I visited an alien planet this past weekend. I’d like to tell you about it.
I’d like to tell you about it because my visit was fraught with difficulties: trouble entering the alien atmosphere, issues navigating the terrain, problems communicating with the native aliens, and challenges upon reentry back to Earth.
You’re my friend. And as my friend, I’m hoping that you can advise me. You know, keep things running a little more smoothly during my next trip.
So let me tell you about my recent excursion to the planet otherwise known as My Local Shopping Mall. I hope you can help.
1. Entering the alien atmosphere
Things began innocently enough: A. and I were properly attired in our spacesuits and helmets. Our spaceship was humming along, and we were using our star charts to find our way. Cool.
But then the planet’s surface came into view and things got dicey. Dozens of other spaceships circling, circling and circling the plant again. Just to find a spot to leave their ship.
Circling, circling and circling some more.
We finally resorted to following a female alien, loaded down with shopping bags, back to her ship. Staying just close enough that we could spring on her spot, but far enough that she wouldn’t turn us in to the alien po-po for stalking her.
At least we have a spot for our ship now, though.
2. Navigating the alien terrain
Aliens native to MLSM apparently don’t value the concept of a straight line being the shortest path from one location to another. I know this because there is no such thing as walking in a straight line as you attempt to negotiate the terrain of MLSM. Nope.
On the contrary, MLSM is laid out like an obstacle course with a variety challenges for you as you make your way.
Dodge that roving crowd of Wii Just Dance 3 performance artists!
Dip your head to avoid that enormous, looming cloud of sample perfume!
Duck behind a column to avoid the Teavana Free Sample Girl with a tray of scalding hot beverages in her hands and judgment in her eyes!
Are you sweating yet? Obvi.
3. Communicating with the alien natives
It’s already difficult when Alienese isn’t your native tongue. But you’ve done your homework. You’ve been hitting the books. So things shouldn’t be that tough, right?
Consider this interaction:
M.: Hello, Lovely Salesgirl. I’m here to purchase some hand cream because, as you can see, I have extremely dry winter hands.
LSg.: Fantastic! Would you like the peony, poppy, or pear fragrance in that cream? Would you like your tube covered in pony hair or purple polyester? And did you want your tube monogrammed in the matte or shiny finish?
LSg.: Gift wrapped or no? Paper or plastic? Receipt with you or in the bag? What is your name? Address? Social security number? And I’m just going to need to see 10 forms of picture ID.
M.: Please. Help. Just. Wanted. Hand. Cream.
LSg.: Oh! And I forgot to mention that we’re offering a BOGO at our B&M locations only! And extra deals if you bring your CPNs, pay a H/F, and bring your Double Secret Probation Members Only Card! Just fill out these 8 short forms in triplicate and…
I can’t tell you any more about this exchange because A. had scooped me up from the floor, where I had collapsed into a pile of hot mess, and carried me off to the Food Court. He was able to revive me in front of Panda Express with a can of Jolt and 2 slices of Sbarro pizza.
It was clearly time to head home to planet Earth.
4. Reentry back to Earth
Back home, spaceship parked in the garage, spacesuits in the washing machine, we definitely felt safe again. But we were both clearly reeling from the aftereffects of our traumatic trip.
A. retreated to his Man Cave and I went to the kitchen. I decided to get the lead out by baking a cake.
This Dulce De Leche Sheet Cake is simple as pie and sweet as a dream. It’s such a good thing to make when you’ve just returned, hand cream-less, from a trip to an alien planet.
Epilogue: This cake was a total hit. I left a piece outside of A.’s Man Cave and he quickly polished it off and asked for more. If you have a friend or loved one in need, someone whose recent trip to an alien planet might have left them scarred and hand cream-less, I strongly urge you to make some Dulce De Leche Sheet Cake for them.
And please consider sharing your sheet cake with open ears and an open heart. Chances are that they’ll need your support and empathy as they relive the harrowing moments of their recent alien planet excursion.
Please know that, the next time you need to talk about your trip to the planet MLSM, I’ll be here. Ready to listen. With a piece of sheet cake in hand for you.
Dulce De Leche Sheet Cake
For the cake:
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. white sugar, granulated
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tbsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1- 13.4 can dulce de leche (of course, you can opt to make your own dulce de leche, in which case you will need 1 1/4 cups)
For the glaze:
1 c. heavy cream
1- 13.4 can dulce de leche (again, of course, you can opt to make your own dulce de leche, in which case you will need 1 1/4 cups)
1/4 c. white sugar, granulated
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350°.
Prepare a 12″ x 16″ rimmed baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper and greasing the papered bottom and sides. Set the prepared pan aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until mixed through. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternating with the buttermilk and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat until just blended.
Spread the mixture out over the prepared pan, using a rubber scraper to smooth the batter as evenly as possible across the pan. Once the cake batter is smoothed out over the pan, use a measure to drop heaping teaspoons of the dulce de leche onto the batter. I chose to drop 6 drops into relatively even rows. Once you’ve dropped your dulce de leche into your batter, use a dull knife that you’ve dipped into warm water, to draw lines through your dulce drops. If you use canned dulce, it will be thick and won’t spread easily -that’s ok- spread it just as much as you can. The pattern and evenness do not matter.
Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean (the spots where you dropped your dulce will still be sticky and moist). Please note that the large dollops of dulce in this cake will displace the batter and may result in some of the cake bubbling over the edges of the pan as it’s baking, depending on how deep your rimmed pan is. If you’re concerned about spillage, simply place a sheet of tin foil under the pan as it bakes. The finished cake will be a deep golden brown with crusty edges. Set the baked cake aside to cool slightly before glazing.
Meanwhile, bring the heavy cream and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove the cream mixture to a heat-proof bowl and stir in the dulce de leche and butter. Whisk the glaze until smooth and glossy. Spread over the top of the cake and serve.
YIELD: one 12″ x 16″ cake, approximately 14-16 servings