Saturday, 28 February 2009

Belgian proverb: when life gives you end of days angst, make cake

So here we are. The house bears no signs of the diligent attentions of my imaginary housemaid, regrettably. There is a lingering scent of eau de pipi de tortue with a top note of dead rotting hyacinth that says home. The weepette appears to have doubled in size and smells different. I tried to explain this to the CFO, saying it was the same with the children when they went to stay with his parents, but he looked blank and said he didn't sniff the dog. Oscar has apparently been a paragon in our absence, teaching Fatima's dog the path of righteousness, walking on water and healing the sick and lame. On the strength of this, I do not yet despair of teaching him to lay a fire at 5am and prepare my morning tea. Oddly, Scrabblyclaws, as the spawn now call him, appears to have had a manicure at Fatima's, which is a good start to his career in service. I was reading an article in Vogue on the plane about some outrageously fabulous Highland haute couture taxidermist type person who has a French butler in kilt and tartan waistcoat. I think Oscar could carry that off rather well.

I would say I digress, but how can you digress from a post you haven't even really got around to starting? Where was I? Ah yes. We are HOME. The weepette is home. The CFO was immediately commandeered by Fingers to build a giant Lego crane, cruelly gifted by Mamie and Papy, even before he could check the tortoises. The dishwasher, left shut and dirty for a week, has developed its own ecosystem, or possibly circle of hell. The mothbastards are thriving. They seem to have had some kind of moth conference in the kitchen, presumably swapping notes on where to lay the best class of larvae and where the good cashmere as opposed to the M&S stuff, is kept. I have trodden on several Bionicle claws and Fingers has thrown a domino at my head. All is as it should be.

I cannot pretend that everything is kittens and rainbows, which I am sure you will find thoroughly astonishing given my usual relentless optimism. I dropped into the corner shop for supplies earlier this evening; Damien recoiled slightly with what looked like mild disgust and did not even call me 'jolie voisine', which he normally does as reflexively as breathing to anyone under ninety five. I told you, it's been a tough week. I had to buy moisturiser at the 'Sherpa' super-ette and a diet of cocotte minute cabbage, vin chaud and angst is not the obviously skin brightener. The spawn emptied the shower gel down the loo on the first day. My eyelids look like someone has sandpapered them. Every time I stepped in the lift my ninety five year old reflection whispered 'booootooooox' pleadingly back at me.

More importantly I simply do not know what is going to happen. My head is oddly empty. I will try not to make these annoyingly oblique references a recurring feature. Suffice presently to say noone has done anything terrible and nothing is decided or definitive. If I were a pretentious twat, which occasionally I am, I would say we are in a bit of a mezzo del camin/silva obscura type situation. Ok, now someone has to come over and slap me. Hard.

Thankfully, where all else fails, there are feats of extreme baking to accomplish. Nothing, I find, says "I know exactly what I am doing with my life" like coating the entire kitchen in a layer of edible glitter, toothpicks and icing sugar in the execution of impossibly ambitious and ill-advised birthday cakes.,I have twelve eggs and half a kilo of butter. I have my KitchenAid. I have ready made fondant (admittedly several years old and possibly fossilised). I need two cakes by tomorrow evening and I have some inspired suggestions. Will it be:

1. The Women's Weekly piñata cake recipe (referred to by Ali), with its tricky 'chocolate outer shell' detail and hammer bashing potential?

2. Vanessa's 'glitter outline of a parrot and tell him there are crushed up ladybirds in the cochineal food colouring'?

3. Pochyemu's 'Parrot on a mountain of worms/eating them by the mouthful'?

4. "Other" of my own devising (say no say no, the child deserves better than Herman Van Rompuy rendered in flesh coloured fondant)?

If you need any further information on which to base your choice, I give you this: noone will eat the actual cake except me. Only Lashes will eat the icing, and then only if it is water icing (noone likes fondant or buttercream except me). Fingers will pick off and eat any sweets and discard the rest. The less time I spend on stupid cake decoration, the more time I will spend being agonised and miserable. I have poor hand/eye coordination and if it's possible to fuck it up, I almost certainly will.

