Sunday, 1 March 2009


You are only here for the cake-tastrophes, I know, so let's get them showcased upfront.

Caketastrophe #1: The 'hit it with a hammer' ladybird.

Ali, I blamed you for this on Twitter, but it was totally unfair, since Fingers has actually been fixated on it for months. It was TOTAL. HELL. There were technical issues. Many technical issues. Then there was human error. The errors of several humans heaped upon the unhelpful getting underfoot skills of the weepette. Did the Australian Women's Weekly stalwarts account for this when they 'triple tested' the recipe? No, they did not. Did they find moth larvae in the chocolate vermicelli? I very much doubt that they did. Maybe a funnel web spider though? I bet those Women's Weekly ladies are made of extremely stern stuff, and would cow the funnel web into submission with little more than a hard stare and a poke with a silicone spatula. I have no excuse for my substandard performance. I hang my head in shame.

Looks (just) ok, you are thinking? Want the back view?

I did like the smashing part though. The CFO vetoed the hammer on Health and Safety grounds and Fingers rejected my suggested alternative of rolling pin in favour of a spoon. The child is a model of restraint. If he hadn't been the only child born that day in University College Hospital, I would have serious doubts about whether we are in fact related. But smashing is smashing whatever the implement. There should be more smashing of things on birthdays. They should be like dinner at a cheap Greek restaurant on Charlotte Street circa 1985, with an orgy of plate smashing and dancing, though without the retsina. The last time I drank retsina I ended up hiding a baked potato in Violet's bed.

Caketastrophe #2 - The "Parrot"

Despite my trying to follow the illustration of what I believe may be a macaw in "Les Barbapapas envahissent le Congo" or similar, I seem to have made a psychedelic puffin.



You probably think this looks ok. Even I think it looks ok, sort of. Not parrot-like. I tried to get a bit too clever around the eyes. But perfectly passable. However, LOOK AT THE KITCHEN:

You are probably wondering why I don't just buy cakes. I don't know. The nearest thing to an explanation I can find is that it is a little like some kind of ritual sacrifice I feel I must perform yearly, like sacrificing a calf or goat or similar. It is that important. And stupid and pointless and hard. By making the cake - the biggest, most ill-advisedly ambitious, most ridiculous cake - I am honouring this child. (This child who is utterly indifferent to cake.) Somewhere in my twisted brain I have equated cake with love. Don't try and get me to explain it. I know it makes no sense, but the child must have birthday cake and it must have HARD cake and somehow this is a proof of how much I love him because it says 'you were born today and it was the kind of amazing that merits buttercream and silver balls and many many colours of glitter for you are the most wonderful, strange and hilarious creature and I can't believe my luck in having you in my life'. Even the CFO accepts I must make the cake now and confines himself to the odd eyeroll when things get really out of hand and the floor is littered with half toothpicks and silver balls and noone has eaten a meal all day. Tonight he went to bed at 9 to keep out of the way, wisely.

What can I say? I attach mystical significance to cake. As I am otherwise spiritually barren, it seems a fair concession to whatever great unknowable it is that I don't believe in. Especially now when tomorrow, next week, next month seem thoroughly unpredictable and foreign.

And you know, this boy is worth a lot of cake.

Happy birthday, parrot boy. You have been a total delight for the past five years. You have the strongest sense of self of anyone in this house, and what a strange and wonderful self it is. There is plenty more I could say, but I have to go and perform the ritual ablutions of the worktops, before eating the ritual meal of cake offcuts and strawberry bootlaces.


Iheartfashion said...

Beautiful. He is undoubtedly worth a lot of cake.
Happy Birthday!

Completely Alienne said...

Don't knock them - the cakes are absolutely beautiful and he will remember them. I had to go through the cake ritual too (though not as artistically as you) because I just had to do it and my two still reminisce (?) about my past efforts, so it will not be wasted. It is a form of tough (for the cake maker) love.

Who cares about a bit of mess, if you clear up it will only be back tomorrow anyway.

Sarah said...

