“Birds Nest” Cake Reveal: The Post-Mortem

Disclaimer: One of my friends accused me of staging my baking disasters for maximum blogging value. Let me reassure you that this is all very real, and very demoralising. I’ve been destroying cakes loooong before I ever started blogging. So yes, I am truly this bad. It’s an art form.

So it’s the morning of the annual birthday bake-fest I put myself through every year for my youngest son. Don’t feel bad for my eldest son. His dad does his cakes every year, so it’s not like the kid is being overlooked or anything. If you are going to feel bad for anyone it should be my youngest, because he got stuck with me baking for his birthday, and my cakes are always disastrous.

Just for the record, this is the cake I’m making this year.

birds nest cake

It’s nine in the morning and Betty Crocker and I are off to a confident start, until only minutes later I come to the realisation that I have forgotten one of the THREE key ingredients I need to bake the cakes. I need eggs, butter and milk.

I’ve forgotten the butter.

To put this oversight in context, I was adamant that I was going to make this thing “by the box” today. No margarine, no dairy blends, no vegetable oil. I have a very fraught history with recipe substitutions.

There was the time I thought it was a good idea to put coconut cream into a carbonara because I forgot to buy pure cream. It’s white! It’s creamy!

There was the time I thought it was a good idea to add a jar of Doritos salsa to spaghetti bolognaise because I forgot to buy tinned tomatoes. It has tomatos in it! They’re diced!

There was the time I put something I-fail-to-recall in the pre-made icing mixture that made it look like this. It’s baby-poo yellow! It’s viscous!

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 9.57.47 PM

There was also the time I inadvertently used baking soda to make chocolate icing, which ended like this. It’s salty! It’s a natural abrasive!

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 9.54.56 PM

(To be fair, that was squarely my mothers fault for leaving glass cannisters of unlabelled white powder lying around in my pantry. I mean, it looked like icing sugar).

Me and substitutions. We’re not simpatico.

A small while later – following a quick dash to the supermarket – I’m all cocky, dancing around the kitchen to Justin Timberlake, ingredients in bowl, using my mother’s vintage beater to combine the mixture. I start to wonder why it seems a bit more dry and doughy than it usually looks until I eventually remember that I forgot to add the butter that I just went out to buy because I’m a vague ol’ dumb-ass, so I had to scrape it all back out of the cake tin and hastily beat melted butter into the mix.

Me and baking. We’re not simpatico.

Mini-crisis averted, the first cake goes into the oven and I even remember to look at the time on the clock, like a boss.

I shake the first cake out of the tin and let out a sigh of relief when it comes out mostly intact. I say “mostly”, because I have an uncanny ability to deliver cakes that come out burnt. Or broken.

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 9.55.15 PM

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 9.54.27 PM

There’s a sizeable chunk missing out of one side but I figure that I can turn it around to the back. The realisation that I can at least deliver half a (mildly-scorched, partially hail-damaged) bird’s nest cake is a reassuring one. Nervous jitters gone, the second cake gets mixed and delivered into the oven without a hitch.

Aaaaaaand then it comes out of the tin 50 minutes later, with half its arse missing.

BOTTOM

On the richter scale of Cake Diasters this only rates around a 5.5, but I still have the more intricate process of assembly and icing to come, which could see a considerable revision of this statistic, especially given that I have no idea how to use a piping bag. Can’t be too hard, right? In one hole, out the other.

Wrong.

Sweet baby Jesus, I was going to give a blow-by-blow account of the final demoralising stages of this cake being put together but I think I’ll just let the pictures speak mostly for themselves. All in all, we probably ended up around 8.5 on the Cake Disaster richter scale: impressive in scale, but not quite catastrophic.

I started to suspect I might be in for some trouble when I stacked the cakes, only to find that they had about a centimetre difference in diameter despite using the same cake tin to bake them in. Throw in the missing chunks and things started to look very wobbly indeed.

MIDDLE

I was hoping that I could cover it up with icing, but to no avail. The back of the cake had a gaping hole, which I unsuccessfully tried to patch up by smooshing other bits of cake into it, but then thought better of it because it looked stupid so I dug them all back out. It still looked stupid.

BACK PATCH

Final stage was adding the piping and accessories. To add insult to injury the piping bag broke, I was elbow-deep in icing and in true Zilla-style cracked the shits and gave up in disgust, leaving it looking like this.

Me and icing. We aren’t simpatico.

Happy 2nd birthday little man. Your mama can’t bake for shit but she loves you.

NAILED IT

FRONT

BACK VIEW

SIDE VIEW

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 7.13.05 pm

 

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9 thoughts on ““Birds Nest” Cake Reveal: The Post-Mortem

  1. This reminds me of my last attempt at a birthday cake – I tried to make a creeper from Minecraft. I had to cut a double layer of cake into a square. It ended up about a third of the size it was supposed to be because I couldn’t cut it straight and kept trying to fix it. It was still completely wonky but I had to stop or there would have been no cake left! lol. Ah well, there’s always next year! 🙂

    • That’s what I figure as well. We get better with every year that passes, right….? Please let it be right! Minecraft creeper sounds crazy-complicated to me, even a wonky one sounds awesome. I miss the good-old days of sponge cakes with sprinkles…

  2. By gum this is funny. And so well written. I don’t have kids or bake cakes, but your searing narrative trashed all barriers to keep me reading. Damn fine work! I’m jolly jealous. Kind regards, P. 🙂

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