Our kitchen here in Hong Kong doesn’t have an oven. Chiu Chow cuisine just doesn’t call for a whole lot of baking. A lack of oven is a cause for lamentation, of course – no lasagna for a start – but also celebration, meaning as it does that I won’t be able to make a horrendous cake for my kids’ birthdays this year.
All mums secretly abhor birthday party season. It’s that time of year where we all have to pretend we want to host playgroup at our joint for a “casual” cake-cutting celebration in honour of our kid’s attainment of another year. This year I am going to revel in (a) not being in a playgroup; and (b) buying the cake from a cake shop run by people who actually know how to make cakes.
Last year I had no such get-out. When Rufus turned 3, we were still in Oz and our kitchen was fully equipped with an oven. Ah shit. In preparation for the unveiling of the cake I made, a trip through the very short annals of King family birthday cakes, if you will.
I noted that, though I’d only made two kids birthday cakes so far, I couldn’t help but notice they’d gotten progressively more juvenile. And if I continued to follow this trajectory of inverse correlation, dude’s 21st birthday cake would be a Safeway jamroll studded with Smarties.
Start by letting your 3-year-old mix the batter (butter cake from a box, natch). At least one part of the process will then be thoroughly completed. I thought to take photos of him as I progressively fucked up each step, but I don’t know how having one’s parent’s failures foisted upon you and then rendered photographically for perpetuity affects one’s later psychological wellbeing. Not well, I decided. But you all just remember that when you deride my moon. I COULD have heaped blame and ridicule on my 3-year-old but I didn’t because I AM NOBLE.
Next up, to carve the cake exactly into a crescent. The Women’s Weekly test kitchen provided a stencil for the purpose at the back of the cake book, but the way I figured it, by the time I’d found the right stencil, got the scissors from the special sharp-things hiding spot, cut the stencil out, traced it onto the cake and cut around it, I could’ve freeformed that thing spot-on. As per:
(Don’t waste your time shaving the top off the cake either so it’s flat. Is the moon flat?? Didn’t think so. Realism. Kids appreciate this shit.)
With a vastly inflated sense of domestic worth I headed confidently into the icing round. I didn’t have any yellow food colouring, for a start, so it had to be a blue moon – *shrug* a bit morbid for a 3-year-old’s celebration but the only other option the pantry presented was black. Things really started to come undone as I added a random amount of melted butter to the mix and it was too runny, but I’d already started spreading it on, and also I didn’t let the cake cool so it was all melting everywhere, and I ended up adding three times the specified amount of icing sugar on the run to thicken that shit up. But I think I got away with it.
For future reference, measure ingredients. I don’t even know how to turn on the kitchen scales so I just had a guess. Here I am trying to slice 60g of butter of a 500g pack I’d already used to spread on some toast earlier. Confusing. It’s times like this I wish I didn’t wilfully fail Year 12 maths, having already aced one Year 12 subject in Year 11 so giving me the opportunity to just sit through one for nothing. Why oh why didn’t I pick PE to not care about? Oh that’s right, I loved indoor soccer too much.
I saved the general appearance of the plain iced cake with a handy if unhygienic wipe-down with the kitchen sponge. Only to wreck it with my uninspired licorice placement. This step could have been improved by referring more closely to the picture. And indeed purchasing strap licorice as suggested, instead of the rope kind – just because I wanted to eat the rest of the bag later.
Luckily for the kids coming to the party, one of their number had a dairy and egg allergy. And luckily for me, my sister makes delicious vegan cakes. She has a much more professional operation than me, including a mixer.
And in the meantime, what am I even worried about – I assembled some inspired “party favours” with no instruction whatsoever! MILLIONS, SIMPLY MILLIONS, OF MUMMY POINTS REDEEMED! Contents: “fun pack” of Smarties; one plastic harmonica costing 0.62c; a yo-yo that probably doesn’t work (like I was going to test 12 tiny yo-yos); and a frog clicker that caused me no end of remorse when Rufus began the evening chorus on it that night. I’m sorry, parents of the October 2006 maternal and child health group in the Seddon/Yarraville region, for your perforated eardrums and vengeful neighbours.
A few visions of the marauding hordes laying waste to the house not two hours before an ill-thought-out real estate assessment to set the rental price for our house. Post-party, every single toy and book we own was strewn from front door to back, many affixed to the floor and walls with orange icing.
And to finish off, some shots with my mum and nan and the confounded moon cake. My nan inexplicably made this odd hat out of Christmas cards (see previous post re old people thinking anything handmade or crafty is good). It even had pictures of Santa and a nativity scene. It was made with pinking shears. It sucked.