I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no easy cakes. Just when I think a cake is going to be easy, something goes wrong, and everything that I have come to learn about cakes and fondant (and my patience) all go flying out the window.
My middle daughter has a friend who lives in Texas. They went to high school together and have managed to stay in touch over the last several years. Occasionally her friend comes back to Pennsylvania and, when she does, we love to have her here at our house. It’s always a great time of fun and catching up.
A little while back, my daughter’s friend sent me a Facebook message asking if we would do a cake for her mother’s birthday in October. I told her we would be happy to and we started corresponding about details. She had lots of ideas for the cake and needed some help to narrow down what she wanted us to do. The birthday is in October so it could be a fall cake, her mother is Italian so it could be an Italian themed cake…..there were several ideas but we finally settled on a chocolate cake with an Italian theme. We would do a warm, golden fondant with clusters of grapes and leaves and vines. The cake would say, “Happy Birthday, Mom” in Italian. No problem.
Megan and I started working on grapes and leaves and vines. As I mentioned before, Megan is subbing full-time now and so she just can’t stay up as late as she did during the summer. She finished the grapes and went to bed. I was alone at the kitchen table so I pulled out my trusty companion, my computer, and put in a movie. I chose the latest version of “Sense and Sensibility” which is one that I’ve watched over and over while we’ve done cakes. It’s about a mother and her three daughters, in case you’re not familiar with the story. A mother and her daughters….
I sat there alone and started thinking about mothers and daughters. I thought about my daughter’s friend in Texas and how terribly sweet it was for her to order a cake for her mother’s birthday halfway across the country. I thought how much it would probably mean to her mother when the cake is delivered. We LOVE the delivery! It’s the payoff for hours and hours of working on gumpaste and fondant and if it means a lot to us, you can imagine how fun it is for the person who has ordered the cake. I realized how much our friend’s mother must mean to her, that she would be willing to order a special cake like this and not even get to be there for the payoff. It must be hard to be so far away from her mother and not be able to celebrate her mother’s birthday with her.
I started thinking about my own Mother and the birthdays that I’ve spent away from her. Too many to mention here. It’s hard to be separated from the ones that we love. I know that we don’t really understand our mother’s perspective until we are mothers ourselves and now I realize how hard it must be to be so far away from your family on your birthday. I can’t say that I’m always a good daughter either. My life is here, and busy and it’s much too easy to not recognize the importance of that day for my Mother.
Cakes are not easy, life is not easy, but we work at both of them, trying to make them better, trying to not make the same mistakes every time. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don’t. I’m organizing a work day for people to go to my Mother’s house to try to repair some of the devastation of the recent flooding. I may have missed her birthday this year, but I’m not going to miss the opportunity to help her in this desperate time.
The cake went together, after quite a bit of error I must say. We were working with marbling fondant and I just couldn’t get it right and the more I worked with it the drier it got. Once fondant starts to dry out it’s hard to pull it back from the brink of oblivion. Some people add water but there just isn’t anything to work with like nice fresh fondant. I ended up trashing a batch, starting over and, in the end, put fondant on the cake three times before I was finally satisfied with it. I kept trying until I got it right.
I’m thankful that my Mother is still with us so that I can keep trying to get it right.
Kudos to Kim for thinking of her Mother from so far away. Thanks for being a good example of what a daughter should be. Next time you’re in town, we’ll bake you a cake.