Friday, January 8, 2010

The Birthday Cake

Mom's birthday was always a special occasion. Daddy used to have a nice gift for her and we children would try our hand at creating something special too.

The busy summer days were passing and as her birthday approached I kept trying to think what I could make for her this year. John and David were making a wooden shelf with a cute little rail around it, but so far I still couldn't think of anything.

I dug through boxes of fabric scraps hoping that I would become inspired but nothing seemed to work. Then one Saturday as we were doing our weekly baking I found a recipe book that had colored photos of desserts. As I paged through it I found what I was looking for. A beautiful marbled layer cake with thick fluffy frosting.

I knew Mom had a doctors appointment a few days before her birthday which would give me the golden opportunity to have the kitchen to myself to bake the cake while she was gone and the mess cleaned away before she came home.

I took the cookbook to my room and pored over the recipe. I had visions of how pleased Mom would be when she saw and tasted the beautiful cake I was going to bake.

The day finally arrived when she had to go to her appointment. I kept watching out the window waiting for the driver to come. After what seemed like a long time I saw him appear over the hill. I told Mom he was coming and she hurried to get her bonnet and handbag and told me after I swept the kitchen floor I was free to play until it was time to peel potatoes for supper. I watched as they backed out the driveway and drove down the road.

I got the mixing bowl out and started on the cake. It wasn't long before I remembered I needed to preheat the oven. I opened the stove door that held the oven burners and pulled them out. After carefully tipping the chimneys back I turn the wick up and carefully struck a match to light them. As the flame caught the wick and started spreading around it I lowered the chimney. It got stuck a little bit and as I jiggled it to loosen it when it suddenly dropped down and snuffed my flame. I tried it again but the same thing happened. After numerous attempts I finally gave up and went down in the shop and told Daddy what my plans were and how I couldn't get the burners lit. He came and lit them for me, and after I had adjusted the wick until the flame was burning a nice blue like Mom always did I was finally ready to continue with my cake.

I showed Daddy the picture of the cake I was planning to make. He smiled and said "It looks really good," as he patted my shoulder and then went back to his work in the shop.

I glanced at the clock and was dismayed to see that I had wasted quite a bit of time trying to get the burners lit and decided I would have to cut a few corners if I wanted to have the cake cooled enough to have it frosted before Mom came home. I decided to make only one layer instead of two. It didn't take very long to make the batter, and I was feeling better about my plans again. The recipe told me to melt some chocolate chips and stir them into part of the batter. To save time I decided to just pour the chocolate chips into the batter and let them melt while the cake was baking and have a lot of cute little swirls in the cake. I poured in the chips and stirred it vigorously and then decided to pour another cupful of chips in to make it extra special.

As I poured the batter into the cake pan I had visions of Mom asking me how I ever managed to make so many little chocolate swirls in the cake, and how pleased she would be to find out how easy it was. I set the timer, and then turned to the frosting section in the cookbook to find the perfect recipe.

I wanted to try something different from the regular one Mom used to make, and it didn't take me long to find it. Lemon Flavored Icing. I got my bowl ready and dumped the powdered sugar in and added lemon juice. It wasn't turning out creamy and fluffy like I had hoped it would but I didn't have time to start another batch. The cake was now cooling in the refrigerator and I needed to get it frosted and hidden before Mom came home.

As I was washing the dishes I had used I thought of the perfect way to still make the cake beautiful. I would use food coloring. The back of the package had instructions on how to mix the colors to get a color other than the basic four. A lovely purple would look very pretty and be just the thing to help the cake become special since so far it wasn't co-operating with the one I had envisioned. I carefully measured in the drops of food coloring but instead of turning a lovely purple it turned into a sickly hideous brownish orange. I felt like crying as I looked at it.

There was no time to do anything because I heard the crunch of gravel on the driveway and when I looked out the window and saw that Mom was at home I quickly grabbed the cake and my bowl of frosting and ran upstairs to my room. I sat on the floor and poured the frosting on the cake. It was too thin and as hard as I tried to spread it evenly over the cake I soon found out it was impossible as it all wanted to pool around the edges. I hid it in one of my desk drawers and went downstairs and helped Mom get supper ready.

