Anatomy of a Birthday Cake

[Update: Here’s the link to the radio interview I did about my book, Nobody’s Dog, which I promised I’d post when I got it.]

So we had a momentous birthday here the other day. Someone turned One Year Old.

I grew up in a family that cherished–nay, obsessed over–homemade birthday cakes. Every year we got to pore over the Australian Women’s Weekly Kid’s Birthday Cakes book, with all its shiny colour photos and array of choices. Would it be the bear? The Barbie with the fancy dress? The swimming pool? I admit, that one always weirded me out a little. But it was a birthday tradition, and one I want to pass on to little e.

Of course, this year she’s too young to have any say in the cake choice, so I took on the challenge. It was actually harder than I thought. Not because I couldn’t choose between the cakes (I’m a jump-in-ask-questions-later kind of baker), but because I realized the ones I was interested in making had very colourful icing. And that means everyone’s yearly quota of Red No.5 and Yellow FCF, which I try my best to avoid. Not that that stuff doesn’t show up in other food we eat all the time, but the idea of consciously putting it in my child’s cake was…off-putting. Anyway, as you’ll see below, I went with something light blue–the cake in the book was much darker–so it has a kind of Caribbean ocean feel to it.

But that’s not the end of the cake saga. You’re on the edge of your seat, I’m sure.

Let’s just say it had been a crazy week in a string of crazy weeks and late at night on a Friday, I baked the cake for the next day’s party. I doubled the recipe because I was determined not to run out of cake once I started cutting it into shape. I had bought a really big cake pan for it. It came out of the oven looking great. I let it cool for a little while. Then I went to turn it out onto the cooling rack. It was still warm. I should have known better.

I have no photos of the carnage, but basically the edges removed themselves from the pan enthusiastically while the middle did not. So I ended up with three jagged pieces of cake on the cooling rack. I was so amazed at my own idiocy at 10pm the night before the party that I just stood there in the kitchen staring at the broken cake. DH came down the stairs and found me like that. I couldn’t speak. He got out the spatula.

There have been other times when I’ve been grateful to have an artist for a husband. Plenty of them. But I never thought I’d say that my husband’s Arts degree in ceramics and sculpture would save our daughter’s first birthday cake.

The above photo shows no evidence of the spackling and sculpting that took place to make the cake look like one piece instead of three. Testament to DH’s talents. And here it is in all its Caribbean whale glory:

It was delicious. Wish you had been here.

What talents are you especially glad your husband possesses?

XO

Ria

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One Response

  1. Look at that cake, you two are amazing. Ahhhh, it’s all about teamwork, ain’t it? We were AWW children’s cakes cookbook obsessed too. There is a scene in The Color of Tea which refers to Grace’s Mum making a “Hickory Dickory Dock” cake from that very book. As for the talents my husband possesses; to name a few : he can reverse park into tiny spaces, he cooks a mean pork scotch fillet and he is ceaselessly supportive. Like if I said I wanted to be a duck he’d say “Let’s go find you a pond”. A sweet, simple and rare thing. H x

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