So birthday season is over in my house. What? ‘Tis a whole season of birthdays? Why, yes…let me explain. Because I met the King of the North on the 8th May. The magic 8th May. It’s when the stars, planets and the cosmos align and obviously when the magic happens, quite literally, for it has become the date all four of my babies were conceived. Boom. It wasn’t planned. The first time we thought it was cute, then it became a freaky coincidence. Now Ned’s not allowed anywhere near me on that date. Ever. Shit, we’re not even going to share a toilet seat in May.
So that means four birthdays pretty much around the same three week period. Arya is first on the 20th January (she was one week early) and Jon Snow is the last on the 9th February (two weeks late). It is fucking bedlam. It is presents and parties (that’s a whole other blog post) and the blowing up of balloons, the singing and multiple visits to the Card Factory. But most importantly, it’s about the cake. All the cake.
(l-r : the world's smallest football pitch (always check the dimensions of your figurines on ebay first), fat demon bear cake, Pepto-Bismol coloured butterfly and Ned Stark's cake last year when he was trying out gluten-free and the cake came out like a Findus Crispy Pancake. Don't ask how old he is, he old.)
But please don’t worry, this is not my chance to tell you I am an amazing baker with tiers and icing and tiny fondant Elsa faces in a sea of snowflakes sat next to a giant Olaf made out of homemade marshmallow. No. I suck at baking. Like suck serious ass. The pictures above are some of my better ones. This is a picture of the cake I made my son this year. The icing didn’t set so I poured it on so it'd look like snow/lava, sprinkled some Rich Tea biscuits about the place and added some dinosaurs. It’s like totally Jurassic, right? I loved how people had to sip the icing like soup.
I am exceptionally good at the eating of the cake but cake making just takes that precision, good timing and patience that I lack. That said, as a dedicated mother/disorganised cheapskate, I never have the foresight to order these things in so I put my kids through the trauma of my baking skills. I have few tips when it comes to cake. I don’t get fancy…I am literally scared of royal icing because it involves skill and well, I think it looks like playdoh and a little unnatural. And marzipan? Giant big fat heave – can’t stand the stuff. So the kids always get frosting' whipped creamy frosting stuff. It’s nearly always chocolate. It’s nearly always made by the great late Betty Crocker. I cook three flavour cakes – it’s all I know and tart my cakes up with candles, figurines and Smarties. God bless the Smartie.
And the fact is my cakes don’t always look good. My frosting skills are non-existent and if you're icing with chocolate that usually means your cakes end up looking like turds. ‘It’s rustic!’ I tell Ned Stark. Sometimes he’ll feel such pity for me that he’ll take over. This is him saving a dinosaur. Mock the head torch all you want.
This was taken at 12.30am, the day before the party. Look at that joy in his face, all the joy. We still had two more cakes to ice after this one.
Sometimes I will think I’m a far better baker than I am (damn you Great British Bake Off!) and set my sights too high. Cue Ned Stark coming into the kitchen at 2am whilst I am foaming at the mouth with tears, trying to make a whole level of fairy castle stand up with toothpicks.
Princess 1: 'Look at our sparkly turrets!'
Princess 2: 'Yes, but we got screwed over with the rendering, dodgy silicone on the windows and all...'
Sometimes they are complete flukes leaving my mother to utter, ‘…Oh, you did that? Did your sister help you?’ Other times, they are beyond redemption and I can’t be arsed to even run to the shops to buy something to mask my shitty baking skills. Sometimes they don’t even make it into the oven alive. There was the legendary incident where the cake died as soon as I got it in the oven. Don’t even ask me how I did this but it was as if the cake knew it was going to be shit so committed suicide. The one next to him also died a death in the oven. I also didn't line the tin so it was totally melded in and the children scraped it out with their fingers and ate it like cats.
So as a seasoned baker of rubbish birthday cakes, here are my top cake tips:
- Line the pan.
- Fill the cracks/breaks/unrisen bits with icing.
- 3D cakes…hahahahaha… they are HARD work and can end a marriage. 2D every time.
- Sprinkles. Throw those things about with wild abandon. Kids love sprinkles. Sparkly ones especially that contain banned E numbers.
- They also love Smarties. God bless the Smartie.
- When in doubt, add dinosaurs/fairies/butterflies/Lego men/life size Barbie dolls.
- Even if it’s shit, bring it to the table anyways. Laugh about it, tell everyone it’s made with love. Make sure you get a picture of the disappointed birthday boy/girl for the albums. It’s all about those comedy birthday memories – no one remembers the perfect cakes, ever.
Ned Stark's 40th birthday cake. His only brief? 'I don't want a cake with a big 40 on it...'