Build a cake or something

Saturday night, I attempted to make a cake for our friend Nick for his birthday.

The plan: Double layer chocolate cake with strawberry filling and fresh strawberries on top.

Result: the biggest cake disaster I've ever witnessed in my life.

The two cake rounds kept sliding away from each other on the cake plate. The frosting would not hold its shape, and kept oozing down the sides, creating pocks of bare cake (horror!). I tried to help with the architectural stability by putting strawberry slices around the side, thinking naively that it would help keep the top round from sliding off the bottom. Instead, it created a slimey, strawberry/frosting MESS.

It was a cake massacre.

I laughed the whole time I tried to put the thing together, and by the time Bill appeared from the basement to check on what was taking me so long, I was near hysterical, waving a box of plastic wrap around and shouting "look! Just LOOK at this disaster!"

"I think it looks...erm...great!" he said.

Well, sure. Because even an unidentifiable heap of chocolate is still chocolate. And because we were going to be late. But I am proud.

"I'm not going." I said.

"Stepper..." Bill said in his "you're adorable when you're crazy" tone.

"I cant show my face AND's not even a CAKE!"

"It's fine! It looks fine!"

I just managed to stifle a burst of hysterical laughter. "Bill, this cake definitely does NOT look fine!"

"Well, okay, it's a little...uh...droopy. But it's chocolate and strawberries! You can't go wrong with chocolate and strawberries."

"Yeah, right. It's supposed to be a BIRTHDAY cake! I mean, LOOK at it!" I pick up the cake stand - the whole thing threatening to slide off onto the counter - and thrust it out toward Bill. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NICK! This is what we think of YOU!"

I was laughing again, and pulling out a long strip of plastic wrap.

"If you wrap it, won't the wrap stick to the frosting, and pull it all off when we unwrap it?"

"Without a doubt," I said. "But if I DON'T wrap it, it'll never get there in one piece.

So I wrapped it. And wrapped it. A long strip around the sides to keep the gooey strawberries held to the cake, and to keep the two cake rounds relatively together. A piece over the top, a piece around the bottom - there was no way this cake was going to unwrap well. But, really? It wasn't going to be pretty no matter what.

The whole 45 minute drive to Spanish Fork, I lamented the cake. "I can't make cakes! The last two chocolate cakes I made were disasters, too! Maybe I just can't do chocolate. My spice cakes turn out alright. I need to go to cake school!"

Then the plastic wrap failed me, and the strawberry/frosting sludge began to ooze out onto my lap. I yelled at the cake, the unforgivable betrayal, and tried to staunch the flow with a burp rag I happened to have in my bag.

We arrived, and I stood there at the front door with a ridiculous cake mess in my hand (clearly held together by plastic wrap) and brown splotches all over my pants. I couldn't tell if I was mortified or if I found the whole thing completely hilarious. So I just stood there, cake in my outstretched hands, laughing and averting my eyes when Nick answered the door.

I tried to apologize for the cake, insisting it was no reflection on how we felt about him - but Nick just shrugged and said, "It'll still taste great. You can't go wrong with chocolate and strawberries."

I looked at Bill wide-eyed, and he just grinned at me.

And a few hours later, we found that it did, in fact, still TASTE like a delicious chocolate and strawberry cake.

After we left the pleasant company of our friends (sans cake, thank heavens), we walked over to check on our old house to make sure everything was still in order.

I was not prepared for how difficult it was to walk back through that house. I'd seen it empty, I'd gone back a few times right after we'd moved out. But this time, it didn't feel like the house we moved out of. This time, it felt like our old home. And when I walked up the stairs and saw the kids' rooms, I completely fell apart.

I walked through the empty outlines of the rooms we used to put our children down in, of the floors they used to play on, of the bathtub I used to bathe them in. The family room we used to have late night Psych marathons with air popped corn and homemade smoothies. The table we used to sit around with friends for a good meal or a game of Catan.

This time, it wasn't just a house - I was walking through the memories of what we had left behind. And it broke my heart.

Bill and I sat on the couch together, and remembered with teary eyes (and in my case, blubbering hiccupy sobs) all that we did together within those freshly painted walls.

And then, once again, we rolled up our sleeves, walked out the door, and drove away.

On the ride home, holding the empty cake plate, I said to Bill, "I sometimes feel like my life is a little like that cake. In the end, it's still a cake - but it sure doesn't look the way it's supposed to."

We laughed and joked for a bit about cakes and plans - and how plans (and sometimes cakes) tend to not work out the way you intended (I mean, you should have SEEN the cake in my head!). But the point - we learned together on this car ride home - is that even if the plan doesn't end up being anything like what we thought - there is still a Plan.

And the Master of the Plan is a heckuva lot better at that sort of thing than we are.

He knows the recipe inside and out, and he has a really great oven. Bakes things with a refiner's fire.

So, you know. Turn up the heat.


MikkSolo said...

At least you have incredible parents to hang out with for a while!

PS You can use us as guinea pigs anytime on your cake experiments!

Janey said...

Oh man hilarious. Cept about you reminiscing in your old house. :( This is why, so far, I keep cakes in the sheet pan.

So thus, Ina Garten is the Maker of cakes, and Heavenly Father is the Maker of life.