Sometimes when you love a certain person very much, you have to be prepared to go out on a limb for them. To be bold and brave. To face your fears. To be prepared to fail while at the same time aiming for success.
Which is why I am planning to make Faris's birthday cake with my own fair hands. It will be an Act of Faith. Despite all the experiences of the past which I have related at length in my blogs - the sinking middles (not
to be confused with the soggy bottoms of Bake-off fame), the icing shovelled on top in spade loads to hide baking deficiencies. Mr B, the Realist, is doubtful but I am full of Sunny Optimism.
I have three
superb examples to follow. These are, in no particular order, my sister, my daughter in law and Lovely Linda from the Birdy Group. Take my sister - well, no, actually you can't because she is mine, the only sister I have. Maggie makes the most amazing cakes
for her grandchildren's birthdays. No subject matter is too difficult for my Maggie. Two cakes I can bring to mind are (i) the dry ski slope and (ii) the sleepover, both based, in case you are wondering, on the themes of the birthday parties in question. Who'd
have thought it? I can only be grateful that Faris isn't taking to the ski slope or having a sleepover for his birthday. Not this year, anyway.
My daughter in law, the delightful Jude, spends the evening before
her boys' parties developing quite amazing creations of the cake variety. My job is usually to provide encouragement at each stage of the manufacturing process while buttering bread for the party sandwiches. I know my place. A pirate ship? No problem! How
many sails would you like? I love, love, love the moment when my Darling Daughter in Law carries out the cake, alight with candles, and places it in front of the Birthday Boy - to the accompaniment of oohs and aahs from the gathered crowd. That's what I want
for myself on Thursday afternoon. Oohs and aahs, if you please.
I discussed all this with the Lovely Linda on Monday morning as we wandered around beautiful Pulborough Brooks with the rest of the Birdy group.
She had, just the previous weekend, masterminded a birthday tea for her nine year old grand-daughter who had issued rather precise instructions for her cake. So the cake produced by the Lovely Linda was a kind of desert island scene, incorporating a sandy
shore and sparkly blue sea, with two dolphins leaping above the waves. I was too dumbfounded to ask whether the dolphins were skilfully crafted from icing sugar or had been purchased from Toys R Us. I think I was a bit afraid what her answer might be and its
effect on my confidence levels. Had I tried to replicate this, I fear it would have been more like Death in Paradise. As if reading my mind, my friend said that the only element of her cake creation with which she was not totally happy was the surfboard which,
she admitted, looked like a large pink tongue resting on top of the cake. I felt so much better as a result of her honesty.
I have decided to forsake the Habits of a Lifetime and to follow a recipe for my
cake. No more flinging a bit of this and a bit of that into a mixing bowl and trusting to luck. I still recall the Youngest of the Darling Daughters phoning me from University one Shrove Tuesday for my recipe for pancakes. I went through the list of ingredients
only to be interrupted by "But how much flour, how much milk, how many eggs?" My lack of precision resulted in a lot of huffing and puffing on the other end of the phone, culminating in: "I think we'll phone Nicky's mother!" Oh, the disgrace.
So, my dear friends, I am going to Do a Delia. As in the famous cook, not my friend Delia, she of the cribbage group and delicious biscuits. And, guess what, Delia has put me right. My lack of success on the cake front is nothing
to do with my culinary skill - according to Delia, it's all down to the size of my cake tins. Delia says that a seven inch cake tin should be at least 4 centimetres (that's an inch and a half) deep. It needs to be this deep to encourage the cake to rise light
and airy. Delia has harsh words for the makers of cake tins. I immediately measure my cake tins and, lo and behold, they are only an inch deep. Bless me, I didn't stand a chance, given my tins. No wonder I had so many sinking middles.
Armed with a spirit of Reforming Zeal and a tape measure, I set forth to town to buy new cake tins. As Delia so correctly predicted, it wasn't that easy to find tins of the correct depth. I did, moreover, attract many strange looks
as I pulled out my tape measure and carefully measured tin after tin in shop after shop. But eventually Persistence Paid Off and in the fourth store I visited I found the perfect cake tins. What's more, they were half price at £5 apiece. Result! Delia
would be very proud of me, did she but know how I have hung on her every Word of Wisdom.
Tomorrow I will put those words of wisdom to the test when I Bake The Cake. For the moment, I am not going to let you
into the secret of how it will be decorated because (i) I want it to be a surprise for Young Faris and his mother and (ii) this way I can execute a swift change of direction if my first idea doesn't work out. I can only say that it won't be a pirate ship,
a dry ski run or a beach scene.
But, who knows, maybe next year?