Mulberries dropped thick and heavy from the trees. The streets were purple with jacaranda petals. In a kitchen in the city a young girl stood over a mixing bowl making her father a birthday cake. This was to be a special cake because she hadn’t seen her father in years, not since the divorce. The girl was so small she had to stand on a box to see over her mixing bowl which she held tightly against her chest in case it slipped. She wanted a blue cake with a taste of peppermint. Blue was her favourite colour and she remembered her daddy always carried a box of mint imperials jiggling in his pockets.
The girl was so excited she hurried through her preparation ignoring the admonishments of her grandmother to concentrate. When she put the cake in the oven the girl sat on her haunches and stared at it through oven window, willing the cake to rise. She sat with her nose as close as she dared without burning it. Hurry up, she thought, hurry up! Not only that, she was dying to ice the cake. The best bit
‘You need to learn some patience’ her grandmother said, ‘don’t you know a watched cake never rises. If you are too anxious the cake will be flat and no man will ever love you.’
Still the girl stared at the cake and first it bubbled then slowly began to rise. Quickly she made the icing with a touch of peppermint. She took the cake out of the oven using a pair of her grandmother’s oven gloves and was about to turn it out to cool when something terrible happened. The cake began to sink in the middle as if it were letting out a huge sigh.
Seeing the girl’s distress, her grandmother quickly rescued the situation. ‘Never mind’ she said, ‘we can cover the hole in the middle with icing – your father will never know the difference.’ And this in the end is what they did. For good measure the girl scooped up a handful of jacaranda petals to decorate. With the petals and the icing done it was impossible to tell that the cake was hollow in the middle.
Soon everything was ready. The cake was set up in the garden under the tree along with the tea things. The girl couldn’t wait for her father to arrive and taste it. Already she felt warm as she basked in his love. As the afternoon dragged on a big old summer storm rolled in over the mountains. The sky grew dark and large drops of rain began fall. ‘Quick!’ her grandmother said, ‘let’s get these things inside.’ The tea things were set up all over again on the dining room table. It was beginning to grow dark and her grandmother turned on the lights.
The girl sat unblinking at the window watching the driveway as the storm washed the dust off the world and jacaranda petals floated down storm water drains on the road. The same road her father would come down when he came. But of course he didn’t.
For the Blue Moon Birthday Cake I used the Best White Cake Recipe from Robyn Stone’s blog ‘Take a Pinch‘ and modified it a little.
1 cup butter
1/2 shortening (I used oil)
3 cups castor sugar
3 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking power (I used 1 tsp and 1/2 tsp bicarb)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Preheat over to 180 – if you have a knob with number on it
Prepare 3 x 22 cm cake tins
Cream together butter and shortening/oil until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Slowly add sugar one cup at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each cup before adding another. Add eggs one at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each egg before beating in another. Now Robyn was very pernickity about this in a secret women’s business kind of way and her cakes look delicious, so be sure to do it exactly as she says.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture alternatively with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients (more secret women’s business stuff). Add vanilla and beat cake batter on high speed for about 5 seconds to fully incorporate all ingredients. Stop mixer and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, making sure to have all ingredients mixed well. (It all smelled so yumptious I just wanted to sick my head into it as if it were a trough.)
I should add two things at this point. You know how they always tell you to dance like noone is watching because you might be dead tomorrow? Well don’t. Not when you have the electric mixer in your hand set on high. Getting batter off walls is not only a ball ache, it’s a real timewaster.
Also, although I followed Robyn’s secret women’s business instructions to the whisk, I had the niggling feeling that I shouldn’t be beating the batter. My grandmother was of the view that beaten cakes were unhappy cakes. One should fold and caress she said.
Dump the beaten batter equally in the prepared 3 tins and put in oven for approx 35-40 minutes.
Guess what. Cakes didn’t rise.
In this type of crisis a lot can be done with icing. Because Robyn didn’t give instructions for frosting I made vanilla butter cream icing from The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook. It’s a fabulous book and I use it all the time. Every recipe I’ve used has been foolproof.
Happy birthday Daddy … wherever you are.