It’s not my birthday, it’s Lai lai’s. Seven years ago he took his sweet time arriving. His birthday marks how long we have owned the Mersin flat. We celebrated his first birthday at my sister-in-law’s flat while the renovations were happening before we moved all our stuff in.
An August birthday means that he is almost a year behind many of his fellow classmates and yet only on school year behind his big brother, Fatso. It also means that he gets to celebrate his birthday in Turkey each year, which makes arranging parties with his school friends a bit awkward. It also means Fatso sees this as a great injustice because he has never had the opportunity to celebrate his birthday here.
The bigger issue for me is that his birthday falls right at the time when (as JaneyinMersin would put it) Satan ramps up the temperature and humidity in one final push up to Zafer Bayram–30th August. At this time of year even having skin on your body feels too much and you’re constantly hot, wet, tired, and probably angry too. Unless of course you are some mad psycho who loves 37 degree heat and 60%+ humidity; the combination of which actually feels like 33,000 degrees and 150% humidity (and yes before you all say anything I am exaggerating a bit and I do know that 150% is not a real thing).
So far this holiday I have swelled up like a barrage balloon, fallen into a limp torpor, and had really bad headaches. So add a birthday into the mix, where said child wants a cake, the only thing that can possibly happen is a disaster.
At home I make cakes. I’m quite good at making cakes. Admittedly I stick doggedly to the 8x8x8x4 recipe with imaginative variations, or the divisions thereof. But my cakes aren’t half bad. I don’t do the creative icing shit though. Like I have time for all that. Half the time the boys have dived into the cake before it’s even cool let alone given me time to add some form of icing. Art is not my forte plus I just cannot be bothered spending hours creating some kind of masterpiece with fondant icing that the kids tend to leave anyway. I will leave that to my other, more talented friends, who actually enjoy that type of crafty stuff while I can avoid the expense and time.
Cake baking at this time of year, with Satan’s evil plan is another matter entirely. There is not good time of day to bake. I don’t have aircon in the kitchen, only a breeze blowing straight through the house but that is not enough to stop the hot and the wet and the grr that comes with doing any sort of movement. You wake and it is hot, it stays hot and gets hotter, it gets a bit hotter then just when it might start to cool the breeze stops completely for about an hour or two and it feels like hell. Then it’s just hot again but gradually a few degrees less hot. You get my drift. Hot baking, this will never work.
And yet, only one year so far have I said “sorry Lai I am buying a cake”. Even then it was only because he declared he wanted a ladybird cake that we had seen in a shop. Each year I do the good mummy thing of baking in Satan’s kitchen and each year there is some kind of disaster. I topped it all this year. Not one but two disasters. the first was in part my own stupidity but the second, well we’ll come to that.
Lai requested a rainbow cake. The one with all the layers that perfect mums take time to do all the separate colours in separate tins and put together with something in-between. It’s hot, I’m in a torpid stupor and I am doing this at 7 am in the hope that it’s vaguely cooler, which it is not. So I make two batches of 8 mix and know that as soon as I am layering them all in the tin, it is too much. This is not going to rise magnificently. But I hope and pray that I am wrong. I am not wrong and within 10 minutes the losing begins. I inform Lai immediately that this cake is likely to be a monumental disaster. Lai is very easy going, he also knows that mummy is very far from perfect and has her limitations. In fact he’s actually said it didn’t have to be perfect layers just so long as there was a rainbow in the colours. The things is the rainbow is rapidly oozing out so goodness knows what is happening inside.
Lai is very philosophical and tells me that I have tried and he is sure it will taste lovely. With a tray hastily put under the dripping mass we pull some out after 10 minutes and he is right. It does taste good, and you can almost see a rainbow. It’s OK mummy he reassures me. Thank goodness it is him. I doubt Fatso would have taken my cranes so well. In fact he goes to the other extreme and has declared he just wants a slice of bread for his birthday.
See the first picture. Marshmallows. Why? Because I couldn’t be bothered to do icing. We’re meant to be going bowling and so lathering it with whipped cream or the gross ‘cream shanti’ (dream topping) type crap isn’t going to go down well in a car journey. Also, my previous experiments with butter icing haven’t gone that well. Their idea of icing sugar or powdered sugar as they call it, is-well- a touch on the grainy side. Whereas UK icing sugar is a powder as fine as flour, here its just a bit finer than caster sugar. I could grind it finder, but again–faff and all that.
So. I remember a trick from a site where they do recipe hacks, called Tasty. Well tasty can stick their hacks right back where they found them. Apparently putting marshmallows on top and sticking in a hot oven for 10-20 minutes should make them melt deliciously to look like frosting. It most certainly does not. I only did this to try and cover up the unholy mess created on top by the oozing episode. now I just have browned dots of marshmallow all over the place.
I have to take this out in public.
Ah well, it’s only once a year. And at least I won’t be surrounded by competitive judge parents. Well, I might but they’re not ones I am really bothered about. The perfect cakes thing has all got a bit much back home, rather like party bags. I’m not joining in. We’ll settle for homemade that may look like shit but (have faith) will taste bloody brilliant.