Sunday, March 07, 2010

All aboard the stubborn express

Of all the character traits I could think up to describe myself, the one I think tends to be a constant in my life is stubbornness. As a child, this inability to give up on an idea (or a want) led to my parents usually giving in, probably just to get me to be quiet and give them some peace. Although being stubborn has its downsides, I usually think of it as a good thing - using the words "persistent" or "dedicated" might have better connotations.

Friday night I knew that I needed to bake Blake a cake for his family birthday party on Saturday. He has a real love of trains so I thought it would be fun to search for some ideas on how to make a train-themed cake. Of course I knew that there was always the option to make a basic cake and then try to draw a train on it (thanks, Mel T!), but I'm not that good when it comes to those decorating tube things and I figured it wouldn't look very good...or this is what I told myself. Instead I set my mind to something I found online, a video from the Betty Crocker site where these two women in a very large, immaculate kitchen, with excellent-looking tools - and manicured nails - create a gorgeous little 4-carriage train cake. See the video here if you have an extra six minutes to spare, or just have a peek to see what I was aiming for.

On Friday night I watched it twice through, and decided I could at least attempt the engine. I then watched it again on Saturday morning before heading off to the store for ingredients. I was pretty proud of the finished product - it doesn't even come close to Liv and Lori's but I think Blake still at least was able to identify it as a train (of course we were all saying "Look, it's a train!" so I guess he had some helpful hints). So much of the video makes me laugh though - like when the Betty Crcoker expert says, "The hardest part is [frosting] the corners." Um, is that really the hardest part, because I found the hardest part to be opening the oven up after the recommended baking time to find the whole thing still a half-baked gooey mess (another half an hour on top of the first half an hour resolved that!), and then having the whole thing start to crumble apart when I was attempting to do my "crumb coat".

I took heart from a line in the Delia Smith cookbook in the cakes section under the heading "What if something goes wrong." Delia says "Always remember the good things that go into a homemade cake" - in my case that would be equal parts love and stubbornness, and I think the end result was pretty much a success. I think for next year's party, though, I might stick to cupcakes.

p.s. I should add that this was his second birthday cake - I made one for nursery on Monday and he blew out the candles first thing Monday morning. Here he is with it as well as sporting his exciting new Thomas the Tank Engine pyjamas....

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