Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ace of Cakes I am not.

My apologies for not posting sooner, but my Henry turned 8 years old yesterday, and I know that we weren't exactly speaking of my heroes, but I gave birth to four of them, and I married the other one.

Have I mentioned that Henry also hearts Lego with a passion usually reserved for people and pets, and not tiny little pieces of colored plastic?

There are THOUSANDS of pieces of Lego that have taken up residence at our home. THOUSANDS. A few naughty ones have been punished with a trip up the vacuum cleaner hose, but the rest of them spend most of their days in brightly colored buckets on the bookshelf in Henry's room, when they are not dumped on the floor in piles in said bedroom, of course.

Despite the fact that there are MILLIONS of Lego bricks in our home, (Yes. I have a theory that Lego bricks actually multiply overnight. They mate and have little Lego babies, and I am telling you, they are like rabbits, because every time I turn around, I swear there is a new batch of bricks.) Henry always seems to know exactly which bricks he has, and which ones he doesn't. In fact, he keeps the heads separate from their little Lego bodies, so he can access them when needed.

And no, I do not think it's the least bit alarming that my sweet little boy has a self-described, "bucket of heads" in his bedroom on the bookshelf.

It was only fitting that Henry would have a Lego birthday party with his peeps this year.

I am well aware of my talents, people, but "Cake Decorating" will not make the list now, or anytime in the near future. Yes, I'm sure I could find a class somewhere that I could take in order to hone my skills, but let me tell you, that when I have free time, the LAST thing I want to do is pick up a piping bag and spatula. I'm leaving that job to the pros.

But I am somewhat of a cocky gal. I watch the TV shows that make it look so easy, and I see many of my talented Facebook friends post pictures of their homemade Lightning McQueen cakes, Chewbacca cakes, or Disney Princess cakes. I think to myself that surely I can make simple, rectangular, Lego bricks out of flour, water, eggs, and sugar.

Surely I can, right?

Well I am here to announce that the next time I say to you, "Piece of cake! (pun intended) I saw Duff Goldman (of Ace of Cakes fame) make a cake of an armadillo lying on a beach towel in the middle of an arctic tundra who was smoking a cigar while simultaneously installing an iPhone app, and I can totally do that too!" then you have my full permission to slap me heartily across my face. Hard. Just so I get it through my thick skull that, no, that would NOT be a "piece of cake."

And that is the big difference between Clare and Duff Goldman. Duff has mad skills with a spatula, flour, water and eggs, and I, for one, do not. I guess there is also the teensy-weensy little difference that he is short, bald, and male, and I am none of these things. But we both kind of snort when we laugh, and that, right there, is our only similarity.

Anyway, back to my Duncan Hines debacle.

The plan was to bake three Lego bricks. I made two boxes of white cake mix, because Henry does not like chocolate. I poured one mix into two bread pans, the other mix went into a square pan and the remainder went into a mini-muffin pan. The mini-muffins would be the Lego prongs, or "studs". Genius, right?

In theory.

I baked them all, (not at the same time, of course) and let them cool. That part is simple enough, and there was no doubt that I could do it. However, what I didn't realize, is that there is a reason that cake pans are shallow and thin. It is because cake is not supposed to be thick and deep and made in a bread pan. It crumbles and starts to fall apart if you attempt to move it.

I do not own a platter or board large enough to display 3 cakes. So of course, very...ahem...SANITARILY...I went into my dusty basement storage area, ripped the lid off of one of my large, plastic Sterilite storage boxes and was all, "This'll do. Cake platter. Done."

Sidenote to the parents of Henry's friends who attended the party: Don't worry. I scrubbed the dirt and the spider carcasses off the lid with warm, soapy water. Please do not call the Health Department.

I clumsily moved the three cakes from the cooling rack to the Sterilite lid, (Really, you guys. Try it sometime. It's cheap chic.) leaving a plethora of crumbs in its wake. Because the cake. It crumbles. Because it's too thick.

Duff Goldman already knows this. 

But no worries! Frosting will fix this! Frosting is like glue! It can totally repair the cracks and fissures forming in my Lego bricks!


Now, heaven forbid that my Lego bricks NOT be multi-colored. I decided they would be red, yellow and green. Food coloring is simple enough, right? Let me rephrase that. Food coloring is simple enough for most people, right? Most people. Personally, I just find it to be a total menace. (And "menace" is the only appropriate word I can think of to describe that devil liquid.) Also? I have a piece of advice that will take you far in life: don't wear your favorite jeans when working with the aforementioned devil liquid. You might cry.

