The economy sucks. Times are hard. So when it comes to birthday for family and friends these days I made a decision. My present to them will be to bake them a cake. From scratch. No really. Easy right?
Now to some of you, making a cake from scratch would be an easy task. You've been doing them forever. But I can't remember the last time I actually baked a cake much less one that didn't come from a box. And frosting? Um, last time I tried to make twelve minute frosting for some valentine cookies I broke the hand mixer at about 7 minutes and lets just say it was not a pretty site.
So cakes. From scratch. No problem. Well...this is me we're talking about. But easy right?
I started the year off with trying to make a cake for my Dad. Got a 'foolproof' recipe from one of Christopher Kimball's books. You know, Americas Test Kitchen. Where they supposedly double and triple check recipes so they work perfectly. Lets just say me having to run to the grocery store to get canned frosting just before presenting the cake was a little stressful. Though the cake tasted pretty good, it still was a bit of a letdown. (Yes, I will post the cake at some point).
The last cake I baked wasn't so bad. I made a Guinness Cake for my Uncle J. The hit of the cake this time was the frosting. Baileys Cream Cheese. Screw the cake just give me a vat of the frosting and I'll be a happy camper.
But there was also the cake that I wanted to make for my cousin's 50th birthday. It was a surprise. He was flying out from Florida. His wonderful wife had gathered friends to join us that he went to grade school and high school with not to mention different jobs he had while living here. His brother flew up from southern California. And I was going to make the cake.
My cousins wife sent all of us surprise party conspirators a couple of photos of him dressed up for a school photo. The original thought was to just buy a cake from Costco, have them transfer the photo and write happy birthday. But I wanted to make the cake. I wanted it to be special. So I tried to think of something that would make my cousin smile. Dragons. He likes dragons. So, of course my first thought was to make him a dragon cake. Easy right? I came across this cake:
Fantastic isn't it? I found it on the Cake Wrecks blog (an awesome blog by the way). For info about it go here. Of course there was NO WAY I was going to be able to bake that cake. And there was no way I was going to be able to afford to hire someone to bake that cake. Sigh. Beautiful. But I had to go on to something else.
So I started looking for an easier "dragon" cake to make. My search found this little gem:
Not only is it cute but it came with instructions! Wahoo! So I talked to the Godsons mom (who makes awesome theme cakes), and got her promise to help if needed because seriously, like I was going to be able to accomplish this on my own? Yes, I was going to make my cousin a dragon cake! (For cake instructions go here.)
And then came the back problems and the painkillers and there was just no way I was going to be able to pull off even attempting to make this cake. The Godsons mom valiantly offered to make it herself even while she too, wasn't feeling well but I decided that was asking too much. The only hope to get a cake in time for my cousins party was to go buy a pre-done one and have the photo transferred. Easy right?
Off to Costco I go to order the cake with the wonderful photo of my cousin in hand. Only they don't do transfers. All you can do is buy their pre made cakes and have whatever saying you want on it. Won't do. So off to Safeway I go. Only they stopped doing photo transfers on cakes three years ago. What? Yeah, turns out photo transfers are no longer popular so they no longer provide that service. I don't know about you but I just had a birthday last year that had my cute little child face plastered all over it?? But she wasn't kidding. A quick search among all the grocery stores in the area came up empty handed. No photo transferring.
Now what the hell am I supposed to do? Other than go to Mr. L in a state of panic that we have to move out of the country because my cousins birthday is just days away and I DON'T HAVE A CAKE! He suggested I buy a store bought cake and just write "Happy Birthday" on it. Of course after I screamed "you just don't understand, that just won't do, my cousins turning 50! All his friends and family will be there I MUST HAVE A DECENT CAKE! My life is on the line, I promised I'd take care of the cake, I will DIE if I don't come up with a good cake!!" Mr. L politely escorted me to the only chair in the house that I could sit comfortably in, got an ice pack for my back, turned on the TV and left me blubbering about how I could never show my face to my cousin and his friends again. He then very calmly went to the computer and found a place on the Internet that does photo sugar transfers for cakes, and had the transfer overnighted. God I love my husband. (As an aside, the transfer came out great, it was very easy to put on the cake and if I ever have to do a photo transfer for a cake again, this is the route I'll go...except for the astronomical overnight shipping charges).
So then we went down to the local market that Saturday to order a cake. A simple cake that we could put the transfer on. A cake that would say "Happy 50th Birthday". Easy right?
While trying to figure out what filling went into the cake, what size etc, I noticed a little book of "cake decorations" sitting on the counter. Absentmindedly flipping through the ideas I let out a little squeal of glee. There it was. Okay the background looked like it came out of a My Little Pony cartoon with all the pinks and blues and rainbows but there were DRAGONS! Yes, two little dragons that would fit perfect on either side of the photo transfer! Eureka! With a song in my heart I ordered the cake to be picked up just before the party the next day (yes, this was a day before the event). Yes, the decorations were made for someone more the age of 5 than 50 but I was happy, I was getting my cousin dragons for his birthday. I'd say "easy right?" but as you look at the finished photo at the top you can see...no dragons...
The next morning about 6 hours from the time we were supposed to be at the party with the cake, we got two phone calls at the same time. One was my mother, who was injured and needed to be taken to the emergency room (she's fine but she did give us a scare). The other was from the store where we had ordered the cake. See, there was this little problem...they were out of the cute little dragons. Maybe they could substitute some dinosaurs instead? Dinosaurs? Maybe it wasn't to late to get a flight out of the country? But, here's where Mr. L, cake saver and emergency room driver came through again. He drove us to the hospital, got us settled and then went to the grocery store. A few texts and phone calls later, a simple cake, with the photo transfer of my cousin and, thankfully, purple icing and not the pastels that originally would have come with the dragons, was secured. And Darth and Luke. If you know my cousin or went to his wedding, Darth and Luke would make perfect sense.
The cake went over well. It tasted great, even if it didn't have cute little dragons on it. My husband mentioned several times to me how everyone thought the cake was perfect. I started to relax and not stress that I needed to flee the country. The party was a success, my cousin was completely surprised. I saw friends I hadn't seen in twenty years. My cousins brother brought him a box full of old photos and greeting cards from his youth. We had great food. There was wonderful wine. Fun was had by all.
But I know someday my cousin will be even more surprised. Because someday I'm gonna make him a damn cake with dragons. Easy right?