It was Holly’s 11th birthday last week. With four kids I’ve now got the birthday party prep thing pretty sorted, given I seem to always have a child who’s about to have one.
The cake however is always my undoing.
When we lived in London, I wouldn’t have dreamt of baking a cake for my kids birthdays. Baking took the form of sitting in front of the laptop with said child on my lap, perusing the M&S or Waitrose catalogue of kids cakes.
I could never understand why anyone would bother making one when you can get such amazing creations for so little. You just pick the cake you want, choose the writing you want on it, the closest supermarket you’d like to pick it up from and what date you’d like it and VOILA. Simples.
Exhibit a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h and i.
So when I got back to Australia and a birthday rolled around, I was sorely disappointed when taking myself off to our major supermarkets and found the pathetic selection I had to choose from. A few phone calls to some bakeries later and I had to have a lie down at what it costs to have a custom made cake made here.
I should have gone into cake decorating. Someone is making a killing.
Now I am not a crafty type. I don’t sew, I don’t paint, can’t draw, couldn’t think of anything more boring than knitting (no disrespect to those who love it however) … so the thought of having to get fiddly with a cake was actually downright annoying (and scary).
However I am a mum and my kids love birthday cakes so I had to give it a shot. Who the hell ever decided we should eat cake on a birthday anyway? Certainly wasn’t anyone from my gene pool.
Plus I am excruciatingly stubborn and don’t like to be beaten by things like a silly little cake.
So in the year we’ve been here I’ve made a rather pathetic rocket cake, a stegosaurus, a snakes & ladders cake, a kit kat mud-cake and some dodgy car shaped cupcakes that looked nothing like cars.
I am gradually improving.
Given I’m a pretty relaxed person normally, the cakes cause me huge stress. I let the kids pick them and then I study them like I’m sitting for an exam my life depends on and then I spend an entire day making the bastard of a thing after giving strict instructions to Rob to evacuate the house and take all the kids with him.
I don’t know why I do it. My kids really don’t care and wouldn’t notice if it wasn’t perfect. I do it to myself. It’s the strangest thing. A cake causing me so much grief. I mean, GET A GRIP, it’s a cake.
Holly wanted an art party where all the guests would paint and make mosaics so we found an art themed rainbow cake on the internet that had no instructions, just a photo. Because clearly I like to complicate things.
With fondant icing. Which I’d never used before. How hard could it be?
I bought all the ingredients and triple the icing so I had room for error. The icing cost $80 alone. Plus all the fancy food gel dyes were another $50, plus all the cake ingredients and 3 new tins .. I didn’t get any change out of $220. Damn it.
On the friday night before her party I started to panic that I’d invested so much money in this stupid cake so I tootled off to bed at 7.30pm with my cup of herbal tea and stayed up late watching old women teaching how to use fondant icing on YouTube.
Clearly my social life is going from strength to strength. I’m actually a bit worried that I’m not leaving much to do when I actually do become a granny some day (maybe that’s when I’ll take up knitting).
On the day before her party I started baking the layers and was extremely proud of myself that it wasn’t too hard. While the cakes cooled I took Holly to gymnastics and while I was waiting I popped into the kitchenware shop to buy one of those $5 flattening things the YouTube grannies were using the flatten the icing.
Fast forward the rest of the day. Lots of F words, lots of shouting, lots of mess and two loads of icing chucked into the sink in a fit of rage, food dye from head to toe and all over my white kitchen bench (and under my nails) …. I made this.
I can’t believe I actually made that. All for about $250+ and about 5000 hours of my time.
So after the party when the cake was all gone, I congratulated myself and tried to forget how much money it cost me.
Until I realised that when I was in the shop buying the $5 stupid flattening tool, I left Charlie’s iPad in the shopping centre.
So really the cake cost $750.
Bastard cake. Bastard, bastard, bastard cake.