Fun fact of the day: White frosting + a WHOLE BOTTLE of red food coloring does NOT = red frosting. However, it does equal a barfalicious shade of Pepto Bismol pink that in NO WAY will make an 8-year old boy think that his Mommy baked him an oh-so-manly PINK cake for his rippin' cool Lego party.

I mixed up the PINK-ish frosting, repeated, "Screw it. It's just a birthday cake for little kids to eat," about 8,427 times in my head, and went to work coating the first brick. (I had sliced off the tops of the mini-muffin-cake and placed them upside down on top of the too-thick-crumbly-cake made in the bread pan.) The cake continued to crumble and fall apart, and my feeble attempts to "glue" it back together with "red"/pink frosting were leaving me feeling more frustrated by the second.

This was around 5:00 p.m. on Friday, by the way. In retrospect, that is the PERFECT time to attempt to assemble cakes. Especially when you SUCK at it, you are hungry, your children are hungry, and it has been a long day. It was at that moment when my understanding and forgiving husband called me all lovey-dovey to say, "Hi! I'm on my way home from work now! How was your day?" and I responded, and I quote, "GET HOME. NOW. I'M FRUSTRATED, PISSED AND GRUMPY. AND THESE CAKES? THEY SUCK." And I hung up.

I know! Don't you want to just move right in with me? I'm such a joy.

Needless to say, I managed to finish frosting the first cake, then moved on to a yellow Lego brick, (Yellow food coloring: much easier to work with.) and then finished with a green one. The whole time, I was cursing Legos, cake, frosting, food coloring and Duff Goldman under my breath. I was thisclose to calling the bakery and asking them to make me a cake, STAT. However, I reminded myself that not only was Henry mega-excited for his mom to make him Lego brick cakes that he could show off to his peeps, but my audience was a bunch of little boys. And let's face it. I could dump all the cakes and the frosting into a big cake pile in the middle of my kitchen floor, hand them a bunch of plastic forks, and say, "Have at it, boys," and they would be all, "Sweet. Cake on the floor, dudes!"

Sidenote to parents of Henry's friends who attended the party: I did NOT do this. Although tempted, I repeat. I did NOT.

The cakes were finished. Frosted. They looked somewhat like Lego, and somewhat edible. Done. Feeling more exhausted and brain-fried than usual, I wrote in red edible gel, "Happy Birthday, Henry!" on an empty space on the oh-so-chic Sterilite lid. Proudly, I leaned down the basement family room stairwell and yelled, "Henry! Come on up and see your Lego cakes!" My boy came bounding up the stairs two at a time, beaming and ready to see the masterpieces. Thankfully, he was too enthralled to notice that his red Lego brick was more of a dark, barfy pink. "Mom, it's just like 'Ace of Cakes'!" said Henry at first glance at the cakes.

Yeah. It's just like that.

He leaned in closer to look at the writing on the lid and said, "MOM! Why did you write, 'Happy 7th Birthday Henry!'"?

Um...did I mention that Henry is now EIGHT? That I gave birth to him EIGHT years ago, and not SEVEN? Did I mention that?

Niiiice. His own Mom, WHO PUSHED HIM FORTH FROM HER OWN LOINS EIGHT YEARS AGO ALMOST TO THE DAY, cannot remember how old he is. Must I add that while adults would LOVE to subtract a year or two from their age, ALL children will do anything to add a year or two to their age? And may you rue the day that you think they are younger than they really are?

But in my defense, it's the frosting's fault. And the cake. And the devil food coloring. And Legos. And Duff Goldman making me think all this was possible in the first place. And the 5:00 hour. I slapped my forehead, said, "Oh my goodness! I was just kidding, Henry! Mommy was just joking! You're such a big, old dude now! I know you're EIGHT! Ha! Ha!" as I playfully punched him in the shoulder and I wiped the gel off the lid.

Thank goodness for Sterlite lids. They wipe clean just like that. Especially when mommies have stupid moments.

I rewrote "Happy 8th Birthday Henry!" on the lid while Henry beamed. I was forgiven.

And here is the result. Doesn't look so bad, does it? But now you know the back story.

Happy Birthday, Henry. I am proud beyond words to be your Mom, and I have been, every single day of the last EIGHT years. Not seven.

I love you.


  1. Those are cute enough that I kinda wanna make some. My baking story would be somewhat like yours ... but if the result is that absolutely cute? I'd do it.

  2. Looking back, it wasn't that hard, but hindsight is 20/20! My son loved them, so that's all that matters!

  3. That cake is perfection!
    My daughter would absolutely love it! She got her first Legos for Christmas this year and oh how I wish that they DID multiply at night, because she's already dreaming of adding pieces. ;)


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