Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Craziness that ensued surrounding my Mom’s Birthday & her Cake

Mom’s birthday cake has always been a hot button item for me; even when I was a kid. She’s not picky but she’s a cake connoisseur and what she wants, she wants – end of story. If she’s willing to indulge in my wanting Lemon Meringue Pie for my birthday even though the idea of birthday pie drives her nuts, the least I can do is get her cake right.

When I was growing up it was always this simple, a yellow cake, strawberry or raspberry filling, and the non-sickeningly sweet frosting from Meuer’s. Every year my dad and I would go to the bakery and every year he’d just order a cake. I’d always be tugging on his shirt asking about the strawberry or raspberry filling, asking about the frosting. They’d get changed; mom would be thrilled with her cake.

When I was in 4th grade for my Mom’s birthday she wanted a Doberman Puppy. We named him Ziggy. For her birthday the following year my dad thought he would be funny and order her a “Shit Cake.” Yes, you read right, a “Shit Cake.” What is a Shit Cake you ask? It’s your standard two-layered cake but then it had brown frosting. Mounds and Mounds and Mounds of brown frosting, piped on to look like turds. The cake then had some peanuts sprinkled on and a piece of bakery paper wrinkled up and stuffed in the top of the cake as though you were trying to pick up the turds. In his mind this was the most hilarious cake ever. The whole dog one year, picking up turds the next. It wasn’t funny…AT ALL. Especially to my mom who just wanted her 2-layer yellow cake, strawberry or raspberry filling, non sweet frosting. I really thought she was going to throw it at him. From this point on, cake became my job. Every year I’d order it. My dad would pick up and pay. The bakery might have changed but the cake requirements did not.

Somewhere along the line, her birthday cake turned into a Red Velvet Cake. She remembered having those for her birthday when she was a kid. The first year my Grandma made it. The next year, my mom was expecting a red cake and didn’t get one. I think Grandma made her someone else’s favorite cake. At this point, I learned to make the Red Velvet Cake from scratch because box mixes for it didn’t exist yet and I’ve been making it ever since. The first year I blew the frosting. Cream Cheese Frosting and I don’t get along very well. But, frosting isn’t the be all to end all because they DO make frosting in a can!! I’ve been making her Red Velvet Cake ever since. I even have the round cake pans that I use once a year. Why? Because birthday cake or cake in general is important to her.

When I got married, Cake was my mom’s job. I picked the bakeries and lined up the taste testing…she chose the best one. Shaker Baker. Mike actually picked out the set up for our cake; it looked like it was Stucco-ed. “Manly.” Giggle. From there we chose flavors.

I’ve only used the box mix for Red Velvet Cake once for her birthday; I keep making it from scratch. It’s the one cake that I’m proud to say I can make from scratch. Actually; I’ve never tried to make any others…that IS after all why they have box mixes. I’ve got lots of Red Cake war stories. I’ve managed to get red food coloring just about everywhere in my kitchen, no matter how careful I try to be. I currently have a Hot Chili pepper shaped clump of red batter that’s dried to my kitchen wall. I always joke that I should just draw a green stem on it. It started out that I was going to wait until it dried and chip it off. I knew from the previous year that if you go to wipe it off, the color ends up in more places than just the spot. When I went to chip it off, it’s on there like concrete. I try to chip away at it from time to time and really have had no luck. It stays there as a comic reminder until I figure out my best course of action.

I was at my Grandma’s house last week and brought up my mom’s birthday. Grandma wanted to make the cake. So, we made our plans and I told her we’d be going out for dinner as well. I was a bit nervous letting this cake out of my control.

Ok, off the cake topic for a bit. Over the last few years there have been many times that my mom or I will have plans with my Grandma only to get to her house and find her not there. To hear later that so and so dropped in and took her out or so and so called so she went with them. My Grandma’s response is always, “I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by saying no.” What she doesn’t realize is that the person who she originally had plans with has hurt feelings and has set aside this time for her. I don’t know how often it happens to the rest of our family members; but it happens to us…A LOT. Dinners, taking her out shopping, dropping off her prescriptions, etc. But, if you don’t drop everything the moment that she calls you all heck breaks loose in her world. It keeps life, “interesting” to say the least.

Back to the cake. Monday night I look at my mom and say, “I’m nervous about Grandma remembering to make your cake; do you think I should make a back up and not say anything?” My mom says, “No, she won’t forget, it will be fine.”