Maybe the cake-making ritual is a subconscious re-enactment of the arduous hours of childbirth that ushered this child into your life? Certainly, in my experience, it is just as messy, and in a perfect world would only be undertaken with strong painkillers on hand. Your cakes are lovely, and so is your boy. The CFO is a spoilsport for nixing the hammer. What are birthdays for if not a little mayhem.

Mrs Trefusis... said...

You are right. Shop bought cake=I am Bad Mother and my children will grow up to fall in with a Bad Crowd and take crystal meth when hanging at the bus stop with other Youth. Homemade birthday cakes have an arcane power. They are Ancient Magic. They are a yearly ritual designed to ward off evil. Yours are pretty bloody brilliant, by the way, until I saw them was vaguely proud of the chocolate spider Trefusis Minor had for his last birthday. Now I am slinking off back into the arms of my own blog in a fit of maternal inadequacy. Only joking. Good to have you back. xxx

justme said...

The cake was cool....and your boys are BOTH lovely. All is good. You have baked and now you can rest......
Let me know by e mail if you want chocolate......I have turned into the chocolate fairy! I like!!

pinklea said...

My mother made lots of cakes when I was little, so we had store-bought ones for birthdays as a special treat. Also, she was not especially artsy, so no cake was ever given more than a cursory swiping of icing. Also also, I have inherited that from her, minus the baking gene altogether. I buy ice cream cakes for birthdays now. But really, your cakes are lovely and many happy returns to your darling boy (and happy welcome back to you too!).

Marie said...

You have done brilliantly. Many of my most happy childhood memories involve cakes baked for me by my mother and it has taken years for me to realise that I am pretty cake indifferent too, but I could taste the LOVE.

My word verification is 'blydrow' which I think is what someone drunk might say if they were trying to say 'blowdry'.

victoriark said...

These are the moments in which memories are made.

Lisa said...

The cakes were definitely worth the sacrifice. See - what I didn't say (and yes, that's the most recent me in that profile pic), was that I would have bought the cake and then spent the next six months feeling like I'd failed the child somehow. That would have led to the purchase of much crap they don't need or the concession of allowing them to do pretty much whatever they want as long as it didn't require me to rise from my spot in front of the computer.

I think the cakes are lovely, as is your beautiful son.

Mr Farty said...

That cake is bloody superb. And as for equating cake to love, yes, I Love Cake!

Happy Birthday, Fingers!

karenmc said...

I make special birthday cakes for the short people in the family. I spend hours on the decorating (the cake itself isn't all that important). 1. It makes the child feel special, and 2. it is way more impressive than any everyday food. One of the things I loathe most about cooking is that it's gone so quickly, but birthday cakes with an inch of Superman-blue icing or volcanoes & dinosaurs or a plastic doll perched on top of an impossibly big dress that is slowly subsiding at the back can be photographed from a good angle & you can get MONTHS (or more) of value from a few hours' effort.

Well done :) Apparently if you line your bowl with cling wrap - possibly greased, I can't remember - the chocolate 'bowl' will come out easily once it's set. Just in case you need to make another at some stage. And happy birthday to the boychild :)

mothership said...

I love your cakes. I think they are beautiful and clearly stand testimony to maternal dedication. Bravo! Boy will be able to feel it, if not taste it.
Since moving to Stepford I have been sucked into the cult of buying whimsically shaped cake tins at enormous expense and have had to have an extension built to house them all.

My word verification today is


It's what you need to drink to piece yourself back together after today's events (add tonic, lime etc). Consult Mrs. T for more exotic combinations, she's much better than I at that sort of thing.

katyboo1 said...

Of course cake=love. As any fule no.
I now both buy cake and make cake. I make the cake they demand from Nigella, which they never like but I eat. Then I buy the evil cake from the supermarket full of nasty additives, which they all devour. We are all happy that way. Then I make lots of small cakes as well, because after all, it is impossible to have too much cake.

Well done. You should definitely start a book of cakes wot I have made, with full colour pictures both of the cake and the debris. it would be a huge, huge hit.

Pochyemu said...

Well done you! Lovely cakes, lovely boys and lovely mum. You boys will definately remember the cakes you make them when they are older, and they will be much more interesting, funny, and nice memories than if you had just slapped down Sainsbury's celebrations cakes in front of them every year.

