Sometimes it really is what’s on the inside that matters.
Like the other day I decided to make a cake … all right maybe that’s not the best way to start this.
Let’s back up.
There is a certain percentage of people who don’t understand why a man would choose to make a cake.
I would argue knowing how to make a cake is as vital of a skill for a man as knowing how to change oil, skin a deer or know the two primary uses of duct tape — ducts and everything else.
Knowing how to make a cake can prevent you from having to be subject to the store’s selection of cakes. That means if you want a cake that looks like a fish, you don’t have to hope that someone was using the fish-shaped pan at your local bakery that day.
Or you could order one ahead of time, but that never sat well with me. They want you to pay up front for their custom confections, and it feels weird handing over $30 and walking out empty handed.
But if you can make your own fish-shaped cake, you are subject to no one’s whims. From experience, it takes about 40 trips to the store because apparently each ingredient has to be purchased separately. Finally, after hours of toil and a healthy amount of swearing at baked goods, you to get a somewhat acceptable fish-themed cake.
That was what I did for my oldest son’s first birthday. As you might expect, he dug into the cake with his bare hands and made a huge mess out of all that work, dropping most of it on the floor. Some things haven’t changed all that much in 20 years.
Now a normal person might learn a lesson from this and not spend all that time making baked goods for infants to destroy.
Instead, it became a tradition. I started making birthday cakes for each of my children. Each cake had it’s own theme — baseball, University of Utah, scooters, Disney.
By the time I got to the cake based on Barbie, I was working in fondant.
I used the bunt cake pan and turned a cake into a beautiful gown for Barbie. As I was hand piping each pink ruffle into Barbie’s dress, a little voice in the back of my head asked me, “what are you doing with your life?”
My cakes had gone beyond the typical homemade Duncan Hines with canned frosting in a glass dish with “Happy Birthday” sloppily written on it.
I was at the peak of my cake making powers, but what happened next would break me as a person.
It was the “Frozen” cake, based on the movie.
It wasn’t enough to just manufacture and use my own fondant — now I needed candy ice shards made from scratch. I incorporated figurines into the cake, which portrayed a scene from the movie, complete with a frozen pond and an ice castle.
It was just too much. No matter what detail I added, be it powdered sugar snow, handmade fondant trees or my daughter’s name written with a cake pen — yes there is such a thing — it just didn’t look right to me.
I’d flown too close to the sun and singed my wings. From that point, my homemade birthday cakes began to slide into the realm of lame.
Cakes went from, “Wow, how’d you do that?” to “Hmm, nice try, Dad.”
However, in all these years, I’d never made my wife a birthday cake. So this year I decided to rectify that error. Now in my mind, I had an image of what I wanted to accomplish — a perfectly square, white cake with beautiful edging and flowers.
The end product could best be described as lumpy.
However, the chocolate crème filling was delicious, so everyone was happy.
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