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By now, you all know that I carpool with a co-worker. This is to save both the environment and my co-worker from having an even longer commute. I like this co-worker, so when her birthday came up, I wanted to bake a little something to help her celebrate. So, a birthday cake recipe was in order.

Now, a good hostess has a set of go-to recipes that she can employ at a moment’s notice. Birthday cakes are a safe bet to memorize, since it is always someone’s birthday. It is so thoughtful and superior of you to think of other and go to that trouble (plus the house smells nice!). A stock of recipes on hand for home-made goods is just what you need. Cookie recipes are a standard for moi, pumpkin pie for the holidays (this is a secret recipe but it involves ice cream), breakfast muffins, and my mother’s quiche (To. Die. For.)

A truly good hostess knows not only when to bake from scratch, but when to buy to save not only her sanity, but also the lives of those who live with her. Whole Foods makes BITCHIN’ baked goods at the prices are pretty reasonable. And really, there is nothing wrong with using a mix and lying about it. Something cheap and on sale or if you want to go all the way, Barefoot Contessa’s Coconut Cupcake and Cream Cheese Frosting Mix is disgustingly good in a sinful, sinful way (and pretty much as much work as homemade). For moi – I went homemade all the way, since I wanted to impress. And actually, Rachael Ray Magazine just printed a recipe for a Golden Layer Cake, so of course I was all about trying it out of my friend.

Um. Here’s the thing. First of all, this cake isn’t that great. Rachael Ray claims not be a baker, she has always said that herself. But now that you have a magazine, people MUST be helping her right? Like, real bakers? So she isn’t making these recipes up from her head is she?

The recipe is standard enough – and easy too – but it’s just seriously lacking. There isn’t a burst of flavor (in fact, I would seriously up the vanilla from 1.5 tsp to about 2.5 to begin with). The cake is fine. Period. But I would have enjoyed a Betty Crocker Mix a bit more. Which is an issue. The point of homemade goodness is that special texture and taste that only your freshest eggs, organic sugar and tons of time and love can provide. I may actually write to Rachael Ray and talk to her about stepping up her game.

To be 100% honest, I used frosting in a can for this cake – and I happen to ADORE frosting in a can, so it isn’t an issue at our house – and the frosting was pretty much the highlight. But my friend was so surprised that I went to the trouble of baking and decorating a homemade cake for her, it was well worth it.