Sometimes, things just don’t work out. You get to a restaurant and they’ve run out of your favourite dish. You step on a plug. Or, like me, your three tier 50th birthday cake goes completely tits up.
Now, this happened to me nearly a month ago and I’ve only just brought myself to write about it. Fortunately it wasn’t an order for someone else or I’d have had a full on mental breakdown. Unfortunately, for my mum, it was a cake for her 50th birthday party.
My dad had organised a surprise party with 50 of her friends and I was all like ” oh hey dad, why don’t I make the cake” as if it was the most casual thing in the world. In my head I was planning a three-tiered cake, with each tier a different flavour and colour, which, as it turned out, was most definitely NOT casual.
I can’t even really say it started well. The bottom layer was my trusty carrot cake so I really wasn’t worried about it. However, I was baking it in a 24cm springform tin instead of my normal 20cm loose bottomed tin. How I underestimated what a difference this would make. It came out looking like a carrot pancake which, if it was February, I could maybe have got away with.
It turns out this wasn’t the biggest disaster as it was still high enough to not look stupid against the other tiers, plus I padded it out with buttercream.
Now, the next two tiers I sailed through, which lulled me into a false sense of security. The middle tier was a prosecco cake which came out beautifully light and spongy as if it was saying “hey chill, everything’s gonna be fine”.
The top tier was a gin and tonic cake (you might be thinking “christ her mum likes the booze”, in which case you’d be right on the money) and this too came out like a fluffy dream. All was going swimmingly and my carrot cake woes were forgotten.
Even icing the carrot cake went well, so I popped it into the fridge to chill and moved on to the prosecco cake. This, my friends, is where it all went horribly downhill.
I made the utterly stupid decision to put jam in the middle of the cake which, when I began icing the whole thing with buttercream, decided to ooze out leaving it looking like something out of the Walking Dead. “Ahhh well, it’ll just add to the effect” I thought. I was wrong.
Icing the gin and tonic cake was fairly stress-free, but by this point the prosecco cake was still oozing like a bad wound and I had a horrible feeling everything was going to get a lot worse. I was right.
I assembled the tiers without anything collapsing which was a small miracle, looked at my watch and realised I had precisely 30 minutes before we were due to leave for the partay. THIRTY MINUTES.
Which wouldn’t be an issue if I hadn’t decided to put a different coloured drip on each effing layer. I was thinking orange for the carrot cake, pink for the prosecco cake and green for the gin and tonic cake.
If you read that thinking “my god surely that’s going to end up looking like something highly toxic which should only be handled by men in white coats”, you’d be correct.
Nevertheless, I persevered with my plan and set to work putting different coloured drips on the cake, trying to ignore the clock. Only I couldn’t ignore the clock and ended up rushing the whole damn thing so I ended up with horribly runny ganache which basically ran down the entire length of the cake with each colour merging into one another like something from Joseph’s Technicolour Dreamcoat gone wrong.
Still, I tried ignoring my inner critic and ran upstairs to grab my bag, thinking that I’d feel better after walking away from the cake and coming back to it with a new perspective. Five minutes later I opened the fridge and wept like a small child.
Mum’s birthday was ruined. I was an awful baker never to be let near an oven again. My poor boyfriend tried to console me the best he could but the wailing continued. “Let’s just take it over anyway” he said, and I eventually agreed.
You’d think that would be the end of my woes, but no. We got the three-tiered monster into the extremely warm car and within precisely 3.4 seconds it all started to melt. By the time we got to my gran’s house where we planned to get ready before the party the cake looked like something you wouldn’t even want to feed your cat*. I cried. Again.
And so that was it. The cake stayed in my gran’s fridge, I put on my best face and turned up at the party hoping no-one would even know there had been a cake. I hugged the first of the guests as they whispered in my ear “I heard about the cake – what happened?” Turns out my gran, who had obviously arrived before us, had been round and told pretty much the whole room about my cake saga. Excellent.
I ended up getting very drunk that night. The moral of the story? Fail to prepare prepare to fail. Basically make sure you have enough time. Oh and make sure there’s booze handy at all times.
*This is my cat. He’s lovely. Apart from when he waits at the bottom of the stairs like a ninja and attacks your feet.
Oh, and in case you wanted to see the toxic mess… Normally I’d try and take a decent photo but there was literally no point.