28 March 2008

The Case of the Macerated Sponge Cake

I have avoided blogging this event until now, working on the assumption that if I don't blog it, it doesn't exist. However I feel that now is the time to share the story, if only to provide some relief from the tedium of bed bugs that my sad sorry blog has become.

Earlier this year, my husband's Nana turned 95. I love Nana. We all looked forward to her party at Sizzler, and as the day drew closer, Sonny Ma-Jiminy expressed a strong desire (well, I used leading questioning techniques to pretend that it was his idea) to make a Strawberry Cake for Nana.

Our Strawberry Cakes are simple affairs - quick and easy double-layer sponge cakes with strawberry jam, chantilly cream and fresh strawberries. They look quite magnificent, even if they don't take long to prepare.

On the morning of Nana's party, Sonny Ma-Jiminy and I stood at the kitchen bench and made Nana's Strawberry Cake with great care. The finished product looked spectacular, with snow-white cream and lovely red strawberries peeking out from between the layers.

The only part that didn't go according to plan was the lack of "NANA 95" on the top. I had planned to melt some cooking chocolate and cool it on a baking tray, then cut out the letters and numbers using the wonderful alphabet cookie cutters that I used to make my Gingerbread Salutations last Christmas. Unfortunately the cutters didn't cut the cooled chocolate cleanly enough and the "NANA 95" was too crumbly to be used as a cake topper. Nevermind, I thought, it looks good enough as it is!

I packed the cake into my cake-storer and kept it in our coolest fridge until we left. Then my husband and I proudly packed it into the car along with Two Clean And Smiling Children and all the paraphernalia that the 2C&SC might require, and headed off for Sizzler.

When we arrived, the cake was not in the same state. Friends, it looked like some maniacal goblin had emerged from somewhere in the car, picked up the cake-storer, given it a good shaking, and put it back before creeping back into his hidey-hole. The top had slid sideways off the bottom, and the cream and strawberries in the middle had dropped out and rattled around in there.

I nearly cried.

Initially, I planned to hide it away in the car and take it home without telling anyone about it. Then I thought of Sonny Ma-Jiminy's delight in making it and instead I did a brave thing.

I asked the staff at Sizzler to take it into the back, to do their best patch-up job on the poor sad piece of dismembered baking, stick a sparkler on it, and serve it up anyway.

Yes, good decision, I thought. We walked to our tables which were already full of aunts and uncles and cousins. It was lovely to have The Cake Problem in the hands of experts and to be able to focus on friends and family instead.

Soon, I learned that Sonny Ma-Jiminy's 10-year-old Culinary Cousin had also made a cake for Nana. Now let me give you some background: Culinary Cousin is loving, kind, caring, humble, and above all, a very good cook! She is a gracious and faithful friend and a warm encourager, and in my embarrassment that was about to unfold, she did everything possible to save my Catering Dignity.

Culinary Cousin's cake was a delicious fruit cake immaculately iced and decorated in marzipan whose crowning glory was a "NANA 95" on top! Here is the best picture I have of it, but it doesn't do justice to the wonderful creation this cake really was!Oh me oh my. For the second time that day, I nearly did a bunk on my mutilated little sponge. Could I dash out the back and implore the chefs whose difficult task it was to save my miserable attempt at a cake to please return it to me so I could hide it in the car while I enjoyed Culinary Cousin's sweet, moist, non-dissected fruit cake?

Again, I thought of Sonny Ma-Jiminy and how proud he was to help in the preparation of the strawberry cake for Nana. I swallowed my pride (what little was left) and allowed our very-obviously patched-up cake to be brought out, sparklers shining, and proudly placed before Nana. Its "best side" is pictured here:We sang Happy Birthday as the sparklers burned, sending a thin layer of grey soot to settle into the cream on top. We cut both cakes, we ate both cakes, and we enjoyed both cakes. And, dear Culinary Cousin, if you are reading, your grace and humility that day was a beautiful thing. You saved your poor aunty from being too embarrassed about the whole sorry story, and you allowed your cousin Sonny Ma-Jiminy to enjoy his moment of presenting Nana with our cake, in whatever shape it came!

But just quietly, your fruit cake was totally awesome!