I don’t know what came over me, but two weeks ago I was sitting at my desk at work when the most ridiculously out-of-character idea cloud settled upon my head, and it told me to bake Henry a cake for Valentine’s Day.
There are several things wrong with this:
- I have never baked without supervision.
- I have never baked a cake, nor have I ever wanted to. (I do like decorating cakes that other people have made though, usually in a mean-spirited fashion.)
- I do not like baking. Or cooking. Or being in the kitchen at all.
- Since when do I ever willingly want to do nice things for Henry?
Natalie happened to stop by to talk to me right after my plan was devised and I eagerly filled her in. She gave me a horrified look and then walked away.
See? Everyone knows this is not an Erin thing to do! And more importantly, HENRY knows this goes against everything I’m all about which means he would never expect it. Ever. Never ever.
I posted about it on Facebook (I blocked him from that particular status update) and the reactions were mixed, everything from shock and trepidation from the people who know that the only recipe I’m capable of following is one for disaster, suspicion from some who are not used to seeing my sweet side, and then there were all the “You Should”s with their unsolicited suggestions of what I should make instead.
But my mind was made up: red velvet cake, cream cheese frosting. No cake pops or cupcakes or chocolate-covered strawberries. No bakery-bought cake. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it big and do it my way.
A week before Valentine’s Day, I did some subtle recon.
“Why don’t you ever bake cakes?” I asked Henry out of the blue one night, because that’s how I do subtle. “Is it because it’s too HARD?” If it’s too difficult for Henry, then it’s impossible for me.
“Because we don’t have any cake pans,” he mumbled, not seeming to think it was a weird question at all.
The next day at work, I was freaking out about cake pans, which is how I learned that there are many options in acquiring one. For instance, Target sells cake pans! I never would have known. I learn so much about life at work.
But then Natalie said I could borrow hers! So then I had two 8in cake pans in my purse when I left work on Friday and Henry looked at me weirdly when he heard them clanging together.
And then he looked at me even more weirdly, now with a dash of fear, when I told him that I needed something for his Valentine’s gift but Natalie let me borrow hers, like it was her diaphragm and this was 1996.
“I don’t want to know,” he said.
After I took Chooch to school Monday morning, I looked at the frosting and cake mix recipe 45752 times to see what I would need, then I collected all the courage I could muster and set off to the grocery store. A solo trip to the grocery store. Whoever would’ve thought? When I t old Chooch what I was doing that day, he stopped everything and said, “Are you sure you shouldn’t just buy the cake?”
Nice to know my son has so much faith in me.
I was so nervous and apprehensive that I acted like I was on Supermarket Sweep, grabbed what I needed (I even got coffee creamer because I knew I was almost out; I’m suddenly responsible!), checked my heart rate and got the FUCK out. I really hate grocery stores. Unless it’s one of the fancy ones. Then I like to tag along with Henry and increase our bill by $150. Henry really enjoys that too.
The actual cake-baking wasn’t too bad, you guys! I even found the hand-mixer thingie and the whisk-y thingies which were in the second drawer I looked in! Clearly all of these things meant that baking was in my destiny. And you know, in between heaping mouthfuls of cake batter, I smiled to myself and thought about how surprised Henry was going to be that I was doing something selfless for him, because when do I ever do anything for him, aside from making pretty faces for him, filling his days with my warm and sunny disposition, and BEARING HIS CHILD?
Yep, everything was fine until the cake was done and I tried to remove it by flipping the pan upside down and shaking. A huge chunk flopped out, but another huge chunk remained adhered to the bottom of the pan. (Yes, I greased the pan! Why does everyone keep asking me that!?) Thank god for Facebook; I posted this picture with a caption begging for help, and my guardian angels asured me that this wasn’t fatal and that there were ways to piece it back together. And then Kaitlin texted me and said that happens to her all the time and I was like, “YES, I’M ON THE SAME PAGE AS KAITLIN!” Whatever that means!
Parts of the cake appeared burnt while other portions were definitely undercooked. I shrugged it off because let’s be real – this cake was mostly just a symbol at this point. If pieces of it turned out edible, well then that’s a bonus.
