Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Baking on the Edge

My mother is an extraordinary baker of cakes. Although it has been rather a long time that she had to make one in the shape of a large doll or flower garden, in the heyday of my childhood birthday parties, her cakes were not only tasty, but works of art. I remember hanging out in the kitchen while she used her bewildering array of cake decorating supplies- little silver nozzles attached to bags that spewed forth colourful icing, most of which I was allowed to lick when she was finished. (Then she’d spend the rest of the day trying to peel me off the ceiling depending on which food coloring she’d used.)

Every one of her culinary sweet things was an unqualified success aside from the unfortunate batch of cupcakes that she prepared for my 4th grade class that ended up tasting exactly like Rubber Cement because we glued little ears and whiskers onto the cake wrappers. Whoopsie. Luckily, this was in the days before frequent, petty lawsuits. Mom now sticks to more adult friendly cakes that include copious amounts of rum and raspberry cordial and less industrial adhesives.

The Prawn is now officially half a year old. I remembered seeing a photo of a ½ birthday cake that my mother made for me smeared all over my face and thought I’d like to do something similar. (Make a cake, not smear it on my face.) In preparation, I bought my first icing bag and nozzles at John Lewis, thinking that everyone including the cashier who rung me up could probably see that my first attempt was likely to be a bit of a hash.

“I’m going to bake you a cake, girlie,” I told the Prawn.

“I don’t doubt it, Mummy,” she seemed to say, “but the day will likely end with more icing on you than on your chocolate sponge.”

In the meantime, between the purchase of ingredients and decorating implements, my brother in law and his lovely girlfriend went and got themselves engaged. So it was pretty obvious that one cake was not going to cut it.

Betty Crocker is my cake goddess and her mixes always produce cakes of extraordinary moist tastiness, so the process of turning one of those babies out wasn’t too difficult. My only regret is that my tongue is not adequately shaped to get all the batter out of the spokes of the mixer. It is a feat of self control that I waited until after switching it off to begin the licking process.

The icing was another matter. My only frames of reference were dim and fuzzy memories of haunting the kitchen while my mother worked. I remembered the white icing bags, the nozzles, the food coloring…but not exactly how to use them. Without being excruciatingly boring, I will suffice to say that I now have 2/3rds of a can of salmon colored frosting left over and a shirt that’s going to need some stain treatment before it goes in the wash.

At any rate, you can see the results. My BIL and his now fiance returned from their holiday (they spent a week at Mr. DD's uncle's villa also) last night (We call them Duff and Trumpet. It's a long story) and we celebrated their impending union by demolishing a bottle of champagne, all of the engagement cake and part of the Prawn’s birthday cake.

The Prawn, being too cranky to remain vertical and conscious for the bulk of the celebration, will get her token frosting-smeared moment this afternoon with lunch for the benefit of posterity.

I hope to become more proficient at the art of cake decoration before she asks for a Taj Mahal themed birthday party.


Alex said...

Hi...just a lurker...but I saw this and thought about your little Prawn!!


rockmama said...

alex- what a great necklace!! :)

Dot said...

My mum was an amazingly creative cake-maker too. Once she made me a cake in the shape of Blickling Hall (a National Trust property in Norfolk); another time she did a swamp with hippos in. I do wonder how on earth I'm going to live up to this when my Prawn is born. At least, since I'm expecting a boy, I am less likely to have to emulate my mum in making ballet dresses for him to play in...though I'd love it if he got into ballet...

Dot said...

I meant to say: your cakes look yummy and by the time your Prawn gets to wanting it you will be well up to making her her own Fender Stratocaster from sugar icing and fruit mix. Actually it would be rather good to do a guitar-shaped Christmas pudding, pour over brandy and set it on fire. Though maybe not from a child safety point of view.

becky said...

That cake is awesome. My son's 6 month birthday is in a couple of days and now I'm considering making a cake for it! My 6 year old will be in heaven!

I, like you, have never, ever figured out how to properly decorate a cake. People make it seem so effortless and well, it isn't, that's for sure!