We recently entered a new era in our household, that of the Homemade Birthday Cake. This year, my soon-to-be 6 year old son wasn’t content with a “shop cake,” he wanted a homemade cake, like the Hot Wheels or Ben 10 cakes he’d seen at friends’ parties. Gulp! Knowing my limits, I decided on a number 6. After all, how hard could that be?
Had I known the answer to that question earlier, I’d have enlisted the services of one of my ridiculously talented cake-making friends. Underestimating how long this process would take, my experience went something like this:
5pm. Get bowl, spoon, sieve – drat, forgot to buy new sieve. Find strainer (hmm, that should work, shouldn’t it?). Get ingredients. Thanks Danny, but three-year-olds really shouldn’t get full egg containers out of the fridge! OK, three tablespoons of butter, melted. That looks about right; I’ll measure it properly after I melt it. Stir dry ingredients, add butter, pour into lined tin. Hmm, I do have a cake tin, don’t I? (Rummaging, rummaging). Aha! Hmm, I wonder if the dents in the bottom will affect the cake? Better use the other one. (More rummaging) Gotcha! Right, add butter, mix, pour, into the oven, cook for 25 minutes.
5.15pm. Put cake 1 into oven. Repeat above process for 2nd donut cake. (Rats! I forgot to measure the melted butter!).
5.20pm. That was easy, I think I’ll make a square cake too. Gasp! I forgot the chocolate chips! Can chocolate chips be added once the cake mix is in the tin? I can’t see why not?
5.40pm. Take first cake out of oven. Gooey inside, return to oven.
5.43pm. Still gooey. Back again.
5.48pm. Two more minutes? (Hmm, extra butter maybe a problem?).
5.51pm. Please be done. Please?
5.54pm. It’s done! Turn cake out, re-line tin, pour in mix, bake 2 cakes.
6.25pm. Take cakes out of oven. Time to clean the kitchen.
SCREAM! In my baking frenzy, I’d used every mixing bowl we own and they were now balancing precariously on a tower of utensils covered in cake mix, egg shells, clumps of semi-dissolved sugar/cocoa/flour and cups of half-melted butter. It was chaos, and I still had to decorate!
After a brief, (4 hour) interlude to make dinner (on the 20-square-centimetre patch of clean bench space) and tuck the 3 kids into bed, I turned my hand to the frosting.
10.30pm. OK, I need unsalted butter at room temp, and sifted icing sugar and cocoa. I have chilled, salted butter (thankyou Jesus for microwaves!) and I’m sure I can just squish these icing sugar lumps out. Beat butter until fluffy. No problem (whir). This butter’s very soft (whir). I wonder if it’s meant to be this soft? (whir whiiiir). It’s too soft. “Stupid microwave!” (Into fridge with half-beaten butter, wearily make extra-strong coffee).
11.00pm Butter out of fridge, (whir), that’s better. Add icing sugar (whir). It’s lumpy (whir). Still lumpy. Well, I’m sure the cocoa will hide the lumps. (Note to self: cocoa does NOT hide white lumpy icing sugar in frosting, it accentuates it). UURGH!
11.20pm Time to assemble cake. If I put this donut cake here and this one…hmm, it should go…well, if I cut it…about…ooh, I think…nope, THIS ISN’T WORKING! Onto the internet, discover I need the square cake (with chocolate buds caramelised on the bottom). Cut out shape, spread ‘simple chocolate frosting’ (now a thick, lumpy gloop) without destroying cake.
MIDNIGHT. Add decorations and place finished product into fridge.
12.05AM. Fall into hubby’s arms, declaring this new era was officially the shortest in the history of eras. I felt defeated, and certain that I would disappoint my little boy with my less-than-great gateaux.
Early the next morning came the dreaded enquiry, “Mum, where’s my cake?” With a heaviness of heart, I retrieved it from the fridge.
“Do you like it, Joel?” I didn’t dare look at his little face.
“I don’t like it. I love it!” Suddenly it all became clear. The expectations I’d been trying to live up to weren’t those of my son, but of my own comparisons to others and their abilities. Through my eyes his cake was ‘average’, but through his, it was ‘awesome!’ because it was made with mum’s love, just for him.
So it’s with a much lighter heart that I revoke my previous declaration, and assert that this new era might just be long-lasting after all.
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