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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Birthday Cake - A Life Lesson

It was the best of cakes.  It was the worst of cakes.  It smelled and tasted wonderful but looked like an unholy nightmare.  But in the end, my son had an awesome birthday and a cake that made him happy.  Creating the Birthday Cake also resulted in some interesting life lessons for me. 

Yesterday was a blur of activities that culminated in servings of birthday cake for my 6-Year-Old's celebration.  The process of creating the cake is what I want to share with you.  First of all, I am not a cake decorator by any means.  My mother was the cake angel when it came to birthday celebrations (and an assortment of other special events.)  My sisters Nancy and Joy inherited the creative genes when it comes to confectionery delights.  Cake baking and the subsequent artistic requirements of frosting are far removed from my repertoire of motherly skills.  Here's what happened...

Yesterday began with my usual chauffeuring duties of getting everyone to work and school.  Nathan had another doctor's appointment to check his blood pressure.  Once again , it was high.  More medication was added to his regimen.  I wondered if there would be time to swing by the store to pick up the items needed for cake baking.  Nathan said, "We can do this mom. Let's go."  So we raced into the store and purchased everything needed to bake, frost, and decorate a cake for Sebastien.  Everything was loaded into the car with just enough time left to get to Sebastien's school.

Sebastien had asked me to have lunch with him and bring cupcakes for his classroom.  So Nathan and I arrived just in time to share this special moment with Sebie.  We ate lunch together, watched him play during recess, and then returned to his classroom to distribute miniature (store bought) cupcakes.  By the way, it's a good idea to take a container of wipes to help clean frosted faces and desktops. We departed from school and returned home.  Just enough time to bake the cake before returning to school to pick up Sebastien.

Now, I'd like to say that the warm weather or the altitude played into the cake fiasco that followed.  However, I must accept full responsibility.  First of all, I used two boxes of cake mix that carried two different sets of directions.  I didn't realize that one box requested oil and the other seven tablespoons of butter.  So adjustments had to be made given our time constraints.  I planned to use part of the cake mix to create a separate smaller cake.  This would get cut it into the shape of Thor's Hammer and sit on top of the larger base.  (It's all about the super heroes right now.)   After considerable adjustments to the oven and careful timing of the cake, two pans with beautiful Golden Butter Cake emerged that looked and smelled wonderful. I was hopeful.

We left to pick up Sebastien from school.  He entered the car with a happy, content smile as he excitedly told me he couldn't wait for tonight's celebration.  The boys and I proceeded to our next destination and picked up their dad.  Both children were asleep by the time I got to his work and continued to sleep after I dropped him off at home.  Next stop:  Middle School to pick up Isabella.  She too looked like it had been a good day for her.  We returned home and I began to work on the cake, which had time to cool off.  I set up my supplies and began to turn the pan over onto another larger sheet cake pan.  It gave me plenty of room to work my "magic." 

Then... disaster struck.  Part of the cake stuck to the pan.  (Yes, I had properly sprayed it to prevent sticking...but forgot to dust it with flour as well.)  I could have stopped there and just iced the large cake.  But I went ahead and figured out how to cut layers as I had planned.  Using a strand of unwaxed dental floss, I was able to create a nice division of the fragile cake.  (Keep a roll of floss in your kitchen just for cooking purposes.  It works great.)  I had to then piece together a puzzle of cake layers using a mixture of melted strawberry jam and frosting.  It took lots of patience, but I finally managed to get that thing together...all three layers. 

My main problem now:  What to do about Thor's Hammer.  The layer I had planned to use for the Hammer was needed to add an extra layer to the cake and hold everything in place.  I created a template in the shape of the hammer and called my brother who was on his way over for dinner.  "Do you have any sprinkles or food coloring?"  He didn't, but managed to find sprinkles at a store.  We added the sprinkles in the template then removed it to reveal..."Thor's Hammer!"  Uncle Nicholas had also brought small superhero figures which we added.  And the cake was complete!  We put it into the fridge to set while we went to dinner.

When we arrived home, it was present time.  I removed the cake from the refrigerator and let it sit for awhile to reach room temperature.  Then I offered everyone a slice of cake.  It was delicious.  The layers looked nice and didn't fall apart.  It wasn't the most beautiful cake.  It wouldn't win any prizes on the "Cake Boss" or allow me to have my own show on "Food Network."  But Sebastien was happy and content with his mommy's efforts, and that's good enough for me. 

Life Lessons by Cake:
  1. It's ok it you have to make adjustments to original plans.  It allows you to demonstrate another type of  creativity as you are problem solving.
  2. It's never a good idea to compare yourself to someone else.  Everyone has different skills and abilities, so give yourself a break.
  3. It's ok if your product is not picture perfect. 
  4. Making the effort is part of the gift you give of yourself.
  5. It's a great feeling of accomplishment when you finish a project that has been a challenge.
Have a Wonderful Long Weekend and Enjoy some Cake