The kid is like a son to me and his mother is like a sister to me which doesn’t make sense for how we would be related for real, but it explains why I agreed when she asked me to make a birthday cake for a surprise party she was planning.
She asked other friends to bring salads, but she wanted me to make the cake because she said I make good cake. I do make good cake. And good frosting, which is the best part of cake.
The party was for about 25 people so this would have to be a big cake rather than the double layer 8-inch rounds I usually make for small family occasions, but I was up for the sheet cake challenge. I’m pretty sure all my Pinterest stalking and Food Network watching has made me the equivalent of a certified pasty chef by now, so I blocked out my Saturday afternoon to bake the biggest best chocolate cake ever.
I gave up a bike ride on a gorgeous spring afternoon to make it. I sacrificed my weekly temple attendance goal to make it. But I was helping friends, right?
The cake turned out fabulous. It was as beautiful as it was delicious (I did plenty of taste tests throughout the baking process to make sure.) I arrived at the party with my masterpiece and set it on a separate table apart from the buffet so it would be preserved until the party climax.
The birthday boy arrived and we shouted at him and hugged him. After my hug, he asked me what I got him for his birthday and I excitedly ushered him over to the fabulous cake and said, “I got you this! A delicious homemade chocolate cake baked with love by your honorary mom!”
He instantly jabbed his finger in the middle of the cake and swiped through the “Happy Birthday” lettering gathering a glob of frosting which he stuck in his mouth as he laughed.
I was annoyed.
I have a teenage son and I know they can be thoughtless so I chose patience. I took a deep breath and said, “I’ll let you get away with that because you’re the birthday boy.”
He smirked as he licked his finger and walked away to join his friends.
I looked down at the marred cake. We hadn’t even taken pictures of it yet.
Oh well, I thought. It’s just a cake, right? It will still taste delicious, right? Grrrr…let it go. Breath. It’s a party, don’t be a pooper, I told myself.
I grabbed a plastic knife and tried to fix the frosting as best I could then walked away. I relaxed and enjoyed good food with good company and eventually forgot all about the defaced cake – mostly. Little did I know a careless finger swipe wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to my fabulous cake that day.
During the meal, the birthday boy’s older brother approached me and said he wanted to play a prank on his brother. On his mission in California he’d learned some traditional Latino cultural birthday gag where you ask the person celebrating the birthday to take the first bite of cake from the corner as everyone chants some celebratory expression in Spanish. As he takes the bite, someone sneaks up behind and pushes his face into the cake.
He thought this would be great and funny and he wanted me to be the sneaky one. He said his brother would be the least suspicious of me doing such a thing.
He was right. I would be the least suspicious of doing such a thing because I absolutely didn’t want to do such a thing. I didn’t think it would be great or funny to push a kid’s face into my fabulous cake, even if it did already have a kid’s finger slash through it.
What to do?
His brother was so excited to pull this prank and I didn’t want to be a spoilsport. It wasn’t my party and it wasn’t even really my cake because I’d made it for this family to do as they pleased with it I guess, so I went along. I figured it was probably best if I was the culprit anyway because I’d be more gentle and just give the birthday boy’s head a little nudge, enough to jovially cover his chin and fulfill the joke.
We gathered around the cake and sang happy birthday. Then big brother explained the new tradition he wanted his brother to take part in and invited him to take the first bite of cake from the corner. Birthday boy was immediately suspicious and wouldn’t do it. His brother tried to convince him it was harmless and even had all of us back away from the cake (me a tad less), but birthday boy wouldn’t bite.
At this point big brother should’ve just let it go. Birthday boy was onto him and the jig was up but no, big brother persisted. He picked up the cake and held it in front of his brother’s face insisting he take a bite. As I watched my fabulous homemade double layer chocolate sheet cake recklessly dangling as bait between rival brothers I really really wished I would have gone on a bike ride and to the temple, then stopped at Sam’s Club bakery to get one of those synthetic sponges slathered with chemicals.
Then it happened.
Big brother shoved the cake in birthday boy’s face. Birthday boy pushed the cake back at big brother. Big brother dodged and the cake flipped through the air and splattered upside down on the floor.
We all stood there stunned.
One of birthday boy’s buddies said, “I’ll still eat it.”
Out of instinct, and in an effort to distract myself from bursting into tears, I rushed over and started cleaning up the mess. A few sympathizers dashed over to help me. As we scraped frosting off the floor and gathered up cake parts they offered reassuring words about The 10-second Rule. I pasted on a smile and said it was fine, over and over.
We served up what we could in mangled mounds and people ate it.
It was still good cake.
I put on a nice face for the rest of the party, laughed it off and said crap like, “These things happen!” and “It’s just a cake.”
But it wasn’t just a cake. It was a generous portion of quality ingredients and hours of work. It was love and care and taking pride in making something nice for a special occasion. It was a bike ride on a beautiful spring day gone and some ancestor’s opportunity for eternal salvation postponed. My own eternal salvation probably hangs in the balance over the thoughts I’ve had about this incident.
The party wrapped with thanks, hugs, sincere apologies and fake reassurances, then I went home and cried.
I’m over it now though.
Well, not really but hopefully someday soon.
I did get an apology text from birthday boy after he finished playing sand volleyball with his party buddies.
I accepted his apology but told him not to ask me to make his wedding cake.
Moral of the story: Don’t jeopardize the eternal salvation of others or yourself for what can be bought at Sam’s Club for $29.95.