Cake Me I'm Yours

Miss 11 wanted a hamburger cake for her birthday this year. As in, a cake which resembled a hamburger, but was still a cake. Not a cake which tasted like a hamburger, which is what her younger brother Master Five thought she was talking about. “I’m not eating that,” he said, very seriously. “That sounds disgusting.”

This is definitely the most ambitious birthday cake that I’ve ever attempted. I like cakes that taste good but aren’t necessarily pretty. As in, “Yes, it DEFINITELY needs more caramel sauce poured over the top, who cares what it looks like!” Or “Hmm, I made way too much icing. Better use it alllllll up on this one cake so anyone who eats it immediately gets rotten teeth!”

But Miss 11 said she would help, and under the pretext of “teaching” her how to bake, I agreed.

We thought about it for a while and then decided to make a four-layer cake, with a vanilla layer on the bottom for the bottom “bun”, two chocolate layers in the middle for the “burgers”, and another vanilla layer on the top for the top “bun”. All the “fillings” would be made from different colours of icing. So we made green icing for lettuce, red icing for tomato sauce, and yellow icing for mustard. We considered getting some roll-out fondant to make a slice of “cheese” but we decided against it because fondant looks nice but tastes pretty yucky.

I set Miss 11 to work, measuring and mixing while I sat at the dining room table and painted my nails. Our oven bakes things unevenly, so she had to move the cakes around every couple of minutes while they were baking, so they wouldn’t get weird. After she finished the first two layers, she said she was too tired to go on.

I laughed and laughed. “Oh, no, you don’t get to quit now!” I told her, not a little bit gleefully. “You’ve only made the burgers! Now you’ve got to make the buns!”

So she measured and mixed up the second batch of layers, while I sat on the sofa and read a book, occasionally calling out helpful suggestions while Miss 11 muttered to herself grumpily. Finally those two layers were done, and she said she was ready to go to bed now. (It was 6pm.)

I laughed and laughed some more. “Still need to make all the icing!” I reminded her.

So she measured and mixed and divided and added food colouring and mixed some more, not even bothering to mutter her dismay and annoyance, but fully talking to herself about how this was not what she expected. I could just barely hear her from where I was laying on the lounger on the deck, dozing with the dog at my feet (also dozing).

Finally all the icing was mixed, and Miss 11 said she needed to go do her homework. (It was Friday night.)

I laughed and laughed and then I said, “All right, we can decorate the cake tomorrow.” Because she said she was going to do homework. Voluntarily. I’m not stupid.

So Miss 11 went upstairs grumbling to herself about her plan that backfired, I had to clear up all the dishes she’d used for measuring and mixing and baking, and let me tell you, I don’t think there was a single surface in my kitchen that wasn’t dusted in icing sugar. I was muttering to myself about how I shouldn’t have let Miss 11 go until she cleaned up her mess when Master Five wandered by and told me that for his birthday, he wants a cake shaped like a pizza.

Fortunately his birthday isn’t until November, and I’m thinking by that time, perhaps Miss 11 will be keen to give it a go…

What I’m reading this week: My Sweet Revenge, by Jane Fallon (Michael Joseph $37)

When Paula finds out her actor husband Robert is having an affair with Saskia, his TV costar, she decides to get revenge in an unconventional way: By making her husband fall back in love with her and out of love with his mistress, then dumping him. She enlists the help of Saskia’s husband, Josh, and part of their mutual plan is to get figure-conscious Saskia to gain some weight… But not everything goes to plan, as you’d expect. The cheerful, cake-adorned cover of this book drew me in (because cake) but the plot is more complicated than the simple back-cover blurb lets on. Paula needs to find out what she really wants besides getting back at her cheating husband, and some of that involves self-acceptance and realising her own dreams. A surprisingly satisfying beach read with enough substance to get you thinking about how you’d behave in Paula’s shoes.

Have a great week!

Katherine Granich

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