PS. My kitchen looks like that on a good day, so...

Hairy Farmer Family said...

I am also a Must Make Cake person, although I permitted myself to buy myself one this year. I made one and let Hubby decorate it last year, which was... interesting. And messy.

Not so sure you're right about the puffin - I was definitely thinking pure Parrot. I'm loving the ladybird lots! I've never thought of a chocolate mould. Clever.

Elsie said...

Inferior bought cake is all my children know-lucky Fingers and Lashes to have the birthday treat they deserve. Lovely pictures of the family-welcome home.

Sinda said...

Your cakes are as beautiful as your children - all stunning.

Shouldn't the CFO perform the ritual cleansing of the countertops? This could be his special contribution to the day!

3limes said...

So funny. I am exactly the same. I go through the biggest stress and catastrophic kitchen twice every year. But you know what? However bad they look my girls, now 9 and 11, just love it and never want me to buy a cake. Ever. So now I am trapped.

Wife in Hong Kong said...

I hang my head in shame and feel rightly and motherly inadequate that I was the pariah who suggested buying cup-cakes. Now I understand and am of course wondering if my children feel unloved because they don't get ladybirds and parrots - which are exquisite you Cake-goddess, you!

Jools said...

I think I might be overwhelmed with guilt. I always knew I should be making the cake. Why, why did I always buy the cake? They are 18 and 28 and things are not going all that well. Keep making the cakes. It is right that they see you "laboring" with love. Bravo. Cake and boy are beautiful.

ptooie said...

Those are some nice cakes! The parrot is only a quarter puffin I think, perhaps from his mother's side...
That's a darned cute kid too. Happy Birthday to him!

Ali said...

Oh bravo. I think your parrot is spectaular and hardly puffiny at all. Gawd isn't the chocolate shell a complete bastard to make! I thought it was me but evidently it is just any non-Women's Weekly woman.
I make at least one cake like this for each child (and often the husband). I might do a post about my disasters because seriously,darling, you are a master patissier compared to me. I once did a pirate ship for the oldest that turned out looking like a float from the gay and lesbian mardi gras. Sounds improbable but it's true.

River said...

The only thing wrong with your parrot is a lack of long tail feathers. Apart from that it looks totally like a macaw. (The beak should be black. Can you get black food colouring over there?)

MsMarmitelover said...

Every year I insist on making my teen a birthday cake. Every year she begs me not to.
I don't care. I am determined to prove that I am a good mother.

Juci said...

You are not crazy at all for putting this much effort in making birthday cakes. It's so worth it. Even if the results look severely substandard to our grown-up eyes, the kids see and experience these things differently.
Glad you're back.

Fat Controller said...

I, too have lived through cake hell and survived.

There was the year that Son wanted a Batman cake. And what colour is Batman? Do you have any idea how many gallons of black food colouring you have to put int icing before it really turns black.

The little lad must have been so full of artificial colourings when he ate the thing that I'm surprised he didn't glow in the dark.

Then there was the Thunderbird 3 made from a swiss roll and an ice cream cornet that fell over as it was borne in...

Jaywalker said...

Iheart - happy birthday to you too! I hope you got lots of cake too. And presents.

CA - I don't know why it's so important but it is. Weird, eh? The mess would have been there anyway, just less glittery.

Sarah - the parrot boy - though 2 weeks late - took a lot less time to arrive than it takes me to make a cake. He's good that way.

Mrs Trefusis - ancient magic indeed. I remember Prog Rock sending me a three layer lemon sponge (the house birthday special for grown ups) in a tin to Oxford. Nothing else is quite the same, is it? My spider (CFO c.2006) sank hideously and looked like someone had stamped on it. Take heart.

Justme - chocolate fairy! Really? Do you do low rent chocolate like Cadbury caramels and M&S chocolate buttons?

Pinklea - thank you! Believe me, it is SO GOOD to be back.

Marie - a drunk blowdry could end up very badly couldn't it?

victoriaark - god, I do hope so. Even with the shouting and the harassed icing coated mother.

