I was going to go to the ball! Despite everything that was put in my way, I was going to attend my daughter's thirtieth birthday party, and I was going to provide the cake that she had suggested. (Demanded is such a strong word!)
I had managed to twist my back the previous Wednesday, while laying in bed, and found myself unable to move. After twenty minutes or so, I managed to get up and walked around the bedroom, and then came back to sit on the side of the bed. I was rather upset when Dana awoke me by constantly calling my name, as it was nighttime and I had been (or so I thought) asleep. "Do you know where you are?" was the ridiculous question. Yes, I was in bed asleep and he was shouting at me. "I don't want you falling asleep on the floor", was the next outlandish statement. I assured him I would not and would he now allow me to continue with my slumber. It was then that I realised that I was on the floor, and apparently, after I had sat down on the bed, and he had asked me if I was okay, he watched me disappear out of sight, and heard a thump as I hit the ground. I was 'unconscious' for about twenty seconds. It was rather difficult to straighten up for a couple of days, and swimming helped. However, as the shade was a little chilly after my dip, I decided to move the chair over into the sun. My back held up fine, but the back of the chair fell down on to my hand and crushed it between the back flap and the frame. As my mother would have said, I was 'in the wars'. This was not going to be helpful when I had been told (although unnecessarily so) that my daughter could not possibly make her own birthday cake, (as mentioned above,) and as she was reaching her third decade, the requirement was a tier for each of the ten years!
Characters from the television in the eighties varied from one side of the pond from the other. For example, the children of the USA did not enjoy the postman known a Pat, who was accompanied by his faithful cat, Jess. The Care Bears appeared to be international, as did the computer game, Pac-Man. My mind was full of ideas.
I had attempted to make some fondant icing using the recipe used in the Great British Bake Off, and it had proved successful, so I had bought a few (perhaps slightly more than a few) bags of marshmallows, and a couple (perhaps slightly more than a couple) of bags of icing (powdered) sugar. Samantha had provided me with a container of said sugar from her stock, (she could not make her cake, but she could contribute the ingredients!) as she informed me that the fifty pound bag she had purchased would not be used, "any time soon"!
Cake baking took place on Tuesday morning. Considering I was part of the 'Boy Scout' movement, in one way or another for most of my life, (Brownies, Guides, and then assistant Cub leader, and Beaver leader,) I was not prepared! I thought I had two nine inch cake tins but, alas, one was nine, and one was an extra half an inch bigger. My two seven inch tins were also not the same size, despite the labels assuring me that they were. How one could fit inside the other was quite a mystery to me. At least the five inch tins were identical!
"And that is what you call a basic yellow cake recipe?", I questioned, when Samantha told me what I would need to make the perfect sponge for the bottom layer of this, my first attempt at creating a tiered creation. I looked at the liquid that was in the bowl, and wondered how this would come together not only as a cake, but would be strong enough to take the weight of other, perhaps more sturdy, examples. The master baker gave me her assurance, and that was good enough for me. After all, she has the experience that I lack! My chocolate cake was definitely much heavier, and looked more like the mixture I am used to pouring into a tin.
Six cakes were placed in the oven at the same time, and the disaster area that was my kitchen had to be brought into some sort of order. I was a long way from needing the pumpkins, mice and (dare I mention in the same story as cake) the rat, to make the coach, horses and footman, to escort me to the ball!
I arrived at the office ten minutes late, which in the circumstances was rather amazing. Dinner had been planned, and disregarded, and a simpler repast chosen. We did not leave the office until seven thirty, so simplifying dinner was a good decision!
Wednesday was full. I managed to get my cakes assembled. As I sandwiched together the two mis-matched bottom sponges, I realised that my original idea of making a spectacular filling was going to have to go by the wayside. As I did not have a fairy godmother, I would have to rely upon the tools with which I had been given, and that was my own humanity! Spectacular fillings were not going to be missed! However, after covering the first layer, I was wishing for not only more time, but more butter icing, as the huge quantity I had prepared was not going to be enough, and the bulk amount that I had purchased from Costco, had diminished from four pounds to four ounces! Admittedly not all had gone into the cakes, as I had been commissioned to make sausage rolls, etc, etc, etc! Spreading the cream rather thinly, I managed to stretch it over four cakes, and only had the two five inch sponges left to prepare.
Thinking that it would be a good idea to make the top layer into a checkerboard was not one of my better thoughts! Using round tins to create a square was mistake number two. Taking the middle out of the two small cakes, and then cutting them into shape, caused one to just fall apart. No matter how hard I tried to stick it back together, there was just no way this was going to work. I was going to have to make another cake!
I left my house on Wednesday morning feeling rather dejected. Joe provided me with a good strong cup of coffee, and together with his and Gail's company, I started to forget the nightmare that awaited me when I returned home. I then traveled across town to have my nails painted, and finally arrived at the office just before ten thirty. Normally, I would forego a lunchtime constitutional, but I was in dire need of some fat to make another cake, and create some more buttercream! HEB was a life saver, and although they had rather large pumpkins on sale, I could not imagine any one of them being big enough to turn into the size of carriage I would need to transport the extras I had purchased, back to the office!
