It all started last Tuesday. John and Kate were scheduled to arrive Tuesday night and since John's birthday was last Monday, I thought I would make a cake so we could celebrate. Now, cakes are a little out of my comfort zone. I rock at the cookies and brownies, but really there are only 2 cakes I can make well from scratch...chocolate and carrot. I decided to go with the chocolate. I was almost to the last step, pouring in the boiling water, when I decided to taste the batter...which was a good thing because after I finished gagging, I realized I had forgotten to add the sugar. No harm done...I added the sugar and water, mixed the batter, poured it in the pan. And even now, I'm not sure how it happened, but as I was putting the first pan into the oven, the pan tipped and I ended up pouring almost the entire contents down the inside of my oven door. I immediately turned off the oven, and started to panic and closed the oven door, I guess hoping that it would contain the mess, but instead the batter started flowing out the bottom of the oven door and down the front of the bottom drawer. Emily thought it was cool because it looked like a chocolate waterfall. I, however, thought it was not so cool. I got the mess cleaned up and not really wanting to make another cake, decided I would bake what was left of the one pan to make a thin layer and then I would just cut the other layer in half for 3 thin layers. More frosting anyway, right? So it all worked out and we had scrumptious chocolate cake on Wednesday night when John and Kate were finally able to make it here (Thanks a lot, American Airlines!).
Fast forward a couple of days to Monday. I asked Doug what kind of cake he would like for his birthday and after a weekend of all-you-can-eat seafood, Krispy Kreme's, breakfast buffets and happy hour at Liberty, he thought that perhaps a cake would be more than he could handle. But, of course, I couldn't not make a cake...so I thought a nice light angel food cake with fresh berries would be just the ticket. And as I've never made an angel food cake from scratch and because I was also in the process of doing about 43 loads of laundry from our 4 day trip to the beach, I thought I'd make a box angel food cake. Just add water to the mix, beat for a couple of minutes, pour into the pan and bake...easy, right? Well, yes, that part was easy. But after it comes out of the oven, you're supposed to invert it over a bottle to cool...no problem. I just happened to have several bottles of wine left over from the weekend. And so, I took the cake out of the oven, turned it upside down over the bottle only to find that the top of the bottle was too large for the tube pan to fit over and then the cake started to slip and I almost knocked the bottle onto the floor. When I grabbed the bottle with one hand, I grabbed the cake with the other and ended up essentially punching a fist sized crater into the cake. Fabulous. I turned the cake upside down on a cooling rack for the rest of the afternoon, semi-hoping that gravity would fix the situation, but no such luck. Luckily, when the cake was on the plate, the crater was on the bottom and you couldn't really see it, so again, no real harm done. I sliced it and served it with strawberries, blackberries and Lite Cool Whip and it was just fine.
And so, given these two "unfortunate mishaps," I'm not sure what made me even want to attempt to make Jackson's birthday cake. After all, we had gone to SuperTarget and he had picked out a Thomas the Tank Engine cake out of the book. I was all prepared to pay the $20 and be done with it. Except I happened to look at the cakes they had for sale and one was the Thomas cake and it looked nothing like it did in the book. Instead of using the different colored icings, they had used one of those air brush painters and all the colors were sort of running together. And I just couldn't do it. So, I bought a box of Duncan Hines French Vanilla and then went to three different stores looking for something Thomas I could put on the cake. Nothing. Seriously! So I came up with Plan B which was to frost the cake, maybe pipe on a little lake and some grass to look like the Island of Sodor and then put one of Jack's Thomas engines on the cake. He thought that was a fine idea and so when we got home I asked if he could go and get one of his Thomas engines for me. He brought back one of his Thomas slippers. After I explained that wouldn't work because I needed to put Thomas on top of the cake and no one would want to eat a cake with a dirty slipper on it ("Oh, okay, I get it now!"), we got a small Thomas and short story long, I think it turned out well. Jack was really excited about it that he could hardly even eat his cake dinner. (The Jack Dictionary: Cake dinner - the dinner you have to eat before you can eat your birthday cake.)