Lisa - oh, I do that too. Guilt shopping is my speciality. Cake is my once a year concession to proper parenting. You look very foxy in new pic. I like.

MR F - yay! Yay for cake.

KarenMcC - you see, now you say that, it seems so damn obvious. But is it in the recipe? No. Am I intelligent enough to think of it? Also no. Clever. Very clever.

Mothership - ooh! I must know more now. What shapes do you have?

katyboo - I would very much like to do that. Really vivid, eye wincing colour drenched pictures. Horrible lopsided cake. See? Belgian Amy Sedaris. Now to find a publisher.

Pochyemu - I do hope so. They will probably have a lifelong fear of food colouring.

HFF - I have seen your cakes and they are fucking AMAZING.

Elsie - they usually taste like crap, I can reassure you. And noone eats them. It's a pure empty ritual.

Sinda - I couldn't face the pained sighing I think that would form part of that ritual. His rĂ´le is to say I have done very well and supress his desire to kill me.

3limes - you will still be doing it when they are 40 if me and my sister are any reference. Sorry...

Wife in HK and Jools - no! That would be sanity. You need to know that while I am making them there is lots of shouting at children and banishing to tv and general crossness. It's not pretty.

Ptooie - quarter puffin is not too bad. Especially as fuck you penguin has denounced puffins as non-existent.

Ali - it's a fucker. And Lashes is now demanding the same but with white chocolate (bleugh) for his birthday. Karen's cling film idea is good though. I want to see the Mardi Gras float pirate ship! Please!

River - that would be the constraints of making a parrot in a T rex mould... The CFO was weirdly insistent the beak should be yellow. Ah well.

Msmarmitelover - tsk, it's not about HER. Honestly. Keep on bakin' or something. We need to show ourselves we are worthy.

Juci - let's hope he is blinded by confectionery indeed!

Fat Controller - oh, I know. Red is the same; always ends up goddam pink and then you are in dire trouble with male children. The thunderbird 3 made me snicker gently..

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Beautiful pics, JW, and what wonderful cakes - I have never made a cake in my life, so can only look on in awe - In fact, I am awarding you a Cake Making Maestro award on my blog later today! x

Provincial Lady said...

I agree your cakes are amazing and they will remember them for years to come! I too have to impulsively bake cakes and have found brilliant way to get around the fact that my boyfriend (no kids, as yet) doesn't like cake, the weird alien type man that he is - to avoid having to eat the entire thing myself, which I can and would, I take them into work where my boss loves them and I can make a great impression without having to do any work as such. Win! (ashamed to say I don't even try to ice them)

bevchen said...

I think your cakes are fabulous! And the parrot definitely says parrot to me . puffins aren't that colour. Can't believe the CFO vetoed the hammer though - spoilsport!

Omega Mum said...

Look! I'm here!! With flowers and apologies (but no cake). And I have to apologise. I thought you were on my blogroll. You will be soon. Not that it has anything to do with wanting a bit of vicarious fame from your Sun Times mention. Not a bit of it. It's love....d'you hear. Love!! I am also v keen for you to get a book deal as I want to be at a launch party. Seriously, very well done. Am v, v pleased for you and it's so well deserved. You are consistently so funny and it's beautifully written. Promise will try to come over more regularly. It is only a question of time for just about everything.....

Jaywalker said...

Omega Mum! Do you not love how I am so pathetic I finally threw dignity to the winds and begged you to come and visit? Is that not sad? Ah well. I am glad you did, because you are wonderful.

Bevchen - you are very kind. Lying, but kind.

Provincial Lady - hurrah! Offerings of cake are always welcome in work place. Well, maybe not my cake.

Woman - why thank you! Clearly you didn't enlarge the pics to see the true horror, but I will not be so ungracious as to refuse your kind award. Preparing acceptance speech.

reen said...

Happy (belated) birthday to that handsome son of yours.

My mother and older sisters are true cake-making royalty (my sister even had a custom cake business), and I have great memories of the concoctions they came up with for birthdays, my baby shower, etc. Inspired by you, maybe I'll aspire to make something more ambitious than plain-frosted cupcakes for my own children this year. Never underestimate the power of cake!