Disclaimer – bad iPhone pictures ahead!
Seth’s birthday was a couple weeks ago, and the Friday before, one of his coworkers organized a surprise celebration at a local Irish watering hole (thanks, Matia!) The plan was for me and the boys to show up with a birthday cake and party hats to join in the merry making. So, I did some stealth investigations into favorite birthday cakes (other than the lemon tart I make for his birthday every year, he insists on it.) Apparently his mom used to make chocolate chip chocolate cake with white icing and it impacted his young life in a significant way. I decided I could totally do that and blow his socks off, forever securing my culinary superiority over his mother (who is, in reality, a much better cook than me.) Because, you know, being a wife is all about competition with your mother-in-law.**
**Please note, this entire post is written in sarcasm. My mother-in-law is a wonderful, loving person who I thankfully do not have a competitive relationship with, and who raised her son in a way that did not result in his having any mommy issues. Thank you, Janet!
I bought a chocolate cake mix, (because no one has time to make two birthday desserts from scratch in one weekend,) chocolate chips, sprinkles (which the boys insisted on), and candles in the shape of numbers 3 and 6. I’d make the frosting from scratch, because I make a mean buttercream frosting (thank you, Martha Stewart.)
Friday morning I let the boys in on the surprise party coming up and we mixed together the cake, adding in about a cup’s worth of chocolate chips. In and of itself this is quite the feat, when making sure each child gets equal play in the making of the cake and no one manages to cough or sneeze into the mixing bowl. I greased the pans, and even floured them because I didn’t want the cake to stick in any way. The boys ooh-d and awe-d over the magic happening in the oven as the cakes rose, and I pulled them out perfectly done.
After letting them cool for about 10 minutes I loosened the sides with a spatula, because I am an expert cake baker and I know the process for doing these things. Then flipped over the first pan. Nothing. I beat the bottom. Still no movement. So, I loosened the sides a bit more with the spatula, flipped it over again, and then half of the cake plopped out, and half of it stayed crusted to the bottom of the cake pan.
Apparently semi-sweet chocolate chips can tend to cement themselves to the bottom of a non-stick cake pan. I attempted to salvage the second cake, but it just ended up breaking into pieces. So I did what any other self-respecting woman would do – I microwaved my left over coffee and proceeded to eat half of one of the cake layers with my hands. Which of course made me feel SOOO much better, because, you know, gluten.
When Wade found out, he dramatically threw himself on the couch and pronounced that Daddy’s birthday was completely ruined. Eli followed suit. So I gave them each a bowl of cake pieces, ice cream, and sprinkles to shut them up. I like to instill healthy emotional relationships with food in our house.
I wallowed in my shame for a bit, and realized the universe was revealing to me the important lesson that you don’t mess with your significant other’s childhood comfort foods. Those shared memory between them and their mother (or father) are sacred, and your world will shift off its axis if you attempt to defile them.
So, I then did what any self-respecting wife who is expected to bring a cake to her husband’s surprise party – I made one from scratch (only because I didn’t have another cake mix in the pantry, and I couldn’t bring myself to drag the boys to the grocery store). Something different from his mom’s cake, but hopefully equally as good and that will sufficiently impress his coworkers. Because, you know, I have to secure my place as “best coworker’s spouse.” I WILL win some sort of competition with this cake!
I repented of my pride and ended up making an excellent cake. Seth’s party was a success, the boys proudly wore their Dollar General party hats and blew their noise makers, the whole family helped blow out the candles, and our little world (if not my kitchen) is again as it should be.