I received a call from my daughter this morning.
“Are you bringing a cake tonight?”
We’re going to their house to celebrate our granddaughter’s sixth birthday. Last week we celebrated her dad’s birthday at our house with dinner and a traditional Grandma Wilken birthday cake. I guess I’ll be making another today. I’m not complaining, I’m pleased that the traditional Grandma Wilken cake is desired. It’s just a little late notice. Oh well, a quick trip to Service Food will fix it all. It will be in the oven in plenty of time to cool and frost.
When I was a child, the birthday cakes I remember were the ones made with a cake mix and put into a 9-by-13 pan. I remember being asked what kind of cake I wanted. Is there any other flavor for a kid than chocolate? We always had candles. Mom never spent money on frivolous decorations that you find at the grocery store, although I always asked. Nor did she have time or inclination to decorate a cake herself (which I never requested). Grandma made angel food cakes if we celebrated at her house, usually with whipping cream, strawberries and candles. They were the best!
One year, my best friend gave me an angel food birthday cake that had been cut in half across the middle. The middle part of the cake was scooped out and filled with whipped cream and chopped strawberries. It was then frosted with whipped cream. A delightfully delicious delicacy that I have remembered my entire life. My birthday is in June, hence, the strawberry theme.
When I was first married, my mother-in-law introduced me to the traditional family birthday cake which begins with a simple angel food cake mix. After baking and cooling, it is covered in chocolate and iced with mint flavored cool whip. Because the family was large, she used two or three cake mixes and a large stainless steel mixing bowl with a vegetable can for the center tube.
A genuine prankster, one year for a brother-in-law’s birthday she lined her angel food “cake pan” with aluminum foil and filled it with concrete. After it was set, she took it out of the pan, positioned it on her cake plate and frosted it with mint flavored cool whip. When no one else was around she had one of the boys carry it to the table. It looked like a normal birthday cake, complete with candles. After dinner the birthday boy blew out the candles and proceeded to cut the cake. Or at least he tried … more than once! After the second attempt he realized he had been duped. I don’t remember what we had for dessert that day, but we all enjoyed a good laugh. The real birthday cake with chocolate and mint also became the go-to cake for my mom as well as for myself. It is now recognized as the traditional birthday cake in our family.
By the way, my angel food cake is busy baking, the chocolate is on the counter and the Cool Whip is defrosting as I write this column … the timer just went off. Argh, the clean pop bottle that I use for cooling cakes was squirreled away in the recycling. Grandma never had this problem! I had to ferret it out and wash it again before I could flip the cake. Done! Now it must cool. Grandma’s name is on the bottom of my cake pan! Ah, she made fabulous cakes and not from a box.
Do you remember Dixie Donut at the mall? The most unique birthday cake I ever served was from that donut shop. As a working mom, I took every shortcut I could find. My daughter and son often shared a kid’s party in the summer so we could celebrate at the park. I purchased a giant Bavarian cream donut to serve 15 people. My kids were wild about those donut cakes. They were scrumptious!
Under the category of the most infuriating birthday cake experience happened many years later. After our dog, Kitty, passed away, I missed not having a dog around the house. Eventually I adopted a greyhound/Lab cross that looked like Kitty. He was, however, nothing like our previous pet. He was a beautiful long-legged creature who could fly like the wind with grace and beauty, but he gave new definition to the term neurotic. He almost caused a divorce, when he tore apart the sofa to retrieve a tennis ball, but let’s not go there.
For my dad’s birthday, I baked his favorite cake, a lemon pound cake with lemon icing. (A fabulous recipe if I do say so myself.) I left the kitchen with dessert cooling on the counter to attend to some other issue that a mother of three has to deal with on a daily basis, only to return to find the cake half gone! The dog looked a little sheepish and I was mad as a March Hare! I will never forget the sight of that half-eaten cake. Fortunately, we only lived two blocks from the grocery store and a quick trip restored my baking supplies, and my good humor. The second cake was done but probably still warm for the party. Yes, the dog survived.
My cake is almost cool and soon I will put this story aside to frost it. Thanks for joining me today as I took a backward glance at birthday cakes, I enjoyed the trip. I hope reading this missive triggered some memories of your own cake experiences. It sure smells good around here!