I’ve never wanted to make my own birthday cake. I mean, the whole idea of a birthday is that everyone else does everything for you and you get to feel like royalty for a day.
But the trouble is, I make the best cakes in town.
I mean, not to be immodest or anything, and there are bound to be other people out there who also make wonderful cakes (like Andy), but I know what I want and I know how to make it (or so I think). The commercial bakeries make very good looking confectioneries, with lots of whipped cream, strawberries, chocolate flakes, fancy-schmanzy piping and all that… but when it comes right down to it, I want my cake to have chocolate, lots of chocolate, rich, dark, sweet, thick, cloying, kill-me-now chocolate, and I don’t know anyone who does that better than me.
Not having had much to do in the past couple of weeks or so, I’ve been fantasizing about my birthday whenever I had a moment to spare. Let me add that I’m not usually like this – usually, my birthday arrives practically without my noticing it, lasts for a day or two (as long as the cake lasts) and is forgotten in a day. But this year I’ve been dreaming of my birthday the way a person on a diet dreams of a big, greasy pizza followed by a mound of chocolate cake and ice cream. Which is not much of an analogy because it’s way too close to the truth. (Except for the diet part… not much truth in that! But we’ll ignore that for now.)
So anyway, as the birthday drew nearer, I worked out precisely which cake I wanted to make, which icing I wanted on it, how much of it I wanted to make, when I was going to make it, when I was going to eat it and so on and so forth. I almost became obsessed with my birthday cake.
Which, I suppose, explains a lot – obsessions are never a good thing.
I started mixing the cake on Sunday morning. My birthday was on Monday (that’s today), but I wanted to have the cake done on Sunday, so that on my birthday I didn’t have to mess around with butter and cocoa and other gross things. Besides, I had some vague thought of a midnight cake-cutting followed by a midnight cake and ice cream session. Ok, it wasn’t all that vague. Obsession, remember?
By Sunday lunch time, two cakes had gone into the oven and two plus a mess had come out. One of the cake tins, you see, had a removable bottom. This is supposed to make it easier to get the cake out after it’s baked. It’s not supposed to let the cake out in liquid form, but that’s what it had done. The cake mix had oozed out onto the baking tray below, and there it had baked and burned into a strangely shaped, chocolate coloured mess.
Well, we ate the mess right away, it wasn’t too badly burnt. And the second cake came out ok, because it’s bottom stayed right where it was supposed to be. And, what’s more, the baking tray actually got washed for the first time in years.
Next, for the icing. I had decided on fudge frosting, which is totally yummy. The recipe I have always makes too much. Instead of scaling it down, I make it all, and then consume it in pieces over the next few weeks – it becomes like chocolate when you refrigerate it.
The trouble with icing of any kind is, and always has been, that it requires icing sugar. For some reason, this is an ingredient that is extraordinarily difficult to get hold of anywhere near wherever I happen to be at the time. So when we finally got around to looking for it on Sunday evening (after the Australian Open, poor Roger!), we were naturally heading towards death, desolation and despair. Well, not death maybe, unless I killed the next shopkeeper who said he didn’t have it, but certainly desolation and despair. It was only after five negatives that I finally got a maybe, and that yielded three ancient, dust-covered, tiny packets of icing sugar. I snapped them up – the dust cover notwithstanding.
The frosting was ready by 9.30, by which times the cakes were stone cold sober. Well, stone cold at least was important ( because they had never been intoxicated in the first place). The frosting was still warm-ish, but I decided to take the chance and use it anyway. I took the cake that hadn’t oozed out at the bottom and leveled its top; then I smeared a thick layer of frosting on it and jammed on top of it the cake that had oozed out at the bottom.
With disastrous consequences.
The top layer started disintegrating in front of my eyes, while I desperately tried to glue it together with huge quantities of frosting. A futile effort. The top layer slowly slid apart on the lower layer of frosting, creating dramatic ravines of frosting as it did so. I would have wept, but Amit’s shoulder was way too high to cry on, so I couldn’t.
Eventually, I slid the disintegrating pieces off the cake, dumped them on a separate place, scraped off the messed-up frosting and spread a fresh layer (the benefits of having lots of frosting at hand) and wrote off half the cake. That is, being a die hard chocaholic not easily put off by such minor matters as form factor, I smothered it with ice cream and gobbled it up as homemade Death by Chocolate. (Haven’t heard of it? Here’s a short introduction.)
What, me? Diet? Who ever thought of such a thing?