Is the Cake Good?

I’m going to use yoga here as a reference. And then I’m going to stop (maybe) because this post isn’t about yoga. It’s about frosting. But for some random reason, I need to set up the frosting with a gratuitous yoga reference. It will make sense by the end, promise.

The first time I attempted to try a yogic hand stand, I had to keep thick blankets under the general area that my head would be. I did this because I was prone to falling directly on the same noggin I would need to use for thinking at some point in my day, and I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be hospitalized or dead later. It shouldn’t have been that deep, but I had told myself for so many years that I had weak wrists, and so my body had no choice but to prove me right on those times I caught the ovum to do random handstands on hard floors. Trying to hold myself up with my (actually quite strong) arms was the equivalent, in my mind’s eye, of trying to balance a boulder on a toothpick. It’s a stupid thing to try, but the novelty of believing anything is possible is why daredevils exist in the first place. I can’t really call myself a daredevil, but I can say I’ve been on a mission to figure out if there is something I’m not meant to be able to do just because I feel like I should be able to it. Is everything really possible? Or is that just one of those junk phrases corny optimistic people (like me) tell other people because it sounds better than “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

So there was a point where I was quite obsessed with these inversion poses (being upside down) and I would see all these gorgeous upside down things that yogis around the world could do (on Instagram) and I just believed that I too could do those things with my body on the first or second or third go–fully realizing that those people on Instagram had been practicing for like, I dunno, since birth. And yes, I would take pictures too of me doing all of these potentially awesome yoga poses, because that’s what you do on Instagram if you’re not taking pictures of your food. And yes, my pictures would look just as beautiful. Welp. Turns out yoga is called a practice for a reason. The pictures and videos I posted were always more funny than beautiful. Until one day, accidentally, I was able to do a handstand. And the picture I luckily captured of it was also kindof pretty. I couldn’t hold myself up for more than a second or two, but we’ll suppose, the point was that I did it. My months of hard work had finally paid off with progress. Why class? Your guess is as good as mine. Just kidding. The answer is frosting.

Queen’s Log: I have been in sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.   -Zora Neal Hurston 

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My awesome daughter introduced me to a British Baker named Jemma, who owns a bakery called Crumbs & Doilies in London. Aubrei and I watched a Youtube video of Jemma effortlessly preparing a rainbow cake that was so freakin cute, I was practically foaming at the mouth about when I would have the opportunity to make such a cake. It’s essentially a from scratch 6 layer cake of 6 different brilliant colors, glued together with white butter cream frosting. It would be perfect for Aubrei’s birthday cake. Aubrei’s birthday was on Thursday. So fast forward to Wednesday. The day before the Thursday in question.

Maintenance Guy: I’ve got good news and bad news.
Me: Yeah? What’s the good news?
MG: You’re gonna get a new oven.
Me: Really? That’s great! What’s the bad news?
MG: It won’t be here till maybe next week. (you know, the week after you’re supposed to bake this monumental rainbow cake + cupcakes for school.) 
Um. Yeah. The timing of it all was simply delicious. I meant ludicrous. I mean, utterly maddening. Especially when my friend Jonka suggested that I could try to use the toaster oven, McKeever style to bake 24 cupcakes before school and 6 other regular cakes before Aubrei’s surprise party. Yeah. Because I can’t think of any time when I turn down a challenge–unless it involves extraordinarily large or venomous bugs– I’m a bring it on kind of gal. Plus, I’m a baker, who comes from a long line of bakers. As Mother Maya said once, I walk along, and stand as 10,000… I shall not be moved. I could do this.

Have you ever tried to bake a masterful confection in a toaster oven? My dad effectively capped up the exact sentiments when he said, it’s the equivalent of trying to make something edible in an Easy Bake Oven. Good luck with that. But guess what happened? It took freakin FOREVER. I could only bake one cake at a time, but I had two bake tins and bowls to work with. I had to mix up two different colored batters at a time, thus creating a system that included taking one cake out of the oven, let it cool, remove cake from pan, clean pan, prep pan for a new color cake batter, fit an aluminum foil crown just so over the young cake while it was in the oven, so it wouldn’t brown too soon and then take said aluminum crown off just in time for the final rise and brown. Then I had to clean the bowl to prepare the next colored batter, take cake out of oven, etc. It was a process I wouldn’t wish on Martha Stewart. It stretched my sanity more than it did my baking skills. When FINALLY I had 6 baked cakes… roughly 6 hours later and I had trimmed, leveled and assembled my (all damn day) cakes with my first iteration of buttercream, them jawns… kept sliding to one side like that blasted tower in Pisa. I could have cried. Plus, there were about a dozen other things that happened throughout the day that I honestly can’t even giggle about yet. Too soon, tooooo soooon. Honestly, it felt a little better to fall on my head trying to do a handstand. It’s true. I suffer sometimes from creative perfectionism syndrome.

But then guess what happened? I got really, really, really pissed off. Like, scream somebody’s head off pissed off. Like, if somebody tried to give me a pep talk at that moment, they might could get cut kind of pissed off. My daughter’s cake, which was sitting in the fridge looking like somebody’s disaster “nailed it!” meme, had shown me, albeit briefly, that there was something I could not do. I could not, in fact, bake an entire masterpiece for 6 hours in the equivalent of an easy bake oven and brag about it later. Humph.

It was through my pissedness that I realized I had to make the cake work. You see, I was throwing Aubrei a little surprise party with some very, very special guests. There was no way in this omniverse I would serve a cake that would shame both of my grandmothers’ baking legacy (ego) and (in my head) spoil my daughter’s day for her. The plan was simple. I would start over. At the middle. Which meant I had to disassemble the leaning tower of Pisa and figure out the problem. Turned out, the problem wasn’t with the cakes. They were as level as they could be under the circumstances. The problem was my buttercream mortar. Thinking back on my handstands of lore, I had to make a tiny (and accidental) adjustment of my hand placement in a way that would support my weight properly. For my frosting, I just needed to add a few more cups of confectioner’s sugar. My buttercream wasn’t thick enough to hold my cakes without sliding. Duh. It was a relatively quick fix, and so I fixed my frosting, reassembled my rainbow tribe, decorated that jawn, put it in the fridge and got everything ready for the party. Aubrei had an awesome birthday, the cake looked and tasted good and we all lived happily ever after. The End.

I did it. It wasn’t easy, nor is it a thing I wish to repeat on a bet. But I was/am proud. I learned a bit about the stuff I’m made of. I learned the constructive power of pissed. And that a teeny bit of ego can be useful under pressure. I also learned another valuable lesson we all can take with us on the journey. I tried desperately to get everyone who would listen to fully grasp the magnitude of what I had gone through to get that cake made. The tediousness of it all. I got one universal response: “The cake is good.”  Let’s assume then that the story really isn’t in the trials we’ll face to get something done. The trials shall be present. Sometimes in seemingly ridiculous fashion. Meanwhile, the real story is the outcome. Is the cake good? Good.

Yours in Stiffer Frosting,