Monday, 5 September 2011

Rosie, the birthday cow pat and the embarrassed poodle

This one was quite nice. I didn't make it. 
Soon, it will be Rosie's 9th birthday, and I expect I will bake a cake. Recent additions to my baking repetoire suggest that this year the cake may turn out ok, but previous years have not gone so well.

I don't remember doing much baking for her first birthday, as she was only capable of eating mush and my cakes have always required an invincible set of teeth. Birthday number 2 was more memorable. My mother in law had given me an Australian birthday cake book, full of elaborate baked goods in the shape of castles, planes and football pitches, all cemented together with multi coloured buttercream and bejewelled with sweets.

Apparently the designs, although impressively complex by appearance, were relatively foolproof so I embarked upon the chocolate Thomas the Tank Engine with enthusiasm. The added bonus of the cakes in this particular book are that they often don't require you to make them from scratch, and in some cases actively encourage you to use shop bought madiera cakes, swiss rolls, biscuits and chocolate fingers. The Airfix-esque approach to the instructions attracted her dad, who took charge of the construction of the engine (please don't get uppity about gender roles here, that would be silly given how generally dreadful I am at the whole domesticity thing), and he seemed to be enjoying his role in the celebrations.

Having previously been incredibly dismissive of parents who bought their children's birthday cakes from the supermarket, it soon became evident that they probably had the right idea. By 10pm the thing still wasn't finished, and the kitchen looked like some demented teacher had decided to cross a home economics lesson with geometry- every surface was covered with cakey triangles, squares and rectangles- I think I even saw a sponge based dodecahedron at one point, but may have been hallucinating by then. Just before midnight we stood back to observe the train and it's fair to say Jane Asher didn't need to lose any sleep that night. The basic train shape was there, but the colour of the icing had a distinctly exra terrestrial glow, the jammy dodger wheels were falling off and the buttercream looked like gangrenous pus. All in all it wasn't especially appetising, but one of the best things about very small children is that they don't yet care too much about aesthetics and Rosie thought it was great- which only served to spur me on for following years. This is something she now regrets.

Since then, we've had a luminous fairy castle with ice cream cone turrets and wine gum windows; a fire engine; a lop sided Tardis; a disfigured Spongebob Squarepants;  one very nice chocolate cake (from a supermarket- I was ill} and, last year, a giant puce cow pat. Obviously that wasn't how it had started out; it was supposed to be a delicate pink, heart shaped spongecake with raspberries on top, but the cakey biscuits/biscuity cakes phenomenon really came into its own this time. There may have been some timing and temperature issues and it's quite hard to make a heart shape out of a cow pat, although that didn't stop me trying.

As with every other time I've made coloured icing, I overdid the food colouring- what had started out in my head as powder pink didn't translate well into reality and it ended up a sickly deep purple. The raspberries on top, which should have added that extra patisserie style glamour, just made it look even more absurd, and put me in mind of of one of those poor poodles who get dyed ridiculous colours by their owners. We always go out for dinner when it's someone's birthday, and take a cake with us, but by her 8th birthday Rosie had now become much more aware of aesthetics and embarrassment than when she was 2, and went into mild hysteria at the thought of being seen in public with something quite so, PINK. This cake could have been wonderful,  wanted to be dignified and special, but had been reduced to a laughing stock. A bit like my poor friend here...

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