Welcome to Cake Wars. Two parents go head to head in the kitchen in daring combat for cake decorating supremacy. Will the cake crumble? Will the icing stick? And most importantly, who will prevail?
Our twins turned four on Monday. Of course, they were super dooper excited. Presents, balloons, lolly bags, and cakes; what more could a couple of four-year-olds desire? Did you notice how I wrote “cakes”? That’s cakes, plural. Two kids = two cakes. It’s a thing we do. Twins are individuals, and all that.
Now, I’m not a baker (read more on this below), but I have a pathological aversion to buying kids’ birthday cakes, so Phoebe and Blake’s birthday presents an annual challenge for my (almost non-existent) baking and cake decorating skills. Added to this, I enjoy the annual event. I skip excitedly across the road to my neighbour’s place and borrow her collection of Women’s Weekly kids’ birthday cake books. The kids and I flick enthusiastically through, me saying ‘no’ to all the ones that look beyond my (quite) limited capabilities. I have made two cakes each birthday for the past three years. I like to think that my skills have advanced with each passing year. Two number 1 cakes progressed to a couple of more fancy cakes: a circle and a square with jam and cream inside, and last year to a whale and a spider. Those required some serious sculpting and artistic icing skills. I was proud. And look at those smiling faces! (The kids are pretty cute, too.)
This year, after scanning five cake books and choosing around fifteen contenders each, we got to the back of the last two books and Phoebe and Blake both decided that they wanted number 4 cakes. But instead of me making both cakes again, hubby and I decided to have a bake-off. Husband versus wife. Man versus woman. Twin versus twin. Two number fours meant that the playing field was levelled. It was on. What’s the point of having twins if you can’t turn it into a competition? (Did I mention that I enjoy competition?)
A little bit about me and baking
Baking. It’s the furthest thing from “my thing” that you can get. Actually, I lie. You would definitely be less likely to find me fishing. I really hate fishing. All the standing, and the waiting, and the bait coming off the hook, and when you catch one it stinks and someone has to scale and fillet it… Not to mention the poor little fishy with the hook through his lip, all flippy and wobbly. It’s not for me.
But I digress.
I’d probably put baking somewhere between gardening and cleaning the toilet as one of my least favourite pastimes. Baking ranks slightly higher than digging weeds, and slightly lower than scrubbing the bowl. At least giving the crapper a once over doesn’t take very long; a quick splash of toilet duck and a dash around with the brush, and Bob’s your uncle.
Again, I digress.
Let me begin with things I don’t like about baking:
Alright, so I don’t actually start from scratch. I don’t mix flour and sugar and whatever that other powdery stuff is that goes into cake mix. I buy it in a packet. Even so, preparation takes time. You have to add eggs and milk and butter. Sometimes I don’t have those things, so we have to go to the shop to get them. And the kids want musk sticks while we’re there, and Bubble-O Bills in winter. And even though it’s winter, they take so long to eat them that they drip icecream all over themselves, and half of it falls on the footpath, and the other half is all over their face. And I don’t have any tissues to wipe them, so we have to scooter home with Bubble-O Bill faces. And by the time we bake, it’s dinner time, and we have to have chocolate muffins for dinner… That was last week.
And if I do have butter, I always forget to get the butter out of the fridge in time, so it’s too hard. Then I microwave it, and it’s too runny. Then I have to mix everything together. I don’t know whether to use a wooden spoon, or the electric beater, and when I use the electric beater, batter flicks out everywhere, covering the toaster, the kettle, my Year 9 marking, and the fruit bowl, with runny, floury, eggy confetti. It’s a lot of effort.
This part takes too long. I’m impatient. And hungry.
There are many implements and unwieldy bowls involved in baking that just don’t fit in the dishwasher. That means dishwashing by hand. It’s 2013, for goodness sake! Also, there is batter on the apples. And my laptop. And the phone. And my student’s essay.
There are also some things that I like about baking:
1. It’s fun making a mess.
2. It keeps the kids busy on rainy afternoons.
3. The finished product is generally scrumptious. (I say generally because, although oven temperatures and times are specified, I somehow manage to miss the mark and my muffins come out rather rock-like, at times.)
This is also what happens when I bake:
Cake Wars: Battle of birthday number four
So this is how it went down:
To sum up, it was an epic battle in the kitchen. The kids were impressed, and our family (bunch of scaredy cat fence-sitters) called it a draw on the day. I think it’s safe to say that the real winner was baking. And the kids, of course. And the adults who had to eat red icing. I made the red one. There was almost an entire bottle of red food colouring in that. I think mine was the best, but then Stephen might disagree. In the end, it really was a team effort. We laughed, we cried, we shared the Women’s Weekly cake book butter icing recipe, wiped each others’ sweaty brows, and took turns licking the beaters. It was beautiful.
Stay tuned in 2014 for Cake Wars II: The Batter Strikes Back.