Piteous patissier

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 enjoyed making this tiger for Rufus’s first birthday. The marshmallow eyebrows are iffy but otherwise I give it 7/10 for likeness to the picture in the recipe book.
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Then last year’s dinosaur was a bit more adventurous, though also a bit more shall we say shonky.
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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.

Well, that would have been a better option than what I ended up making.
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MOON FAIL!!

To replicate:

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.
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I made the cake in a square tin instead of round without realising. Alright so I did realise, I just didn’t care…
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..because how easy is it to turn a square into a circle using a plate? Way easy.
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See?
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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:
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(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.
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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.
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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.
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And there you have it. How to make the worst cake ever.
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Rufus’s first response was ungratifyingly exasperated.
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But on second blush, HE LOVED IT! πŸ™‚ Long may these days where I can do no wrong linger.
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**

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.
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Here she is demonstrating how to properly make a cake.
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And here is the resultant giraffe that I served at the party, to unanimous acclaim which I only slightly wished to keep all for myself. One day, one day…
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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.
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All contained in these noodle boxes, 2001 party styles, that were too small and unable to be done up. That didn’t stop me sticking some pretty amazing “happy birthday” stickers on the front though.
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I also attached these lanterns to the ceiling. Or I compelled Joel to do so when I couldn’t work out how to attach a piece of fishing wire to an upside-down flat surface. That guy is a genius.
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Here is my shy little love enjoying the attention as everyone “sing-ed happy birthday to WUFUS, MAMA!”
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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.
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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.
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Just right for the moon cake though.
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16 Comments Add yours

  1. Toni says:

    Hot damn, that’s an AWESOME cake!

    I made a ‘haunted castle’ for a child one day. Child looked at the cake, then at that wretched WW Cake Book, and said kindly, “Well, at least you tried.”

  2. jadeluxe says:

    Oh what!! I think I know the haunted castle you mean – that purple one with icecream-cone turrets and a lattice gate? Kudos to you…I would never have attempted something so intricate πŸ˜‰ In fact my son doesn’t even care about the moon, but I tried to stealthily indoctrinated him towards it for six months leading up to his birthday because it looked the easiest. Fail.

  3. katie says:

    I laughed so hard at this post! Every year I attempt some over the top cake design and every year without fail I purchase my sons cake from a bakery. They look and taste so much better then my “cakes”! win/win πŸ™‚
    I do think that moon is adorable though.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      aw, and i think you are adorable for saying so…truly, it sucked even more in life than in the pictures. and that’s saying something. not only did it look that shit, it tasted AWFUL – probably something to do with the 3kg of butter used in the icing, who can say…

      long live the bakery.

  4. Oh that was so, so funny. I love the moon cake, what’s wrong with the moon cake? πŸ˜‰

    1. jadeluxe says:

      I guess the main thing wrong with it was that it looked like it was made by a 3-year-old on crack – and I actually REALLY TRIED HARD! It would not be possible to find a worse cook than me anywhere in the world, I’m convinced.

      I do have a secret sort of affection for the fucked-up thing though, I admit… πŸ˜‰

  5. Cinda says:

    I have that cookbook too but I’ve never attempted making anything yet. Well done on the cake. Rufus seemed to enjoy the whole cake making so that’s the fun part… making the mess and lots of icing!

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Hi! Looking at your blog, it seems that you can actually cook – so you could make heaps of the fabulous cakes in that book. The moon being the easiest one in there, I fear I’m in grave trouble for the next few years.

      Rufus did love the cake-making and that is the main part πŸ™‚

  6. Astrid says:

    Great post Jade – love your honesty. I remember you talking about your baking attempts at birthdays (now you are probably wondering who the hell I am) (Astrid is my online name, which is different to my SCA name).

    At least you give it a good go and it will give your kids plenty of stories when they get older.

    I love making the cake even though it does involve a certain amount of stress and a very late night before the party.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Oh my goodness, you have a BLOG?! I’m so excited!!! Off to read it all now!

      (I just saw myself in your blogroll with my old LJ address instead of this one – update hint hint – but you’ve been stalking me there and I never knew?? Crafty! πŸ˜‰

      1. Astrid says:

        I think it was a couple of months ago that I saw that you had posted about your old blog. Will remove your old one from the list now.

  7. Rhi says:

    Had to come back and read this one again, you know, I think this is my favourite blog post of all time, and I can’t believe I didn’t comment! (maybe I didn’t know you back then?!) I think of you, every time I see a Women’s Weekly birthday cake. πŸ™‚

  8. jadeluxe says:

    Haha Rhi, you prompted me to read this again too and it’s truly the worst kids’ cake I’ve ever seen. I’m a disgrace to the hallowed name of Women’s Weekly.

  9. Pingback: Crafty! | Jadeluxe

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