The other day was my daughter Mini-Me’s 6th Birthday. Pretty momentous day for a little girl… she had been looking forward to it for 364 days. The sweet little thing even bounded out of bed with a big smile that morning, shouting “It’s my BIRTHDAY!!! This is going to be the best day EVER!” Eh, no pressure.
So when did I start to think about her birthday cake? At 4:00 PM that very day, when I knew darn well I had a handful of in-laws arriving at 6:30 for cake and presents.
My plan was to run to the grocery store, buy a generic chocolate cake from the bakery that afternoon, and slap some decorative toys and her name in icing on the top. Easy, right?
The thing is, I never actually got to the store that day. Little Bucket Head did not wake from his nap at the usual time, and I’m definitely not one to ever wake a sleeping dog or baby. So at 3:30 when he was still asleep and it didn’t look like we were going to make it to the store, I thought, “No problem, I can improvise.” And voila! What magically appeared, but one lovely box of Devil’s Food cake mix, right in my own pantry. Hallelujah!
Now, with luck like that on my side, did I just make a simple sheet cake? Or how about a relatively simple double layer round cake? Noooooooo. What would be the fun in that?
Yes, with less than 2.5 hours until party time and no intention of keeping it simple, I had a brilliant idea. How about one of those fancy “Barbie Cakes”? And I just so happened to have one of those batter bowls in which you can bake a round hoop-skirt shaped cake! What’s more, I even saved the recipe card that came with it (and knew where it was, surprisingly) – so I had instructions for such a task. Sweet! This was going to be easier than I thought!
Feeling overly confident and wanting to make this a birthday to remember (with minimal effort, in two hours or less), I let Mini-Me help me mix up the box of cake batter. She broke the three eggs, added the oil and water, and operated the controls on my handy-dandy Kitchen Aid mixer. We greased that big ol’ batter bowl together, poured in the cake mix, stuck it in the oven, and waited.
5:30 PM. Out came the cake. Not burned! YES! Not undercooked. YES! I was on a roll! Things were going my way. Still plenty of time for it to cool while I whipped up some real buttercream frosting, from scratch, thankyouverymuch. I just needed to feed the fam a quick taco meal, frost the cake, wrap the present, tidy up the kitchen, and be ready to greet my in-laws and two sisters-in-law for our little party in exactly one hour. No problem. You know what would help? A glass of wine. Make that two.
At 6:00 PM the cake was cool enough to frost. Not cold, but good enough. I inverted it on a plate, started to frost it, and then realized I had forgotten to stick in the Barbie! DOH! So I scooped a little hole out of the top, wrapped Barbie’s bottom and legs in Press’n Seal®, and plunged her lower half into the cake. And that is when it hit me… oh, shit.
See that? She is totally too tall for the cake! Her entire cellophaned goodie basket is sticking out for the whole world to see. What the hell? (Note the fish-bowl-sized wine glass in the background.) This would not do. What kind of message would this send to my impressionable 6 year old girl? “Happy Birthday! I’m so excited for you that I pulled down my skirt! WHOO-HOOO! Excitement = Nudity! Remember that and practice it yourself everywhere you go from now on, ok? PARTY ON, GIRL!”
Dammit. What did I do wrong? I consulted the directions. Uh oh. On the back of the recipe card is an addendum for the Doll Cake Variation: “Bake two cakes separately…” FUCK. Apparently you should cut a few inches off the bottom of one cake and add onto the bottom of the other cake to make the skirt high enough to accommodate a lanky Barbie. Ugh. That would have been good to know about two hours ago. Or actually, two days ago when I was shopping for groceries.
What to do? THINK, dammit. The clock was ticking! Choices, choices. I could have cut the Barbie in half. No, Mini-Me wouldn’t have liked that. I could have just gone with the “I’m so excited, I’m half naked” scenario. No, not good parenting… especially in front of the grandparents. I could have slathered her naughty bits in frosting. Sounds fun, but would it stick? No time to experiment!
WAIT. I remembered something. I had recently read a fabulously funny and educational post all about cake decorating! YES! The author stated that marshmallows were great for covering a multitude of cake decorating sins. Did I even have marshmallows? Yes – I did. What a magic pantry! Praise Jeeeeezus.
Sweet… with just minutes to spare, the marshmallow trick worked! Bye-bye bald Barbie beaver! I just needed to finish frosting the skirt and I could wrap the gift. Trying to keep Mini-Me involved and therefore out of mischief, I handed her a spoon of frosting to sample.
Tap-tap on my leg. Uh oh… more trouble in paradise:
“I don’t like the frosting.”
“WHAT? It’s buttercream! It’s pink! There is like a whole stick of butter in there! What’s not to like!?”
“It is too sweet.” Mini-Me whined.
“Oh. For. The. Love. Of. God… Fine. I won’t frost her backside.” Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that.
Look at that sweet, round, chocolatey badonkadonk. Don’t you just want to sink your teeth into it?
Following the birthday girl’s explicit whine instructions, I slathered the über-sweet frosting on Barbie’s front only. But when I finished, the kids thought her puffy pink backless frock was a bit boring and they wanted to jazz it up with some designer detail. I added a few drops of blue to the leftover pink frosting thinking blue + red = purple. But, I must not have been paying attention the day we learned the color wheel in art class because apparently blue + pale pink = necrotic tissue gray. Not very appetizing. Last time I saw that color it was on a crayon called “Dead Armadillo.”
Here are the kids “gilding the lily.” Only in this case, the lily is a fucked-up improperly executed half-ass (literally) skirt cake and the gold-leaf is roadkill colored excess buttercream frosting that the birthday girl refuses to eat. But at least they are having fun, being creative, and not complaining about how ugly the cake is.
But all’s well that ends well. Didn’t she turn out purdy? (One whole bottle of wine later.) Mini-Me very thoughtfully arranged her arms like that. “Ready? OK! Gimme an F!”
And look at her after a few “pieces of tail” were sliced off…
She looked like naked “stuck in the well Barbie.” Or bare-ass “pull me out of this dirty hole Barbie.” Oh my, I just had a major college flashback. Yikes!
So, the moral of the story is:
a.) don’t wait until the last minute to think about or bake a cake.
b.) always have more than one box of cake mix in your pantry for emergencies.
c.) always read a recipe the WHOLE WAY THROUGH before you start cooking.
d.) if you blow it on items a, b, and c above, let the birthday girl help bake and decorate the cake, and she’ll never notice the fact that it is one ugly last-minute-mo-fo.
Phew. Crisis averted. And 364 days to plan ahead for next time.
© 2008 The Bearded Iris