WHEN I was a kid I never had a birthday cake. Not because I grew up in some grim orphanage or had horrible parents but because I had the misfortune of being born just after Christmas.
After the excess of the festive season the last thing anyone wanted – or more importantly, could afford – was more cake.
So every January my mother would slap some Royal Icing on a leftover manky Oxford Lunch and present it to me with a fixed smile, telling me just to be glad there was a cake at all. It became a running joke in our family and in fact when I got married, my Mam iced an Oxford Lunch for me for my hen night for the craic and we all fell about the place laughing.
It was no laughing matter in 1991 however, when I threatened to run away from home unless they got me an actual birthday cake from an actual bakery with my actual name on it. I was deadly serious and luckily the folks realised I was a woman on the edge and made with the cake. It was such a novelty in our house that they even took a photo of me with the cake. That’s me there below, wearing, inexplicably a jumper more suited to the cast of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Anyway, I always swore that if I ever had a kid, I’d make sure he or she always had a brilliant birthday cake – in fact I’d make it myself so I would. I made a promise to my future child that day that their birthday cakes would be creations of wonder, lovingly prepared by their doting mother. No manky Oxford Lunches for them, no Sir!
Fastforward 20-odd years and it’s about ten days until Seán’s first birthday and the panic has set in. You see, I can’t bake. No really, I’m useless. I’m not a bad cook now, but I don’t have the light touch you need to make cakes.
I’m dreadful at following recipes, preferring to fling in handfuls of stuff instead of weighing out the ingredients needed. I can’t knead, I don’t own an electric hand whisk and I don’t even know the difference between bread soda and bicarbonate of soda.
I attempted to make fairy cakes a while back and this happened:
Then I attempted to make a sugar free apple cake and it turned into this wet, stodgy, tasteless mess:
And don’t even talk to me about the time I attempted pretzels and took these oversized misshapen penises out of the oven:
I’m not so bad at bread now, I made a tomato loaf once and it was good. But I can’t serve this at a one-year-old’s birthday party, can I?
I feel like such a failure but I know what I have to do. I’ll be letting down my 13-year-old self but it has to be done – now, someone pass me the Royal Icing.