Go on, give me some ideas. Because last year, Lashes got this, and it tasted even worse than it looks.


katyboo1 said...

You could randomly make lots of different cakes that you like, chop them into angular bits and glue them together with icing. Claim they are an avalanche and if they dig hard enough under it they will find a parrot sheltering a family of ladybirds under its wings, but only if they are quick.

When they inevitably fail to find them you can say that they have either a) flown away and the first one to find them wins ten euros, or b) been squashed to dust by the avalanche, depending on how much you want to deal with post traumatic stress disorder in small boys.

Glad you are back. Try stabbing the moths with tiny stakes made of cedar wood a la Buffy. Good for releasing pent up aggression and working on hand/eye coordination.

I'll get me coat.

Marie said...

You can kill moths by putting your clothes in the freezer.

This is not a baking suggestion.

lisahgolden said...

I think I would make the walk to the bakery or supermarket and pick up a cake and a couple of tubes of squeeze icing to write his name.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back; you have been missed dear JW. Your 'holiday' sounded gruesome. I hope you feel better once you have got the nice drugs back into your system. And I hope you sort things out in a way that you are happy with.

I have seen parrot pinatas, though someone's suggestion of making one out of a box is good. At least you can stuff it with things he likes. I used to have to make cakes according to strange requests. I always opted for the easy route as I have no artistic abilities at all. fortunately, most small children are surprisingly uncritical. I had to do a whale once; in the end I cooked a chocolate cake in a pudding basin, turned it out onto a plate with blue tissue paper on it, and used black and white icing to make it look like the head of a killer whale just coming out of the sea. Couldn't you do something similar with red icing and chocolate buttons for the spots?

Good luck - and I trust you will be posting a photo of the end result?

PS Katyboo's suggestion of stabbing moths with tiny stakes (cocktail sticks perhaps) sound enormously satisfying and might also make an unusual partygame for children ....

Anonymous said...

But that last cake looks delicious! It's hard to go far wrong with enough sweeties on the top, seriously.

I still say go for the pinata - it has the added benefit of allowing you to have a go at whacking it with a stick/bat/hammer/rolling pin/axe to release any off-piste -ness you may still be harbouring from the holiday from hell.

Your word verification for today is
I think this thing is psychic.

the queen said...

I would suggest an Eat me Cake:

but you say children will be there? Could you leave off the banana? O rperhaps save it for another day.

the queen said...

TinyURL to the rescue:

Anonymous said...

I am in favor of the parrot on a pile of worms cake. Just think of all the obsessive attention you can give to each individual worm and parrot feather! And but then when you get fed up, you can easily render the remainder of either one in quick impressionistic strokes and it will still work. And it has a certain fatalistic perfection of theme.

Why DO so many lifts have mirrors in them? It is not right and it is not a good idea. There one is, bathed in unflattering light, with nothing to do but stare at one's horrible reflection. Ugh. The only thing worse is mirrors opposite one's seat at the dinner table. I do not want to see myself eating, no, never, thank you, and when the mirror is there I cannot help catching my own baleful eye.

Mr Farty said...

You could make a carrot cake and then decorate the outside as a parrot. Possibly with lots of orange icing. Then you can surprise him with: "What's orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot."

You're welcome.

GingerB said...

Not everyone is sensitive enough to recognize how the smell of the dog/child/spouse changes with time/distance/emotional fluctuations. Count yourself lucky and use it to your advantage - this is proof the weepette should always be close.

As to the cake issue - do whatever is faster so you can get back online, where you belong. Please.

justme said...

your cakes ae always wonderful. Whatever you do will be fine.
Welcome home. xx

Mutter said...

Go to a patisserie and buy cup cakes or local equivalent. Explain that you were away until the last minute and had no time to bake and anyway all your baking ingredients have been found riddled with moth larvae. I defy any birthday guests to question your wisdom. If no one eats the cake blame the baker. At least it will be over for another year.

Mya said...

Happy birthday Fingers/Lashes...I'm a bit addled here (quoi neuf?)
Hope cake was good and that stomach pumps were avoided. Surely the weepette will eat any leftovers - isn't that what dogs are for?
Mya x

Cassandra said...

