Ever since one of my dearest childhood friends baked Puppy’s first birthday cake for her, I have been awestruck by moms who bake cakes for their children’s birthdays.
The cost of nice birthday cakes these days is well-nigh ridiculous. After 6 years of being a parent in a single-income household and self-training to live frugally, I can think of so much more I could use with RM300, RM200, RM150, RM100 and even RM50. So much more that would last beyond a trip down the digestive track. (This is just saying it would be foolish for us in our circumstances to spend such money, not a judgment on anyone else.)
Through the past 3 years of homeschooling and giving my all to adapt and learn the homeschooling lifestyle, I finally came to the point of feeling I had enough energy and courage to try baking properly for the first time. I’d made teething biscuits, cookies, muesli squares, muffins and banana cakes before (all healthy, low-sugar recipes), but never what I considered a real cake.
That feeling came in December last year although I had lots to do – deep cleaning the entire house (at a time Sweet Man went far across the seas for 10 days on a work trip), preparing for Christmas and sorting out supplies for a new school term. Piglet’s 2nd birthday was looming up fast and time wasn’t on my side.
Thankfully there wasn’t much to do in terms of curriculum planning because even though Puppy would be starting Standard One (national school), she was going to continue with Sonlight’s Core B during her free time and Lamb would begin Core A, one that I was already familiar with. I hurriedly planned our home schedule to fit schooling for 3 kids and then got down to googling how to bake and frost a cake. I also called a couple of friends who were veteran mom-bakers.
Christmas and Piglet’s birthday were barely two weeks apart, so there were two occasions to try cakes for. It seemed somewhat strange to me that at Christmas people mainly thought of getting gifts for each other (and/or for themselves) but few would think of a gift for Jesus Christ (it was, after all, a celebration of HIS birthday). Anyway, as part of our Christmas celebration, I baked my first butter cake and Puppy and Lamb decided right away the words I should write.
Here’s what it looked like.
I had reduced the sugar to the minimum and it still tasted like a proper butter cake. I was surprised how easy it was! Frosting it wasn’t too difficult either.
This first attempt gave me courage to try Piglet’s birthday cake. A friend had passed me some baking tins of various interesting shapes she no longer wanted and I thought a 3D ship would suit Piglet just fine. I googled for some inspiration on how to decorate and found some pretty amazing creations (and the women behind them!). I wasn’t going to go for anything complex since I was a novice, I really didn’t have much time and the important thing to me was just the whole, tender, precious experience of making something for my own child. Also, I wanted Puppy and Lamb to enjoy the process of baking something for their little brother.
I made the icing on the Friday before Piglet’s birthday (Sunday) and boy! was it the funniest day ever. When you are baking with 3 kids aged 6 and under, expect a lot of fun, a sharp level of attention (for mom) and a fair bit of mess!! Puppy, Lamb and Piglet were all lined up in a row in front of the mixer and bowl, the older two helping to pour in the ingredients gradually while Piglet just watched. (I wish I had the camera on hand but you will understand I don’t have a third arm or leg.)
Evidently Piglet did not plan on being an idle bystander for long, because when Sweet Man distracted me for a moment Piglet hit the mixer button with what I can only describe as the speed of lightning and the icing FLEW. This all happened in a matter of seconds but it was enough for icing to go streaking all over – in our faces, in our hair, on our clothes, across the kitchen cabinets, the floor and everything else on the countertop. I don’t think I have ever screeched at such high decibels before for Sweet Man, who was nearest, to turn off the switch.
Now, you simply cannot expect a man who does not spend a considerable amount of time in the kitchen to know which is the right switch on a mixer (pardon my partiality).
He hit TURBO.
That, my friends, was the best highlight of the week.
It almost even trumped the result:
I was teary-eyed as I frosted the cake at 2.00 am the day of Piglet’s birthday because my baby was all-grown up. But whenever I look at the photo of this birthday cake, my first ever, I will always remember the day the icing flew.
PS. We didn’t have a birthday party but Piglet was all smiles. He ate 2 big pieces, all by himself.
PPS. This whole episode goes to show the journey is just as important as the destination.
PPPS. Puppy and Lamb are now expecting 3D rockets and guitars for their birthday cakes. (*shudder*) Wish me luck!