Tuesday morning I’m at work and after a few hours I log in to read my email. I see a message from one of my Aunt’s saying that she’s going to pick up my Grandma to do some canning and to possibly spend the night. All I can think of is, “Did I call it, or did I call it?” It’s certainly not the first time, and it’s not the last that my Grandma will do this. I send out an email to the family because I’m frustrated. This whole Grandma taking the better or most recent offer thing has now worn a little too thin in my world. I had just gotten ditched by her the week before. I’m just frustrated; beyond belief frustrated and I knew my mom was going to be hurt. So now I write up my grocery list so I can get the cake ingredients at lunch time, come home and make the cake, go to dinner and by then the cake would be cool enough to frost it. Meanwhile my Aunt decides that to make things right, she’ll make the cake for my mom and bring my Grandma back in time for dinner. This was great news, but I didn’t know that until after I checked out at the store.

So it’s lunch time; I’ve got 30 minutes, I fly over to the store. It’s hotter than Haiti’s out; just miserable. I was going to go box mix just because of the amount of time I had but low and behold, that store doesn’t carry the box mix for red velvet anymore. So now I’m trying to access the internet on my cell phone to find the ingredients for the recipe. I find one similar and figure as long as I have the ingredients I can make it from my recipe when I get home. I buy a yellow cake mix in case; figuring an extra egg, the red food coloring, and cocoa might work in a pinch (which I find out later when I found a recipe that it DOES work). Rush over to dairy to get Buttermilk and Eggs. As I’m being handed my receipt my Aunt calls to tell me she’s made this cake. While I’m grateful that it was being made, and thankful I didn’t have to rush around making it; here I was staring at my ingredients wondering what the heck I was going to do with my buttermilk, egg & food coloring; the 2 boxes of red food coloring will keep, but the dairy? So now I get back to work and have to re-arrange our fridge and everyone’s lunches to get my bag of groceries into the fridge. By this time my blood is just boiling and all I can think of is, that I should have never agreed to let my Grandma make the cake. You want something done, you do it yourself.

In the end, the cake was great, it was decorated very awesomely, dinner was great, the three of us had a great time but I sure as heck am glad that it is over. Next year I’m back to being in charge of the cake. In the mean time, just to use up the buttermilk and eggs we’ll probably make a second cake this weekend and cupcakes to take to Strip Poker next Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by 51050 (
Your family dynamics are pretty interesting! I can imagine just how frustrating it must be for your grandma to ditch you and your plans repeatedly. Thankfully, the birthday cake only comes once a year! I've made red velvet cake because my brother-in-law had never heard of it. It turned out pretty good, too. Rhoda

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by luv2quilt (
Wow, Jen! Was today better? I hope so! Just remember, Grandma will not always be around, and you and she are just building more 'memories'! Gotta find the humor in it. I don't think she is being mean, or that it was mean spirited, though, do you? Do you think she is just forgetful sometimes? I bet her days get really long, and she just jumps at a suggestion to do something. I bet you can find a little more humor today than yesterday. Someday, we'll probably be just like her. Michelle

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by CountryQuilter (
Glad everything worked out in the end. I love red velvet cake. I have a recipe that has boxed cake mix in it, but it is not the red velvet cake mix. It is pretty good, I will email it to you, so that you can try it sometime. Kristie

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by cowgirl4ever (
your family sounds alot like mine. Only the dad jokes on peoples birthdays are usually pretty funny and everyone has a great laugh. Mom's birthday is a few days after I get back from Arizona so her birthday may be late.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by maryann64 (
WOW Jen I thought my family was interesting 5 brothers 1 sister and 3 step sisters that don't keep in contact. Glad it turned out fine. Hopefully you and mom enjoyed yourself sometimes the more you do for people (grandmom) the least you are appreciated. Enjoy life!!! Hugs Mary Ann

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by jillquilts (
This is too funny!! After my last big break up and I moved into my apartment (first time ever on my own!!), I decided that I needed to do some things for myself. I took cake decorating classes from Michael's. For my dad's birthday, my mom decided that I needed to make him a red velvet cake. So, I mix the cake mix and bake it and take it out of the oven. I was trying to flip the cake pan to get the cooked cake on the cooling rack. Well, the surface that I had the cake resting on was a bar level and me being the short 5'1/2" that I am, I thought that was perfect for a starting point to flip the cake. I ended up dropping it on the floor and it split into crumbs! My dog at the time had a field day eating all that she could before I could clean it up. And the crumbs were EVERYWHERE!! I swear that I saw crumbs a year and a half later when I was packing to move!!!

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