Baking a Punctual Cake | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian

Baking a Punctual Cake

Today marks the 6th observance of National Punctuation Day.What does that have to do with food? Well, let me tell you. For the past five years This year, people have celebrated are celebrating the holiday with a baking contest. The challenge: bake in the shape of punctuation. So, in the spirit of t...

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The punctuation cake, with filling. Photo by Abby Callard


Today marks the 6th observance of National Punctuation Day.

What does that have to do with food? Well, let me tell you. For the past five years This year, people have celebrated are celebrating the holiday with a baking contest. The challenge: bake in the shape of punctuation. So, in the spirit of the holiday, I set out to create a grammatical delicacy.

I settled on a rather simple recipe (vanilla cake) and shape (the dash). (Quick grammar lesson: the dash is used to set off information; it’s more informal than a colon. I found an easy vanilla cake recipe online that I altered a bit by adding some cinnamon and nutmeg. (It was 9 p.m. by the time I started baking, after all.)  My idea was to bake a rectangular cake, cut it in half and create a two-layer dash-shaped cake. Here’s the recipe I used:
2 cups (500 mL) sugar 4 eggs 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) all-purpose flour 1 cup (250 mL) milk 3/4 cup (175 mL) vegetable oil 2-1/4 teaspoons (11 mL) baking powder 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla ½ tablespoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon nutmeg Mix sugar and eggs. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Bake in a rectangular pan for 30-40 minutes.
To change it up a bit, I decided to add a fruit filling to the otherwise boring white cake. I bought about a cup of raspberries, chopped them up and added a tablespoon of sugar. After the cake had cooled, I cut it in half lengthwise. I poked some holes in the top of the bottom layer, a la Tres Leches Cake, so the raspberry juice could be absorbed. I piled on the fruit filling and put the other layer on top of that. I frosted the whole thing with chocolate frosting (it wasn’t homemade, maybe next year).

To actually enter the contest I’m supposed to submit my recipe, one photograph of the cake before it was baked, one photograph of the cake after baking, and a sample. I haven’t actually figured out if they want me to mail a piece of cake. Attempts to contact the powers in charge of the contest have been in vain.

Submissions must be received by September 30th, so you still have a few days to bake a cake in the shape of a comma or bread in the shape of a question mark. Prizes include non-edible National Punctuation Day goodies as well as a mention on the Web site.

by Abby Callard
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