Welcome home, you internetionally famous lady! I read that Vogue article and I thought it those stuffed animals sounded fucking creepy. Butterflies/bones = OK, taxidermy = stuff of NIGHTMARES.

Persephone said...

My dear, when I read the title of your post last night (as elder daughter was impatiently waiting to boot me off the computer in order to do frivolous homework), I nearly choked! Check the cartoon on my February post! Our lives may be entwined in some weirdly cosmic way. And we'd better disentangle ourselves before we drag each other to the muddy depths...

Anyway. On the cake front. You have some idea of my cake-decorating skills. Try to forget that. My descendants (all two of them) fall into two cake-camps. Elder daughter does not care for them; younger daughter does. I make ice cream cakes for the former. Let me tell you sometime about her eighth birthday party when I set her Hogwarts castle ice cream cake on fire. I whip up my famous Rainbow Cupcakes for the latter. You bite into it and get a psychedelic experience and no, I don't mix hallucinogens into the batter. Will provide details only if you wish it. Welcome home.

Persephone said...

I meant my February 28th post; my proofreading skills grow worse by the day...

Z said...

The smell of dogs is terribly important. I cuddle up to my dogs (I've only got one at present, I'm referring to half a century of experience) and sniff their paws. It is only an attractive scent if you love the dog, however, and some smell better than others.

nappy valley girl said...

Welcome back Jaywalker, you've been much missed. (As someone who is soon to go skiing herself and experience the delights of shopping at Sherpa for forgotten items, your posts have served as a great warning....)

Can't advise on cakes, as am hopeless at baking and always buy them in. But hope you're OK.....

The Spicers said...

Welcome back!
Hope you'll post the results of your baking...

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a cake you can smash with a hammer.

Waffle said...

I am back in ur comments box tryin to say coherunt stuff.

hello. I will not go back any further as there are many crayons to be sharpened and miles of glitter to be cleared before I sleep.

Katyboo - I loved your idea, but when it came to it I couldn't cope with more than one kind of cake. I love the idea of an avalanche (for obvious reasons).

Marie - most of my jumpers do live in the freezer. I seem to have the kind of uber-moths that laugh at such treatment. I think they hide in the rug then jump into the jumpers as soon as I get them out of the freezer. Problem.

Lisa - IS THAT YOU? You change your photo so often. I like this one. Your suggestion suggest you are sane, instead of being a demented perfectionist.

CA - the killer whale sounds magnificent.

Mothership - honestly, it was vile. There's something about blue icing. Sadly, the parrot is also blue.

Waffle said...

Queen - why he is magnificent! His full, sensuous moustache! I need something other than a banana though as yick. Horrid. Hmm. Thinking..

Redfox - the saddest thing is, back at the London corridor of tedium I used to go deliberately for the lifts with mirrors so I could check my 'look'. ha! how are the mighty fallen.

Mr F - funnily enough Prog Rock called as I was icing the parrot and he thought I said carrot. He seemed to think icing a carrot was a normal activity.

GingerB - but can this be true? It was so obvious! And repellent. Now he has started smelling right again, thank goodness.

Justme - ah, you are lovely, but so so wrong. Check it out..

Wife in HK - this is so right, but see today's post for attempted explanation of why I don't seem to be able to do this. and also how prophetic your moth larvae commetn was.

Mya - Fingers. Small one. Nouvelle Star! Nouvelle Star! I might revive 'french tv is rubbish' blog so we can have proper discussion.

Cassandra - it was the kind of article that makes me laugh hysterically then stick my head in a vat of buttercream. There are lots of them, sadly.

Persephone - that is utterly spooky. No decisions but much cake is indeed the order of the day.

Z - he is now smelling Oscar like again. Lovely. Especially his ears. I can actually feel BMF vomiting as I type this. Sorry BMF.

NVG - oh dear oh dear. Do try and enjoy it. Feign injury if necessary. Vin chaud, eh.

Iheart - done! Health warning though.

Bevchen - there should be more of it, no?

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