In one of a number of heartbreaking vignettes in the Golden Globe-nominated feature The Hours (opening today), downtrodden 1950s housefrau Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) decides that the way to her man's heart is through his stomach. Unfortunately, she quickly discovers that baking him a birthday cake isn't as easy as pie.

As a matter of fact, shooting the scene was no cakewalk, either, even with a number of cooks in the kitchen. "We had lots of discussions about what the bad cake should look like versus the good cake [that Laura eventually produces]," Moore tells TV Guide Online. "And [there was talk like], 'Don't be too ridiculous about how bad the bad cake is,' because I make cakes, and I know what a bad cake looks like. I also know what a good cake looks like. They have this thing called the crumb layer, so the first time you ice it, you get a lot of crumbs in it. The next layer of icing covers the crumb layer.

"But," she adds, "I said, 'Laura wouldn't know that.' She would only know that she messed it up. And metaphorically, she wants so badly to cover what she's feeling and make it okay for this guy. The minute he leaves the house, she thinks, 'Okay, I love him. I can do this. I'm going to prove it!' And she can't do it."

Lucky for Moore's significant other, director Bart Freundlich (The Myth of Fingerprints), off screen she knows better than to say it with flour. "I remember when I was working at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis," relates the actress, who just turned 42, "I had this book of healthy muffins that I would make, and one day our dialect coach said, 'Oh, darling, are you just learning how to cook? Because these taste a little like cold flannel.' They did, too!

"I'm a terrible cook," she concludes. So even though she insists that she hard-boils one "terrific" egg, "I would never opt to cook to show my love for someone." Take-out, anyone?