Returning home to clear up the kitchen was not pleasant, but I set too, and managed to create some sort of order, before getting back into the same mess once again. Clearing everything away for the second time, I needed to take stock of things, and needed a relaxation technique to help me think. As I waited for dinner to cook, I set about separating four bags of multi-coloured mini marshmallows into small bags of green, yellow, pink and orange. Surprisingly enough, it worked! These would be used to make the coloured icing required!
A Rubik's cube required six colours of icing. Pink was not one of the colours, nor was brown, nor purple. Samantha had watched me making the white icing, melting the marshmallows, and then stirring in the powdered sugar until it was a dough like mixture, using all my strength to bind it together and then kneed it into a soft pliable substance. "Why don't you use the dough hook on your mixer", she said, helpfully, after I had made the third batch. Why had I not recognised my fairy godmother? Although she was not to make her own birthday cake, she was happy to help make the icing, as she perceived the method may be helpful to her in the future. Before long we had a routine going. Melt marshmallows, stir in the colouring, (if needed, as I had the pink, yellow, green and orange already,) transfer gloop to the mixer's bowl, add sugar, and let the machine do the rest, while melting the next batch. It did not take long to make up the six colours, and a couple more!
By Thursday evening, the cakes were iced, and the decorating had started. Samantha had left work to go to the airport. An old schoolfriend and her husband, with their toddler, were coming to visit, and as the girls' birthdays were only four days apart, they thought it might be fun to spend it together. Dana was at the office considerably later than dinner time, but I was glad of the extra time to put the Rubik's cube together. It was then that all the other ideas filtered into my head. I had to dismiss many of them as I knew I would not have the time, even though the energy appeared to be there, to put it all together. I regretted not planning the cake earlier, but resigned myself to the fact that time was always going to be a factor and I was not going to be able to stretch it, like I had the buttercream!
Although Samantha's birthday was on Saturday, she was going to pop into the office on Friday, just in case there was a card, or something, that had been prepared. Almost too late, I remembered I was going to make her a cake. Yes, another cake! One small, single layer cake was baked, decorated and brought into the office at 9:30 on Friday morning. Dana was a little concerned as to my whereabouts, as the text saying I was going to be a few minutes late was taken literally! (Silly man!) The smurf, that had not been pretty enough to make it on to the 'real thing' lay upon the top of the orange delicacy, together with a white iced '30', and two iced hearts. The 'ooh's' and 'ahh's', and "That is lovely cake", helped tremendously. If the blob that I had presented received that much applause then the main feature should go down well!
I followed my fairy godmother's instructions, and put the middle layer on a board, and then the top layer on another board, then pierced the two through the middle with a wooden dowel. Then I attempted to put the two onto the bottom layer. Disaster struck as the small opening in the boards would not take more than two dowels, and I could not get the third one through the gap. The two top layers started to wobble, and I had to separate them. My hands were covered in chocolate crumbs that I had wiped from the top of the bottom layer, and these were now stuck fast to the top layer, and it looked like a child's bib after they had fed themselves for the first time! What would my fairy godmother do? The squares on the Rubik's cube were not yet stuck fast, (or not as fast as the chocolate crumbs,) and so I set about turning each and every soiled one around, and then washed away the jam that had been used to stick them on to the iced cube! Using some paper towel and water, I carefully rinsed away the apricot jelly, and stuck them back into place. Finally, the three layers became one cake, albeit slightly resembling the Tower of Pisa!
Pac-Man, together with the ghosts, adorned the bottom layer. Care Bears surrounded the middle, and two 3-D bears sat atop said second layer. The Rubik's cube was finished with black icing between the squares, and Jess, the faithful postman's cat, was sitting atop, with a 'Royal Mail' sack, upside down, and all the letters falling onto the middle layer. 'Slimer' was the token from the Ghostbusters movie, and he was stuck in between layer three and two. I stood back, and thought, "That will have to do!"
"How are we going to get that to Matnee?" asked Dana when he came home on Friday. My original plan had been to assemble it once there, but then I had the (not so) clever idea of putting royal icing between the layers to connect them. "We will have to have the party here!" I said to him, "Or we will just have to take a picture and put that on the table!" I had no idea how we were going to transport this giant edible tower from the kitchen to the car, let alone across the county line!
We did manage. I put a box in the back seat of the pumpkin, otherwise known as Dana's car. The horses were spared, as I did not look for white mice, nor did I check around for a rat, as I did not think a coach would be the ideal form of transport for the cake. Somehow, I lifted the cake and walked it to the car, placed it into the box, and took my seat next to it. Dressed in our costumes (we were Sandy and Danny from Grease!) we drove to Samantha's house, where we had to wait for the door to be opened before taking the cake to its final resting place.
My kitchen sighed with relief on Sunday. The oven was turned on to 'automatic clean', the floor had been washed, the cupboards wiped, the handles cleaned, the countertops sterilized, and the fridge emptied. The lower level of my condo resumed normality, and I felt as if I should be 'doing' something.
The party was a success, and most people had dressed accordingly. Samantha had, of course, gone 'all out' in her Cyndi Lauper Costume, and Edward was a rather convincing Bret Michaels. Dana and I left the festivities at around 9:30, as John and Olivier are now much older than when they were at Rydell High, and are a little bit past punk!
I shall give the culinary delights a rest this week, and go back to basics. With both my children now in their third decade, I feel I can relax a little, and live the fairy tale life of which I had always dreamed. However, should that ever happen, it will probably be on a world wide newsflash! Last week is now history, and next week will be ........... another story!