Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy Birthday

Today is Tyke's birthday. With each year I feel his strong tug AWAY from my apron strings, and I feel sad. He's my little sweetie and I don't know how I'll manage when he turns into a teenager, which is somewhat close to around the corner. He's already talking teen-speak and the purty girls flock around him and call him on the phone all the time. Sigh.

In his honor and in honor of his specific request, I baked a chocolate cake with frosting. But I am the world's least skilled baker, being the oddball in our family who does not care about either sweets or chocolate. In order to cook something really well, I need to imagine an appetite for it.

Later (when I get time) I will post a picture of the ill-formed cake. My poor kid. He watched me make it and has already laughed heartily over it. He was bribed to cease; I let him have the shaved-off, unlevel cake top as well as the left-over frosting.

I am notorious for failed cakes. Sometimes I have to stay up all through the night to bake a cake over and over again until I get it right. And I rarely even bake a cake from scratch. I can't even get a MIX right! Not so this year; but, still, it's humiliating. I once made a huge sheet cake for my grad school class in honor of the birthday of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was an albatross, indeed. It was from the first attempt at this cake that I learned my apartment oven was not level. Then, on the second try (after figuring out the leveling problem), I dropped the cake. The third was a charm, however, and the ship and albatross were real works of art. But lord was I tired after that all-nighter.

When I was in high school, I decided to make a special birthday cake for my dad. I planned it well ahead. But Dad's birthday was in July, and at the time I lived in California with no air conditioning, and it was hot. I baked the cake but did not know how long I should let it cool. I kept checking, but the darned thing just wouldn't cool down. Dad would be home soon and I was on a deadline, so I frosted the thing earlier than I should have. I left the kitchen, and when I came back just before Dad got home, I found an Earthquake Cake. First, the top layer had slid halfway off the bottom layer and part of the way onto the counter. Not only that, but it had opened up in three directions on the top, like a volcano or something. In any case, it was a true freak of nature.

Anyway, long live my little Tyke. We have put the cake in the refrigerator to avoid further weepage and sinkage and slippage and who knows what other atrocities of pastryhood.

That reminds me: in grad school my DH had a French housemate who frequently phoned his grandmother in France. She was from a different part of the country than he, and thus spoke a slightly different dialect with different inflections. One time I remember him calling her and he said to put the gateau in the refrigerator, and she went ape, thinking he was telling her to put the cat in the refrigerator. Long live the cat! Long live the gateau! Long live the Tyke!


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