One of our cruising friends celebrated her birthday last night.
A few days prior, her husband had dinghied over to a number of boats and invited us to a birthday cocktail party aboard their catamaran, Kookaburra. Inevitably, each invitee asked, “What can we bring?” It’s a given that we’ll take our own drinks and an app to share. (In the cruising world, “app” is short for appetizer, not application.)
“Do you want me to make a cake?” I asked.
“No thanks,” he said. “Carrie has offered to make the cake.”
Secretly, I heaved a sigh of relief. Birthday cakes aren’t my best thing. I can make an excellent carrot cake, and fortunately that is EW’s absolute favorite. I also can follow Fabio’s instructions for his amazing white cake with fruit. But as for birthday cakes, ask Favorite sometime about the soccer ball cake I tried to make my first year as a stepmom. He was a gracious and kind child.
A day before the birthday, Keith laughingly told us that everyone had offered to make a cake and he almost took them up on it. “Jaime’s favorite breakfast is chocolate cake and Mountain Dew. I bet she’d love having a bunch of chocolate birthday cakes!”
Be careful what you wish for.
On Friday, I called Carrie about something and got her husband Carl on the phone instead. “Are you near Carrie?” I asked. Most of us here in St. Thomas only have one cell phone per couple. You never know who will answer and whether your intended party will be available near the phone. Sort of an “Is this the party to whom I am speaking? <snort>” scenario. (If you don’t get that reference, find someone old enough to have watched Laugh In. Lily Tomlin is a comic genius.)
Back to our story. Carrie was not near Carl. In fact, Carrie was at work. “It’s her day off.” I said. “Usually,” said Carl, “but her schedule got messed up, so she’s working on Friday and Saturday this week.” Hmm. So, being the nice person I am, when we went ashore I intended to ask Carrie whether she wanted me to make Jaime’s birthday cake. I saw Carl first and broached the subject with him. “Bless you!” he said, before I had actually finished making the offer. “I was supposed to make the cake. I hate that.” No worries. I was delighted to help. Carl offered to get me the mix and frosting to me but I said we were going shopping and would pick it up. Chocolate cake, and canned chocolate frosting. Who could mess that up?
Evidently Carl could, before he started. After talking with Carl, I visited for a minute with Carrie at work. When I told her I had offered to make the cake, she tilted her head and said, “Are you sure?” just as I knew she’d do. but she was delighted that I was making the cake. “Bless you.” she said. (Carrie is from the south.) She knew Carl hadn’t made many (any?) cakes and did want a nice one for Jaime’s birthday. She paused, then asked, “Did Carl tell you what he did?” her Florida accent, making di-id into two indignant syllables.
“He ate the frosting!”
I laughed and later that evening when I saw Carl, I asked him how he had planned to provide me with mix and frosting after his crime spree. “I already replaced it,” he said a bit sheepishly. Carl had just finished a week in which he had messed up regarding a dinghy key and had arrived home one night with chocolate candy and an apology for Carrie. It’s not been his week.
So, on Saturday, I baked a cake. I thought long and hard and decided to bravely make it a layered cake, even though it’s hot here and we had to transport it by dinghy. We’d be careful and round layer cakes have such a homey feel, doesn’t don’t they? Sheet cakes are for crowds and boaters. Layer cakes just say “home made” to me – even if they’re from a mix. I got out my 8” pans, prepared them, mixed up the cake, baked it, cooled the layers, frosted the bottom layer, and broke the top layer in half. Bet you didn’t see that coming. Neither did I.
For some reason (I think EW bought them) we have little tiny wooden skewers, so I tried to use them to hold the top layer together.
Then, I tried frosting the whole thing and putting a huge amount of frosting into the crack. Warm frosting, which had actually been sitting in the sun on deck. (Don’t ask.) After that, I watched as the broken half started to slide slowly but inexorably off of the cake. This was not celebration material. Three deep breaths and I called Carl. “Do you still have that mix and frosting?” He said he did, and without asking for details (smart man) offered to meet me in his dinghy for the hand-off. I made a sheet cake as I should have done the first time. Sheet cakes stay in the pan in which they are baked. No sliding around. It’s a great invention for boaters.
In the meantime, I had this two layer of frosted chocolate mess, so I dumped it into a wooden salad bowl. Figured I take it to Jaime for her post birthday breakfast cake. EW saw it and wanted chocolate. “Go ahead, I said, “spoon up a bowl of it. Just don’t mess it up; I want to give the rest to Jaime.”
He looked at the cake. He looked at me. “How could I mess this up?”
So eight of us had cake and ice cream -- some of us had two helpings of cake and ice cream -- and Jaime sent cake home with all who would accept it. She kept the bowl of cake for breakfast this week.
Good thing Jaime really likes chocolate cake.
Here she is at left, licking the candles.
At right, she is cleaning out the pan after Keith parceled out left-over cake to the guests.
Jaime is my kind of woman.
Happy Birthday, Jaime!
Have you heard? I’ve written a book, currently available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook, for only $2.99.
In Harts at Sea Sailing to Windward I tell the story of our first year as cruisers. It wasn’t all cake, but it’s still a great lifestyle.