As you guys know, Heidi’s first birthday was last week. I love to bake, and I’ve always prided myself on making homemade cakes for my family on their birthdays. Maybe “pride” isn’t the appropriate word… The birthday cakes are generally not cakes to be proud of, because I never just keep it simple. If I stick with a nice, simple sheet cake, it comes out great. But am I content making a simple sheet cake for birthdays? Oh no. And when I try to get creative or artistic, things just go from bad to worse.
When Claire turned one, I decided that I wanted to make her a layer cake. Layer cakes aren’t too fancy – they’re all over Pinterest and they look beautiful! A proper birthday cake! Since I had never made a layer cake before, I decided to do a test run about a week before Claire’s actual birthday. Good thing, too, because that thing came out CRAZY. The cake looked like a muppet gone wrong – very purple, very messy, and very lopsided. Maybe a muppet took a bite out of the side?
The second cake trial didn’t go much better, as the batter mysteriously baked into a dome. I tried cutting the domed tops off, but it was impossible to make a layer cake with these bad boys:
The third test cake – icing too thick:
After several trials, I did wind up making a decent-looking layer cake, and everyone was happy. Phew!
Claire’s second birthday was a true cake wreck. I was smart and decided to make a sheet cake instead of a complicated layer cake. However, the decorating got the best of me. Let’s be honest, chocolate buttercream frosting would have sufficed here. But I felt the need to add purple buttercream piping. Well, that just looked bad. Then I decided to use purple writing gel to write “Happy Birthday!” But I ran out of gel before I could finish. So I used a chopstick to steal gel from other letters to finish “birthday.” Hideous. Then I had final bad idea to add pink polka dots. They really brought the whole ugly mess together.
Jesse had the misfortune of having one of my infamous cakes as well. I decided to go with a Rocky Road birthday cake recipe from an old cookbook I’ve had for ages. Rocky road cake sounds great in theory, but in practice, it looks horrendous. When you mix bite-sized marshmallows and chopped walnuts together with chocolate frosting, the result looks like what you might find in your baby’s diaper. Seriously. I tried to save the day by adding extra marshmallows and walnuts to the top, which helped immensely.
Claire requested a heart-shaped cake for her third birthday, and I thought we were in for a huge disaster. But, by some miracle, the cake came out beautifully. On the first try. Go figure.
Now, my most recent cake disaster – Heidi’s first birthday. I haven’t learned my lesson, so I decided to make yet another layer cake. Haha! And I decided to color the icing with – wait for it – beetroot juice. I stewed beetroot pulp on the stove for 40 minutes to extract the color. While pressing the beetroot through a sieve, my wooden spoon broke, flinging beetroot pulp all over the kitchen (and my child). It looked like I had hacked my arm off in the kitchen.
To make matters worse, my cake layers bubbled over and cake batter burned all over the oven.
One of the layers was bizarrely raw on one side, and totally caved in. But I persevered, and frosted the darn thing anyway. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I managed to pull off a BEAUTIFUL cake for Heidi’s birthday, even with my lopsided, half-baked layers. The beetroot frosting actually turned out gorgeous, if I do say so myself.
Many people say that it doesn’t matter what a homemade birthday cake looks like; it is made with love, and it will always taste delicious. My ugly, delicious, full-of-love cakes really fit that bill. 🙂