Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Cynthia Roelle, mom to a 2-year-old daughter and award-winning photographer, shares her own birthday cake disaster.
I don’t know about you but I laughed the entire way through Jill’s Birthday Cake Disaster. Not for reasons you might think. I wasn’t wondering why she thought she could pull it off when she nearly failed Home Economics (though I was wondering how in the world…I thought everyone got an A).
I wasn’t wondering why she thought flipping the layers would work, or why she didn’t just let Phil buy a cake (or why Phil thought Reddi-Whip was a good idea—it wasn’t). I wasn’t wondering why she didn’t give up, or even why she wanted to do it in the first place. I’m with you Jill, I get all that. I too want to bake my own cakes for my daughter’s birthdays. All two of them, to date.
Unfortunately, I hate to bake. It requires far too much precision for my taste. It’s tedious and time consuming and after I’ve used every last bowl, appliance, and utensil I own, my kitchen is a disaster. Plus, I don’t really like cake.
Notwithstanding, I set out to make a 3-layer cake for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. From scratch. I made the flowers and leaves from smashed gumdrops so it required absolutely no skill whatsoever in the decorating department, which was convenient because I have none.
I’m happy to report it turned out beautifully. If you will, please refer to the lovely photo above. I made that cake, all by myself. Please keep that in mind as you continue reading.
So the real reason I laughed my way through Jill’s Birthday Cake Disaster is because all I could think was that it could have been worse. Much, much worse.
After completing my daughter’s lovely cake, I found myself with a left-over layer. My sister’s birthday is only a few days before my daughter’s. We celebrated their birthdays the same weekend so I thought I would decorate the extra layer for my sister. After all, I didn’t want it to go to waste. But what to do with one measly layer?
My sister was turning 40, so I got this brilliant idea (the brilliance part is debatable) to chop the layer in half, smoosh the two half circles together and stand them on their sides to make a hill. Get it? Forty and over the hill?
Next, I slathered the entire blob in green icing. Only I couldn’t achieve grass green, just an unnatural mint green.
I then populated one slope of the hill with 39 candles. Using pipe cleaners, I fashioned arms and legs for each candle to make them look like little people running up the hill. The 40th candle, representing my sister, was positioned in front of the others, just over the crest of the hill. Lest the message not be crystal clear, I made a banner that said, “Happy 40th Birthday” on one side and “Over the Hill” on the other.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty funny. At least I thought so.
It takes some time to light 40 candles, so my husband, my mom and I started lighting them as soon as my sister and her husband pulled into the driveway. It was instantly clear we would have only seconds to get the show on the road.
I don’t know if my sister and her husband took time for some backseat snooky, if they took a scenic detour from the driveway to the front door, or if they were abducted by aliens and taken aboard their spacecraft. All I know is that all the candles were lit and my sister was nowhere to be found.
I yelled for my husband to find my sister and get her inside. In the next instant all the pipe cleaner people were ablaze. Then the paper banner caught fire and it, too, went up in flames. We’re talking flames that were at least 2 feet high. Still no sister.
As I stood there watching the pyrotechnics, I vaguely wondered how long I could wait before getting the blaze under control. It wasn’t until the flames started lapping the balloons hovering above the cake that I really started getting worried. Holy s–t, is helium combustible? Visions of the Hindenburg flashed through my mind. Are those balloons going to explode and burn down the house? WHERE IN THE HELL IS MY SISTER?!
Just as I decided enough was enough, my sister materialized in the kitchen doorway. She didn’t appear surprised by our little party or the least bit alarmed to see 2-foot flames shooting from her cake. Instead, she had this look of disgust on her face that said: “WTF is that hideous blob? Oh Cindy, Martha would not approve.”
Turns out, that is EXACTLY what she was thinking. That and, why I would make her a flaming pile of crap when I made such a pretty cake for my daughter. I don’t know how she managed, but damn if she didn’t blow out the candles, too.
So Jill, all I can say is yay for your effort. You can water the lawn with Fia any old day, but she only turned three just that once. It looks to me like she had a grand time, so it wasn’t a complete disaster by any stretch. At least not on the order of this:
I feel compelled to add two things that my scientist husband pointed out. First, helium is not combustible and, second, the Hindenburg was actually filled with hydrogen which, unfortunately for the airship, is highly flammable.
If you have a birthday cake disaster that can top mine or Jill’s by all means, make us feel better and share it!
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Cynthia's Guest Blog, Mom Situations
Monday, December 10th, 2012
I failed Home-Ec in junior high. Well, didn’t fail, but I did get a D on a lot of my projects.
