Monday, September 26, 2011

Have My Cake And Eat It Too

This past Sunday was my Father-in-Law's 64th birthday. Per our yearly tradition, the family was invited over to the in-laws' house for lunch following church, and, like any good guest, I asked what I could bring. I expected my Mother-in-Law to say "a bottle of wine" (because, frankly, everybody knows that we drink a lot) or, at worst, "some kind of salad."

It turns out I underestimated the MIL.

Badly.Check Spelling

She asked me to bring the cake. The goddamned cake.

Now, everybody knows you don't ask ME to bring the cake. The cake is the centerpiece of any birthday. Everyone looks at it and forward to it and gets excited about it. Hell, most people set it on fire and sing a damn SONG about it, for Christ's sake. It's THE CAKE. I can't be in charge of THE CAKE. My reputation for fucking up shit is known near and far, especially important shit. Especially SHIT LIKES CAKES. ESPECIALLY SHIT LIKE BIRTHDAY CAKES FOR MY FATHER-IN-LAW WHO IS WAAAAAAAAAY FANCIER THAN I AM AND WHO STILL HASSLES ME ABOUT A POT OF MEATBALLS I FUCKED UP SEVEN YEARS AGO BECAUSE MY BITCH-ASS MOTHER GAVE ME SHITTY MEATBALL-MAKING DIRECTIONS.


Now, I will mention two additional things: 1) My Mother-in-Law makes EVERY FUCKING THING INCLUDING ALL CAKES from scratch and they are always PERFECT and ungodly delicious and; 2) My Mother-in-Law suggested in the email she sent asking me to bring the cake that perhaps I should just order one from Farm Fresh and bring it, no big deal.

What EVER. Like that's ever going to happen.

You see, the one thing I have learned over the years, as I grew and became more wise and awesome is that your must treat parents like you treat small children. You can't just give them what they ask for whenever they ask for it and expect them to grow into what you want them to be. Oh, no. You must MOLD them into the kind of citizens this world really needs (i.e. more like me). Which means that you can't just run up to Farm Fresh and drop $20 on some generic, standard (but delicious) run-of-the-mill cake. Oh, no. My FIL is 64. Who knows how many more birthdays Philosaurus will have-- he deserves the very best. Particularly because my in-laws DO treat me really well, and have worked hard to acclimate to my crazy. I love them dearly. So there was no way in hell Phil was going to get a dull cake.

No, Phil was going to get a Haley Cake Extraordinaire.

I decided to start with some hand-me-down cake pans from my Grandma that I found in her basement about ten years ago and that she had had since the 1940s. I suspect they were supposed to be used for wedding cakes, as there were four of them and they were round and tiered. Not that Grandmama had ever baked a damn thing other than Breakfast Casserole once a year and Weight Watcher muffins, but, whatever. They were cool pans. Because Phil is so awesome, I knew that his cake needed to be layered, and a variety of flavors. Because I also knew that my ingredients were limited and that I was too lazy to go to the store, I knew I needed to tone that idea down a bit, so we ended up with two chocolate and two vanilla layers (alternated, of course). Once I had the cake baked, I used approximately 42 boxes of confectioner's sugar, half a bottle of vanilla, a gallon of milk, a pound of butter, and a bottle of Shiraz (to help inspire decorating ideas) to make homemade frosting. (Side note: I was going to make my friend EB's yummy cream cheese frosting, but I realized--luckily before I added the cream cheese to the batter--that the cream cheese had likely gone bad during the three days we had no power during the hurricane, but that I had neglected to throw it away. I was saving it for hard times. That's what happens when you grow up in Tennessee-- you hoard spoiled cream cheese.) I broke out the electric mixer, and mixed away.

By this time, I had powdered sugar in my hair and down the front of my clothes. It was also probably in my wine, but frankly, I wouldn't have been able to tell if it was. Now armed with four layers of cake and a ginormous bowl of vanilla frosting, I considered my options. And considered them. And thought some more. What I WANTED, was a Jesus. You know, one of those Jesus action figures you see in some stores. I could frost the layers in green, put Jesus up on top looking all holy and shit-- it would be AWESOME. My FIL LOVES Jesus-- and I wanted to make a cake that reflected something he loved. But I had no Jesus. And since I didn't know how to create an interior decorating cake (his other passion), and had no Jesus to park atop my baked goods mountain, I did the next best thing. I decorated by association.

The equation:

Sutt loves Star Wars. Pops loves Sutt. Therefore, logically, in an extended sense, Pops loves Star Wars. (Hey, it made sense after three glasses of wine. As a matter of fact, it not only made sense, but I felt like a FUCKING MATHEMATICAL GENIUS.)

A Star Wars Cake it would be.

So I snuck into Sutt's room and rounded up all the Star Wars men I could find. There was some monkey dude with a couple of guns, a frog-headed looking guy with guns, Luke Skywalker with a lightsaber, a storm trooper, AND the piece de over sized Chewbacca holding what appeared to be a bowstaff.

Now, I have carried these little men around in my purse. I have watched Sutt play with them in the bathtub, on the toilet, in the front yard, and at various nasty, germ-laden establishments all over Hampton Roads. They have dated and married a variety of Barbies and Strawberry Shortcakes, and they occasionally have gone on cross-country roadtrips in the Barbie RV and towing the Batmobile. These men have been around the block. They are carrying all KINDS of the crud. Did that deter me? Nope. I soaped those little bitches up, scrubbed them down a bit, rinsed and started parking them all around the cake.

But wait. Rewind.

Remember that white frosting I made? You can't have a WHITE STAR WARS CAKE. That's insane. I dug around in my spice cabinet looking for coloring options but the only food colorings I could find were red, green, and black. (Side note: No, I do not know why I have black food coloring. Mind your own business.) I threw back some wine, threw in some black, and BAM! Frosting magic.

Back to the Wookie.

I had Chewbacca left once the other men were settled, because I had special plans for that big, hairy fella. Using a steak knife and a lot of drunken determination, I pried the bowstaff from his furry wookie hands and made my own little flag to him to hold, bidding my FIL a happy birthday. I stuck the flag in Chewy's hand, shoved the beast knee-deep in the frosting, threw on some sprinkles and was good to go.

I had made cake magic: a four tiered, slightly tilted, grayish-blackish-frosted, silver-metallic sprinkled cake peppered slightly used Star Wars figures and sporting a giant Wookie brandishing a day-glo yellow Post-It Happy Birthday sign on top, just like an Eastern European color guard girl.


When I presented it to my in-laws, I could see the love and joy in their eyes. The respect. The admiration. The gratitude. And the knowledge that I should never, ever be put in charge of the cake.

Next year, they would like me to bring wine.

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