When her birthday arrived and I presented her with my miserable cake she smiled and beamed as if it actually looked pretty. She cut pieces for everyone. I was disappointed to see that the chocolate chips didn't melt and swirl like I intended that they should and since I had added more than double what the recipe had asked for the cake was crumbly. The icing wasn't much better since it had dried to a brittle lemony mess. Mom must have sensed that my dream cake had turned out all wrong because she asked for a second piece, commenting how nice it was to have a daughter old enough to make a cake all by herself.

I still wasn't happy with the cake, but Mom made me feel special and I vowed to make it up to her next year by making something really nice for her birthday instead of a cake.


  1. Your post made me smile as I imagined your story in my mind. It also reminded me of a time or two that I tried to "cut corners" and something turn out miserably wrong! It's funny to look back on the memories now...glad we learn from our mistakes and that our cooking/baking gets better with time. :o)

  2. i absolutely loved your story. I actually put mini chocolate chips in my cakes and brownies always. and p.s. even in my 40's I still called my father, daddy. He liked it when his girls called him that. I love reading your blog, thanks for sharing.

  3. Aloha, you captured me completely,loved your memoir and I enjoyed your sweet sentiments of how loving and tender your Mother was to you at such a pinnacle in your baking career and your desire to show her how much you loved her.
    I show my love through cooking and feeding people, I get a lot of pleasure from it, it's part of my love language, and my polynesian heritage too,Mahalo for sharing

  4. Oh, what a kind heart your mother showed! Like balm to you, I am sure...and you were so sweet, too, to try to make something special for her...

  5. i would bet that cake was your mothers favorite! what a sweet daughter you were( probably still are) and what a wonderful mother! aren't moms the best?

  6. Awwwe, what a heartwarming story. I bet the cake was your Mom's fave cake.

  7. Oh, that is a sweet story (no pun intended). I've experienced a few of those cakes and other special treats from my oldest girls when they learned to cook.
    And BTW, you can enter any giveaway of mine you want, even if you just won one. :)

  8. Aren't Moms Great!

    Mine has been dead for 10 years and I still miss her.

    Thanks for sharing your story.
    God bless you

  9. awww man your storys are always soooo wonderful a thought from a different time yet still so relateable I just love your blog!
    Thanks for sharing a bit of your history with us

  10. I nominated you for a blog award here:

  11. Thanks for sharing this precious memory, for so many others to enjoy!

    You're a special lady!~~mm

  12. Hi,
    I will be glad to share the recipe for the Broccoli Ham Ring. Will get it posted later today, dh and grandsons just got back from target practicing,need their hot cocoa and lunch :o)

    Have been enjoying your posts very much.


  13. That is the sweetest story. Anything homemade gets my vote so I'm sure your mom was thrilled! Sara made me a pillow for Christmas and I cried like a baby - it was so special that she did it just for me. You know what I used to do - take books off the book shelf and wrap them in aluminum foil and give them to my family. Pure genius, huh??? HA HA I hope I was REALLY little when I did that! ♥

  14. Thank you for sharing your memories. I love them, they are so rich in love. thank you and I am glad you are warm now, please be carefull.

  15. Great story of your struggle to make the perfect cake, only to have it turn out less than perfect. I'm so glad your mother was sweet and appreciative of your efforts.

  16. what a wonderful story! i'm sure your mom loved the cake! thank you for commenting on my blog. i really appreciate it. i'm glad you enjoyed the whiteness and the cleanness of the snow, especially considering that you have had some coooooold, wintery days that haven't made snow look good in any way. i hope that the rest of your winter is warm and cozy!


  17. I missed this post on my last visit. I'm so glad I found it today. You told this story so beautifully that I could feel your excitement and disappointment as well as your mother's tender love for you.
    Thanks again for a heart warming post.

  18. Touching... I'm moved to tears by this sweet memory of your childhood, especially what your mother did for you. Thanks for sharing it with us!


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