Yoga and the art of cake baking

738px-Half_a_chocolate_Bundt_cake_2The other day I tried a gingerbread recipe for the first time. I love gingerbread in all of its forms: Luscious cake, oozing molasses from Sweet Adeline in Berkeley. Crisp Moravian cookies, bursting with spices, from C Adams Bakery in Milwaukee. My mom’s hearty gingerbread men, handmade one by one.

My favored baking pan is my Bundt, so I decided to try a gingerbread cake recipe that had been withering away in my file for years. I almost reverted to my standby Tunnel of Fudge cake (healthied up, but still gooey at the core). But I’d bought a jar of blackstrap molasses so I was inspired to replicate that fantastic Sweet Adeline cake.

I used a recipe that I’d clipped from a trusted newspaper food section. The ingredients were surprising. A whole cup of water in addition to a cup of molasses and half cup of oil? I skimmed other gingerbread recipes and discovered that hot water was a given. But only my recipe did not include eggs. Strange. Still, I decided to go with it. A vegan gingerbread cake.

You probably already guessed the result: a soggy, unrisen mess. I ended up trashing most of it (after a few samples, hoping it would miraculously improve). Now, why am I talking about cake?

That fiasco could’ve been prevented if only I’d listened to my common sense. I knew that the lack of eggs was odd: not enough binder for the deluge of liquid. But I ignored my premonition and, sheep-like, followed the recipe. Is that yogic behavior? If I had been truly present and truly self-possessed, would I have made that mistake?

Yoga Off the Mat

My teacher once mentioned that she is curious to know whether yoga affects students’ daily lives. While physical benefits are obvious, any mental effects are subtle. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what spurred that bout of rage, or joy, or lethargy. Emotions are too complex for definitive answers. But we can study the instances of “bad judgment” or what I’ll call “idiot thinking.”

Years ago, I took my tax return to an accountant for a quick once-over. My taxes were simple but I wanted someone to confirm that all was proper. Oddly, my refund was three times as much as it had been the year before, with no real change in income.

The accountant, who looked like a hippie Jack Black, found an error. My refund shrank. “After doing your computations,” he advised, “take a look. Does it make sense? Put it past the idiot test.” Obviously, a threefold increase in my refund did not pass. But I’d hoped it was true. Wishful thinking colored my judgment.

Such mental glitches run the gamut: Ever blurt something that you regret later? Think before talking. Ever dash around the house and bang your shin, frantically searching for your keys? Be organized. Be prompt. Be the boss of your mind and body. A friend who’s a therapist/coach once mentioned that when she finds herself frequently stumbling or bumping into things, it’s a sign that she’s not “in her body.”

My examples might seem minor (cake fiascos and innocent tax errors). But if one screws up the small stuff, can one be wise and sensible about the Big Stuff?

In my experience, one’s maturity at the piddly level is an accurate indicator. If your life is chaotic at the mundane level, you’re probably crazed about important matters, too. And if you’re not savvy enough to fix a flawed recipe, you’re probably missing a few clues in the rest of your life.

Photo: Wikipedia


  1. My mind works a little differently. For me to have a more relaxed Yogic life I had to start by completely accepting these kinds of glitches in my life and not be so hard on myself about them, not be such a perfectionist.

    Ironically as I was able to be more and more accepting and gentle with myself whenever I did make a mistake, small or large, I did find myself more “present”, as you describe above, and therefore I tended to make fewer mistakes!

    But for me the Yoga philosophy was I kind of reverse psychology. It only worked when I detached my ego from my mistakes and just watched them non-judgmentally. (Not say that’s necessarily best for you or anybody else. It’s just what works for me.)

    Thanks for the thought-provoking blog.

    Bob Weisenberg


  2. An excellent blog post . . . thanks so much for it. Is it a coincidence that just a few moments I was looking for a recipe for vegan banana chocolate chip muffins and noticed that it didn’t ask for any egg replacer. Odd. But there’s banana so maybe that would bind it? Maybe not? I’ll be adding some egg replacer to this recipe. LoL.

    The way you do the every little thing speaks volumes about the way you do everything. Thanks for this post.


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