Monday, November 30, 2009

Birthday cake tragedy finds happy ending

You should have seen the birthday cake Rick’s friend made our son for his sixth birthday. We held the party at an indoor soccer field and centered the party on a sports theme with game ticket invitations and goodie bags with miniature soccer balls, footballs, baseballs and basketballs. Rick’s friend made a ball-shaped cake decorated with black and white icing to look exactly like a soccer ball. Way cool. My husband brought the cake home Friday and we left it on the kitchen counter, since he said we didn’t need to refrigerate the cake. We should have known the fate of that cool cake was in jeopardy, as we are prone to mini-disasters whenever we entertain – like dumping the entire bowl of the main dish pasta on the floor or covering guests with fresh-made buttermilk dressing. True to form, when we woke up Saturday morning, that cake was completely covered in ants.

I still didn't get a picture of the cake, but I did capture the chaos of present-opening!

I still didn't get a picture of the cake, but I did capture the chaos of present-opening!

My husband is far more of a germ phobe than I, but he desperately tried blowing on the cake to get the ants off. “Can we save it? Oh, please say we can save it,” he said. I just put my hand on his shoulder and shook my head. Even I knew that we could not win back the cake from 12 dozen tiny ants. So we waged our war by shoving that beautiful and aromatic chocolate fudge cake down the garbage disposal as my son wailed in the background, “Is my soccer ball cake OK?”

This is where my husband and I looked at each other and found a freaky calm. Not to sound preachy, but we have so much to be thankful for, like jobs to pay for a replacement cake. And a happy, healthy little soon-to-be-six-year-old. That’s more than I can say for a lot of people we know.

We were not about to call Rick’s friend to remake that cake. It is our plan for him to never find out. (Wise putting it up on this Web site, eh?) Instead I gave in and called a couple bakeries. I say “gave in” because I’ve been boycotting the first bakery, let’s call it “E’s,” because they fired some longtime baker (who I did not know) because customers had found out he was gay. Yeah, the lawsuit’s pending. Since there are three “E” bakeries in town, my call was routed to a central number to place my order. I gave up on the 3D cake, hoping just to get a round cake with a black-and-white soccer ball pattern colored on the top with buttercream frosting. But this was too high a demand for “E’s,” as I would have had to pick it up that afternoon. Besides, the woman said, those little octagon shapes are too difficult to do in icing? Really? I thought bakers could do anything. At least those wedding cake artists you see on TV can! She said I was welcome to walk into any of the “E” locations and they would be happy to write “Happy Birthday Truman” on a cake already decorated with flowers or balloons. Nah.

I called a second bakery. This one, “S’s,” is actually in a more convenient location for us but parking there is a bear and the sales staff act as if you are annoying them whenever you dare speak to them. But the lady on the phone was nice enough and said they would be happy to do the soccer ball cake, no problem. She said, just so I knew, that the soccer ball design was a rounded pop up. A rounded what? What’s a pop top? A pop top is a plastic top that sits on the cake. You remove it before serving. Not that it really mattered at this point, but the thought of some big plastic pop top on my son’s cake didn’t sound too appetizing to me, so I told her I’d get back to her.

And then my husband suggested I call Publix. I’m not a fan of that whipped icing they put on their pre-made cakes, but my friend Rhoda told me just last week that you can request buttercream when you order a cake there. So I called our local Publix bakery and sure enough the woman who took my order said it was perfectly fine for them to make the top of a 10-inch round cake look like a soccer ball with black-and-white buttercream icing. The only thing is that the cake had to be vanilla, which was fine, but they did put a glob of chocolate fudge filling in the middle, which sufficiently sufficed. The best part is that the bakery is open on Sundays so we arranged for the cake to be picked up on Sunday (unlike the two other bakeries I called, who are not open on Sundays) on the way to the soccer field. That way, cake number 2 wouldn’t even see our house before the party and the ants couldn’t exact revenge on us.

When we unveiled the cake at the birthday party, my son glowed with pride. The cake was devoured. The party went off without (another) hitch. All was well. Still, I can’t help but wonder how truly good that 3D soccer ball cake must have been. I hope the ants enjoyed it. It was, after all, their last supper.

Photo, JWJourney,

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