I've never been an acolyte of the Wilton school of cake decorating. They make quite a few good products, and occasionally I contemplate taking one of their classes as I face my latest homemade allergen free birthday wreck, but that's just not where my interests naturally lie.
This weekend, The Kid's best friend, the J-Man, celebrated his fifth birthday. My usual birthday party m.o. is to offer to bring some safe cupcakes matching the party's theme. With an overconfidence born of almost a year's worth of Daring Baker challenges, I offered to make the birthday cake itself. Then the unthinkable happened. J-Man's mommy trustingly said yes.
If you've ever read the hilarious blog Cake Wrecks, or flipped past The People's Court as a tearful bride faced down the cake decorator who done her wrong, you know this is serious business. I wouldn't quite go so far as to call a child's birthday cake a sacred trust, but it's not much of a stretch. The pressure was on.
Left to his own devices, the J-Man would subsist entirely on bananas, so I made a banana cake in a Lightning McQueen pan. (Even after a couple modifications, it was still a little concave on top, so I'll hang on to the recipe for now.) Then, armed only with a PDF and my mom's old decorating tips, I faced down the paint by numbers Crisco buttercream horror.
The thing took hours longer than I had expected, and Lightning's a little cross eyed and tread heavy, as well as having a few details, um, adjusted, but overall I was surprised by how well it turned out. The J-man was thrilled, and I learned what all the other mommies already knew, that the kids really don't care about the inside of the cake, just how the frosting looks on the outside. (Kind of the opposite of what we're trying to teach them about the world.)
I have the sinking feeling that this won't be the last of these technicolor monstrosities that I produce, but I'm comforting myself with the mommy mantras, "It's just one day out of the year," "As long as it makes them happy," and "He just loves being able to eat the same thing as everyone else." Yup, I'll be making more of them.