You Take the Cake

We celebrated my youngest son’s f-ff-fourteenth birthday a few days ago. ‘Scuse me. I have trouble getting that out. My baby is 14! Ahem. Anyway, I used to be really creative in decorating my children’s birthday cakes.

I’ve never been all that great at the actual cake-baking part. In fact, my initial attempts would turn out dry with big clumps of cake sticking to the bottom of the pan even though I’d greased and floured my heart out.

After a couple of failed cakes, a friend of mine introduced me to Betty Crocker cake mix and fun-shaped single layer cake pans. She’d taken a cake decorating class and gave me a private lesson on how to form beautiful icing creations. I was off and running, designing elaborate Barbie, Harry Potter, soccer field and beach scene cakes. Finally, I could mask my lack of cake baking ability with pretty frosting techniques!

The trouble now, is that my kids have outgrown these single-layer cakes in the shape of animals and cartoon characters. For the past two years, my son has requested a traditional layer cake. So my true skills have resurfaced, and it ain’t pretty.

I think part of the problem is that I don’t get much practice. My hubby always wants cherry pie for his “birthday cake,” my daughter requests a super easy Bundt cake recipe with no frosting involved, and I refuse to make a birthday cake for myself when it’s my birthday. So I only make a “real” birthday cake once a year for my son.

My first attempt last year was a bit crummy. Literally. I couldn’t figure out how to frost the darn thing without getting cake crumbs mixed in with it. I managed to camouflage this frosting faux pas by covering the cake with decorative sprinkles. (Can I think on my feet or what?!)

But this year, the jig is up. I finally hit rock bottom.

When the two layers came out of the oven, they looked particularly rounded on top. My engineering-minded husband suggested I needed to lop the rounded centers off to make them level with the top of the pan.

I scoffed at him, “Nobody does that!”
He arched a brow, “Professional bakers do.”
“They do not! That’s ridiculous!”
“Okaaaay,” he replied in that voice you use when you’re letting the person know they’re making a big mistake, but you’re going to just go ahead and let them make it.

After the layers had cooled, I frosted the rounded top of one layer. Flipping the second layer upside down, I slapped its rounded belly up against the bottom layer, so I had a nice, new cake-pan flat top to work with. There was a good three-inch gap all around the edges, but no worries. I figured I’d just fill it in with frosting and nobody would ever know.

With the top frosted, I proceeded to the sides. As I worked, I noticed the top layer would slip to one side or the other, gliding down the hill of the cake layer below it. Instead of working like glue as I’d hoped, holding the top layer in place, the frosting was acting more like oil, creating a slippery slope. I kept shoving the top layer back up as I hurried my way around the sides, hoping that once I frosted that baby all the way around it would be permanently stuck in position.

Finally finished, I looked at my creation. Huge air holes kept popping open along the sides because of the giant gaps that lay hidden beneath. I patched the air holes and quickly covered the entire lopsided mess with my cake cover.

Dinner time came along and we ate Joshua’s favorite dinner of pizza, red grapes, and pop. Then it was time for the great unveiling.

I removed the cake cover and my jaw fell open. The precariously balanced top layer had literally cracked open along several fault lines. It looked like an earthquake had hit it. The entire family looked at it. Looked at me. Looked back at it.

“Sorry, buddy.”
Josh patted my back, “That’s okay, mom. It’s still cake, right?” (Gotta love the sugar monster!)

We officially named it the “Happy Birthquake cake,” and ate it.

So are you ready for a picture? (If you have young children reading this blog with you, you may want to cover their eyes.)

Yikes! It is still cake, right? Right?

(Sigh.) Okay, I give up. I really do. I mean, I can admit that we all have special gifts and talents, and cake baking is absolutely NOT one of mine.

I wouldn’t want to deprive someone out there from using their special gifts and talents, would I? So look out bake shops, here I come!

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