Once I dumped out the second cake, I stowed them away in the attic (yes, they were covered! I’m not that stupid!) and spent the rest of my day watching MTV like a person like me should be doing.
The next morning, Chooch was brushing his teeth and admitted to me that he peeked at the cake.
“It looks weird,” he said, his voice full of toothpaste and concern.
“BECAUSE IT’S NOT DONE YET! God!” I was feeling pretty defensive at that point.
After I took Chooch to school, it was time to make the frosting. I waited a whole day to do this because all of my Google research told me that it is best to frost a cake the next day. Plus, I didn’t feel like being in the kitchen any longer on Monday. But I realized I didn’t have enough butter and had to go BACK TO THE STORE which caused me great anxiety. Henry called while I was doing this and all I would tell him was that I was working on the second thing I needed to do but a wrench was thrown into the plan and I had to go back to the store.
Goddamn does it take butter a lot of time to thaw! Jessy texted me some ways to speed up the process but they all involved copious opportunies for me to fuck up. So I just sat on it for awhile instead.
The cats went apeshit when I was using the mixer. They have never, in 14 years, seen me do that before. I started to pretend like I was going to go after Marcy with it but then batter started flying around like arterial spray so I shoved it back in the bowl. God, baking is messy. I still don’t know where the frosting landed. And you know what, that shouldn’t be my concern. I already did enough, Henry can clean up. Right?
Aside from when I dropped the bowl and caught it by slamming it against the cabinets with my crotch (I did all the preparations on the 2 inch slat of counterspace in front of the sink, even though we have an entire table I could have used), frosting proved to be pretty easy to make! I did have to ask Google if confectioners powder is the same as powered sugar, though. (It is, in case you didn’t know.)
OK, I lied. I wanted to see how it felt to be cheery and positive for once. No, it wasn’t easy! It wasn’t easy at all! It took forever to mix, and my arms were hurting so bad, and it was jerking me around and not in a pleasurable way either. And then when it was time to slather it on the cake, my spatula thing kept pulling up parts of the cake and then it was mixing in with the frosting and I was getting so angry that I found myself crying for the eight time since the nigthmare started the day before, and if that shit didn’t taste so fucking good, it was about to get set on fire and chucked at the nearest Katy Perry fan.
And then I was like, “Fuck it. Once he sees I baked him a cake, of course he’s not going to deduct points for it being a hot mess.” Because the whole point is that, hello, this bitch baked him a cake for the first (and last) time ever!
When I first had the idea, I thought it would be cute to decorate it with all the things we share a mutual love for, but then I realized that’s only one thing (aside from our kid, obviously).
So it’s only slightly a wreck! I was pretty proud of myself, to be honest. But the sense of accomplishment was not enough to make me forget the electricutionary feeling of frazzled nerves, so no, I will not be making this a hobby.
Henry was nervous. “This is only the second time in 11 years you’ve done something for me on Valentine’s Day,” he said. It’s true. The last time I gave him an empty ring box which was supposed to hold a key to my house, but I left it in the paper bag from the hardware store.
He said, “I’m going to guess whatever you were doing was something you don’t normally do….which could be just about anything.”
Oh my god, he’s almost smiling! But then he looked at it again and said, “What are all the lumps in the frosting?”
“It’s cake!” I wailed. Ugh!
The more he looked at the cake, the less his lips held the smile-curve. It looked like apprehension was setting in, like he was going to make me taste it first. But he apparently ate a piece while I was at work and lived to tell about it. (I have no evidence that he didn’t force our son to eat it on his behalf, though.)
I only half-considered adding the zest of Hemlock to the frosting, I swear.
That night, after Chooch went to bed, Henry slipped into the kitchen, shutting the door behind him. I kept waiting for him to come out with a ring* or at least some vintage porn hidden in a souffle, but apparently my big Vday gift was dinner.
(*You know I would have been displeased if he had proposed on a day as obvious as February 14th. I’M NEVER HAPPY!)
“You ALWAYS cook dinner,” I whined. “I baked you a CAKE!”
He spent the rest of the night kissing my ass and then I let him scratch my back, so all was not lost.
(Wait, this sounds like a regular night at our house.)
I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life smearing this in his face.