It was a rookie mistake. I pulled the cake out of the oven, set it on the rack, and two minutes later decided it was time to take it out of the pan.
Now, anyone who's ever baked a cake knows the score: you leave the cake to cool in its pan for ten minutes. You give it a chance to settle down, chill out, get used to its new environment. Under no circumstances do you disturb it while it's in that fragile, right-out-of-oven state of mind.
Only I did. I was having a Stupid Cake Day. I seem to have these frequently. Stupid Cake Days are different from Forgot to Grease the Pan days. Not greasing the pan is just momentary forgetfulness. Dumping a hot cake out of its pan is just, well, stupid. You know better. It seems almost willful, like you're just daring the laws of gravity to do their thing.
Well, gravity always does its thing, and a hot cake taken out of its pan prematurely will always wilt, then fall apart into a Rorschach test of chocolate crumbs. All you can do is stand there and yell, "Stupid, stupid, stupid!" The kids run downstairs, wondering what the dog did this time.
The good news is: kids will eat chocolate cake no matter what state of disarray they find it in. So, as it turns out, will husbands. The dog would also be happy to oblige, but that's the last thing you need in this situation: stupid cake and a dog throwing up all over your freshly cleaned carpet.
In case you're wondering, the cake tasted good. All 500 pieces of it.