One of the many talents I do not have is that of baking and decorating cakes. Even though I was a Home Economics Education major. Even though I took an adult-ed. class in cake decorating. It just didn’t take. I have deficient “understanding cake” genes.
My made-from-scratch cakes always seem to be a little heavy, even if follow directions to the letter. Not wanting to put all the time and and resources into something that doesn’t taste good, I am happy to let Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines do the work. 🙂 My favorite combination is devil’s food chocolate cake and chocolate fudge icing. Just in case you ever need to know that.
Even with boxed mixes, and mixing the exact time the instructions say, my cakes come out a little wonky. Last night we were having a fellowship after church (and when Baptists fellowship, there is food. :)) Last week was one of the busiest weeks ever, and I did not have the time or energy to come up with a really nifty dessert. I keep a box of brownie mix on hand for just such an occasion. I was putting the ingredients together while talking with my oldest son when I noticed the instructions to mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then on high for two minutes. “Wait,” I thought, “you don’t mix brownies that way.” I turned the box over — and saw I had a cake mix instead of a brownie mix. I looked through my cupboard, but there was no brownie mix in sight. Oh well, I thought, it doesn’t have to be fancy. I also had a container of dark chocolate fudge icing (and I had picked that up accidentally — I don’t usually like dark chocolate. Here was a chance to use it up!) It doesn’t matter how it looks – if you serve chocolate at a Baptist fellowship, it will get eaten.
Well, my 13×9 cake came out looking like a gently sloping hill in the middle with a valley all around the edges, and the outermost edges curled over like sea waves. How does it do that? How do you prevent that? (I really want to know!) I put frosting on it, and as I tried to spread it over, it kept peeling off the outermost layer of crust and mixing crumbs into the icing (someone with a similar problem must’ve been the person who invented crumb cake). I finally got it all together, and thankfully when I dropped it off on the dessert able, no one was there to link me to the cake in question, so I maintained my anonymity. After church we talked to a few people and then got into the line for the dessert table. When I got to my cake, 3/4 of it was gone, but it looked like a toddler had gotten her hands into it — cake and icing was all jumbled up. It looked like it had fallen to pieces as someone tried to cut it. But after the fellowship when I went to retrieve my pan, it was empty. And that, of course, is the measure of success at a Baptist fellowship. 🙂
If the cake itself is a disaster, the decorating is worse. Here is one sad early attempt:
They were supposed to look like little muppets. I had seen the idea in a magazine. I think the idea was to bake cupcakes, put one upside down on top of another one (and probably glue it with frosting), cut out a little wedge for the mouth, then put little dollops of white with a mini chocolate chip in the middle for eyes. It looked so cute and easy in the magazine. How could it go wrong? Somehow it did, and they ended up looking like swamp monster babies left out in the rain. Unfortunately this was for Jeremy’s second birthday, and though he didn’t care, we had invited friends over. There was no back-up plan, so I served this spectacle. They were very kind about it.
Even store-bought icing in those little tubes doesn’t work for me. I’ve had my writing “run” using that stuff, and once when using one of the pouch-like frostings, it seemed like it was awfully thick and hard while I was trying to squeeze it out — and then it burst a hole in the side of the pouch, squeezing out in uncontrolled ways that I couldn’t use for writing. I have pictures of a couple of those kinds of cakes just to commemorate the birthday (and one particular birthday I wouldn’t even let anyone take pictures of the cake!) But I won’t humiliate myself by posting those.
Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. Maybe someone needs a laugh. 🙂
When the kids were little we bought those candy cake decorations you buy in stores. I devised a few alternate methods, like this with M&Ms:
(If you have any any other alternate ideas, I’m all ears!)
There have been times I’ve shed a few tears in frustration over my lack of ability in this area. But ultimately I decided just to accept it. We generally only have cake at birthdays, which is only 5 times a year. My kids don’t care what it looks like as long as it tastes good (the advantage to having all guys!) If we’re inviting anyone over for the birthday in question, I’ll order a cake from the grocery store bakery. If I send cupcakes for one of my children’s birthdays to school, it will just be frosted simply with some sprinkles on top. When we have our annual cake contest at church, if I enter at all, I’ll serve to make others look good. 🙂 And I’ll concentrate my culinary efforts where I do have success, like cookies!