rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:4)