My first week on the air as the morning anchor in Omaha, Nebraska, we had a cooking segment. My scripts caught on fire. On live TV. I didn’t realize the stove top was that hot.
So it’s no surprise that I have never been very good at most domestic things, especially sewing or baking. Give me a vacuum and some rags though, and I’ll blow you away. I actually enjoy sweeping my floors. My obsessive behavior of picking up crumbs–that made me so loony I had to seek professional help–still gives me great pleasure. (But not obsessive. There’s a difference. Sometimes I challenge myself to look at the same crumb for days in a row. I smile when I walk past it knowing I’m the boss of it and not vice versa. Yes, I anthropomorphize crumbs.)
So why oh why did I think it was a good idea to bake a cake for Fia’s birthday? Honestly, I wanted to do it with her. I thought we’d have fun writing things on it and placing the candles just so. I wasn’t thinking about how it would taste or what it would look like. That’s part of not being domestic. Those things don’t cross your mind.
It did, though, when we were 30 minutes out from people arriving, and Phil walks in the kitchen. The whole place, along with Fi and me, are covered in cake crumbs (chant chant…they’re not the boss of you, they’re not the boss of you…) and chocolate frosting. None of the snacks were prepared. I hadn’t showered and even if I had, I’d need another one.
“The cake looks like it’s brain-damaged,” Phil says, aghast. His mom is known for making these super-elaborate birthday cakes. Trucks, buildings with pillars…anything her kids were obsessed with at the time of their birthday, she’d make into a cake. I see pictures of them every time I’m at their house. I am always in awe. And curious of how hard it can really be. You know they say men marry their mothers…um, except my husband.
“How did I marry the anti-Martha Stewart?” he asks, looking around at the disaster. “And remind me again, why didn’t we just buy a cake?”
He thinks I was being cheap, but honestly, I really wanted to do this with Fia. And we had fun, though I’m not sure it was worth it. We could have had just as much fun watering the lawn…and not ruining it.
Here’s where everything went awry. I didn’t realize when you have two round cakes, you put them together by first cutting off the tops to make them flat. Or put the rounded side on the bottom of the plate.
I popped them out of their pans, and iced both tops, which were the rounded ones. Like two little hills. When I went to “glue” them together, there were these huge gaps. It was like two weeble wobbles trying to hump each other, but not being able to reach because their stomachs got in the way. Does that make sense?
Phil told me right then and there that he would go to the grocery store and buy a cake. But I refused.
“No, I just need two more containers of frosting and I can fill it all in.”
“Jill, there is no way you can fill all that in with frosting without sugar poisoning everyone. You could fill it in with Reddi-Whip though.”
“I’m not using Reddi-Whip,” I said indignantly. “That stuff is so fake tasting.”
“And a cake out of the box is what??? Gourmet????”
He had a point.
“Fine, get the Reddi-Whip, but also get me frosting.”
When he left, I decided that if I could somehow get the flat bottoms to go together, then I could pull this off. So I started flipping the cakes onto plates to try and get the flat side face up. If you can envision at all what I’m saying, you know it didn’t work. Because then both flat tops were facing up on plates and I couldn’t plop one on top of the other from a plate. So I slid it. Yes, I grabbed a cookie tray and used two spatulas and slid it on top. Fia was at the counter watching me wide-eyed as the cake began to break apart.
“Fia, mama can do this. I know I can,” I said, sweat dripping from my brow.
Silence. Even she had her doubts.
Somehow I managed to get the flat sides together and only lost about 1/3 of the top. When Phil came home, I grabbed the frosting and used it as glue to piece it together. Then I coated an entire other layer on and handed Fia the gel icing things.
“Go to town, honey. This is your cake. Happy Birthday!”
She looked at Phil, who was standing there armed with Reddi-Whip. “I’m not putting that on the cake,” I said. He sighed. “Okay, I have to get out of here. I can’t watch anymore.”
Fia took the reigns and began to squirt. About 30 seconds later she was done. Our project was complete. 30 seconds of semi-fun, a deeply defective cake, and a giant mess.
We had a few of her friends and parents over. I poured the champagne nice and full. I told them the story so they had zero expectations. But I will admit, I was honestly embarrassed when the cake came out. I didn’t even eat it. Fia only licked the frosting. And most people just took a bite or two.
Oh well, I tried. Next year I’ll buy a cake and just stick to cleaning.
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3rd birthday, alcohol, baking, birthday, birthday party, cake, cake decorating, decorating, domestic, licking | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read