I never understood people who bake for fun. I love to cook, but for some reason to me baking desserts is anything but fun. It’s stressful and leaves a big mess in the kitchen. And it’s expensive because you have to invest in all these special gadgets and equipment. Maybe it’s because my mom never baked. I grew up in a home where the oven was only used as a storage place for pots and pans (along with the dishwasher, which we never actually used to wash dishes).
That said, once every year I feel compelled to bake. That compulsion comes without fail every year around October 13th. I suppose I could just buy CC a birthday cake, as I’m sure many parents do for their children, but for some sick reason, I don’t feel like I can honestly earn my good mommy badge unless I bake his birthday cake myself. For his first two birthdays, I went the safe route and just did easy cupcakes. He didn’t have much teeth back then and was more enthralled with the candles than the actual cake anyway.
For his third birthday though, I felt like I needed to ramp up my baking skills and attempt something harder. Why? Because CC was in school now and had friends and was starting to understand what a birthday was. So in addition to making cupcakes for all his classmates and teachers, I decided to make my son a fire engine cake. I came across the fire engine cake idea while pinteresting and it looked easy enough. I watched the how-to video a couple of times and I thought to myself, “I can do that.”
So my plan was to bake some cupcakes on Thursday night so I could bring them to CC’s preschool on Friday, and for his actual birthday on Saturday, I would just whip up the fire engine cake while he took his nap and maybe invite some of our friends and neighbors over to help eat it. For the cupcakes, I used this recipe for Fluffer Oreo cupcakes (I left out the marshmallow fluff because it just seemed criminal to give that much sugar to preschoolers).
After both kids went to bed on Thursday night, I got to work in the kitchen and had the cupcakes in the oven in less than an hour. “This is not so hard, I should do this more often,” I thought to myself. I set the timer and went to the living room to relax. Ten minutes later I smell and see black smoke billowing out of the oven. Not a good sign. I tried to rescue them but it was too late. Of all times to malfunction, our oven had chosen that night to do it.
When Larry came home, he found me moping and throwing myself a pity party over my burnt cupcakes. He tried giving me suggestions like, “The middles aren’t that burnt, you can just cut off the tops and bottoms,” or “We can just go out and buy some cupcakes.” He didn’t understand that none of those suggestions would earn me my good mommy badge. So he encouraged me to start over and even offered to text around to our neighbors to find an oven I could use (this is why I married him). So instead of throwing in my apron, I began all over again, although now I had to alter the recipe a bit because I didn’t have everything I needed to make the original one. By midnight I had 27 decent looking Oreo cupcakes.
I should have taken my snafu with the cupcakes as a indication that maybe I should just save the fire engine cake for another birthday and quit while I’m ahead…but no, on Saturday, I decided to push forward with it even though by that time I was sick of dealing with cake and frosting. So after CC went down for his nap, I made a yellow cake in three loaf pans as the recipe directed and watched the how to assemble video another two or three times.
After the cakes were done I went to take them out of the pan so they could cool and all three of them had stuck to the pans even though I had greased them. Panic set in, this can’t be happening, I thought to myself. The cakes eventually came out…in big crumbly pieces. I tried to keep my cool. The frosting will hold it all together, I told myself. So I went ahead and started on the red frosting for the fire engine. The problem was that even after dumping in the entire bottle of red food coloring, I still had a bowl of dark pink frosting. Who’s ever heard of a dark pink fire engine? At this point I start to get very frustrated and in desperation enlist the help of my very understanding husband. Together we try to spread the dark pink frosting on the crumbly heap that’s supposed to look like a fire truck. But for some reason, the frosting had become extremely thin and watery (probably from all my stirring) and instead of holding the cake together like I had hoped, it just made things even worse.
CC had woken up from his nap by this time and had come to see what we were doing. The whole scene was so comical that despite my frustration, I couldn’t help but laugh. We decided to just stick the cake in the fridge and take CC out for a walk. We went to the library and then to dinner at an Italian cafe and CC picked out his own dessert. When we got home, I was in a much better mood, and I decided that I was still going to make my son his fire engine cake, even if it wasn’t perfect. So I take the crumbly dark pink mess out of the fridge and CC watches as I spread on more frosting, put on the Oreo wheels and the gumdrop flashing lights. My dear son encourages me through the whole process by saying, “Mama, you’re really good at this.”
At least at the end it kind of resembled a fire engine. We stick in the candles, take some pictures and let CC blow out the candles. He only wants to eat the gumdrop flashing lights and the Oreo wheels and not the cake. I don’t blame him. The poor fire engine cake eventually ended up in the trash can. I know…what a waste of time and money. But I don’t think it mattered much to CC that his cake didn’t turn out perfectly. And now when I consider the precious memories we will have of his third birthday, it was worth all the trouble. I think I deserve that good mommy badge after all.
This was what the cake was supposed to look like
This is what my cake actually looked like
Happy Birthday CC!