Baking is an exact science, which is why you should be impressed by your yummy-mummy friends who bake —especially those with infants and toddlers since they are likely overworked, under-slept and in constant demand.
Try following a recipe suffering from sleep deprivation acquired steadily over months at a time. Then factor in a toddler who can’t stop pressing the button on the water cooler creating your own indoor water park while your four-year old is saying
mommy, mommy, mommy.
I NEED you
I WANT you
And the dreaded
Please WIPE me, I did a PooPoo!
Sometimes I think I ought to check behind their ears for gills given their ability to talk incessantly without ever seeming to stop for a breath.
Sure by all means compliment your friend who served you a roast chicken. Maybe it was a little over cooked but some gravy or a dash of salt will mask many errors. Failing that, copious wine during dinner does the job. But APPLAUD the friend who bakes you brownies, cookies or a cake.
Because this is what could have so easily happened:
It is Saturday and it is my husband’s birthday. He has just come back from a trip and I’ve already failed on many fronts to make it special. I am pretty sure I am in no condition to make anything complex so I tell my 4-year-old that we are going to make Papa some really special cookies for his birthday. She just looks and me and shakes her head.
Non! He NEEDS a cake. We have to make him a birthday cake.
I tried, I really did. I prepared all the ingredients. I set everything up in order. I had my recipe book in front of me and repeatedly referred back to it. Things seemed to be going well. The cake batter looked good. The husband was sent out to buy last-minute heavy cream for the chocolate ganache for his cake. (Please no comment here).
I poured the batter into my perfectly battered cake dish. P was shouting with delight, making up some sort of cake-baking song. I set the timer for 25 minutes and quickly made the ganache.
- Twenty five minutes later, the toothpick is definitely WET.
- Thirty Minutes – Same
- Forty Minutes – SAME
- Fifty Minutes – SAME!!
I try with a knife instead persuaded that the toothpick is the problem. Deluded, I know.
Wet Wet Wet.
And then like an amnesiac having a sudden flash of her former life. I remember that the recipe calls for cooking it in two batches to make a two tiered cake. Holy Molasses, how did I forget that?
Another 25 minutes go by and I’ve pierced this cake so many times, It is more sieve than sponge. A last attempt and the knife looks clean. I start to feel relieved, even impressed that I’ve managed to pull this off and no one will be the wise. Little did I know that I happened to hit one cooked part. With hindsight, probably cooked from all the piercings. As I un-mold the cake I find a part where the batter looks rather doughy. Christ, are you kidding me?
The voice inside my head:
Shite, it STILL isn’t completely cooked. How is that possible?
Wait, no, it’s ok. The icing will cover it. The kids won’t know the difference. It’s kind of like raw cookie dough. I love raw cookie dough. I wish I had raw cookie dough right now instead of this stupid cake
Wait, am I going to poison the kids? Didn’t they say that raw cookie dough was dangerous? They could get salmonella or something? How fresh are my supposedly organic Thai eggs? Do I risk it? Will I get stuck in the legendary Bangkok traffic in a cab with two vomiting kids? I know, how about I stick it in the microwave…
Three random microwave cycles later since I am clueless as to how one uses a microwave for anything other than popcorn.
It is as raw as it was before and the rest of the cake is looking increasingly dry like the Sahara. How the fuck did I get myself into this situation? I didn’t even want to make a fucking cake! Ok ok… stop, breath, think. I know, I’ll use the heart & star shape cutouts and make mini-cakes and ice those. This is going to work out.
The cake is of course way thicker than the shapes; it is after all a double-tiered cake in one. I persevere. I am determined to salvage my unwanted cake sans-meltdown. I use chopsticks to push the shape rims down. It’s a disaster. The edge at this point is so dry it starts crumbling away. I keep at it. I am savaging this cake. This cake looks like an antelope being torn apart by her second round diners. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself:
The mini-cakes, well they were pretty disastrous too as they were small and crumbly and impossible to ice. I just ended up putting large dollops of dark chocolate ganache on top —the one thing that turned out ok— and let the kids and my husband smear it across their faces while I downed a pint-sized glass of red wine.
The award for worse cake ever can be sent to my attention at Baan Suan Maak, Bangkok 10120. And next time a parent-friend bakes for you, double up on your appreciation please.