Tale of a Cake Fail

I’ve been sick for well over a week. Because my hips and back were getting really sore, I couldn’t skip my Humira injection or my methotrexate, both of which suppress my immune system. In spite of this, I’ve still had to go to work and in my spare time I’ve been filling out a million forms for each of the boys’ schools and it was my baby girl’s fourth birthday.

If you know me in person, you know that years ago I started making my own cakes for the kids’ birthdays. It started out of necessity because they always wanted a cake design I couldn’t find. Then I began to see it as a money saver because custom cakes are so expensive. Now it’s become a tradition and the kids look forward to having Mommy make a special cake for them.

The Dairy Queen cake I rushed to buy after work for Paige’s actual birthday, because i was too sick to make something for her big day. It didn’t even have her name written on it.

My baby girl has her birthday in September, but since the start of the school year I’ve been sick. I don’t know if it’s one virus, or a series of viruses trying to destroy my will to live, but it’s been absolute misery between the time spent on the toilet, to the nausea, to the painful sinuses and now the swelling in my throat accompanied by uncontrollable coughing fits. And always with the lack of energy.

This means I put off starting her cake. And put it off. And put it off. I missed making anything for her actual birthday and just focused on a cake for her birthday luncheon on the following Saturday.  All of my energy was used up going to work, managing the kids’schedules, and doing regular chores. The time came when I couldn’t put it off any longer. The results were not pleasant.

First my modeling chocolate figures. They are supposed to be Skye and Everest from the Paw Patrol. Since I was so exhausted, I tried to cut corners by just using leftover candy clay from my Minnie Mouse cake instead of making new clay in the appropriate colors. I figured I could just paint the figures after and it should be fine. It was not fine. Mistake number one.

Before painting


After painting. Skye looks ok, but Everest is a train wreck. The shape of her head and the colors are all wrong. Plus my fine brush is not so fine and her eyes turned out creepy.

Mistake number two. I made a Swiss meringue buttercream for the icing. I figured I could make it before the cake because it will refrigerate well and give me one less thing to do the next day. My brilliant idea was to quickly make it before bed, after a full day away from home. I usually go to bed at 9pm (I wake up before 5am), and I started the icing at 7:30pm.

Praying that the meringue will cool down so I can finally go to bed.

It should have been enough time, but you have to make a hot syrup from egg whites and sugar, then whip it into a meringue. You can only add butter once this meringue has completely cooled. Well by 8:30pm, the meringue hadn’t cooled. Desperate to go to bed (I was still sick and tired remember), I decide to put away the butter I softened and pull out a new block from the fridge in hopes that the cool butter would help cool the meringue and not completely melt in the process. It didn’t completely work. Some of the butter still melted, leaving my icing too soft to hold its shape. I wasn’t able to smooth the icing on the cake properly and the icing looked a bit lumpy. It still tasted ok, but it was pretty ugly.

Then came the day I was going to make the sponge. I couldn’t sleep the night before because I couldn’t breathe from the congestion. I was up at 3am and tried to go back to sleep but I gave up. By 5:30am, I had decided to start the chiffon cake, but since I still had to drive my boys to school, I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to bake them before we had to leave.

I just measured everything, separated my eggs, prepared my pans and set everything aside for later.

When I finally started the cake, I only had a 10 inch pan instead of a 9 inch, so the batter was pretty shallow. By the time the tops looked golden brown, the cake seemed pretty firm.

Nine inches of cake batter in 10 inch pans. Size does matter.

It ended up being pretty dense and flat because I probably left it in too long, given the size of the pan. Mistake number 3.

Usually, I color the icing before frosting the cake, but I had a new airbrush and I was just desperate to be done the cake so I could get some rest. The only airbrush colors I have are pretty bold colors. I would have preferred a baby pink and soft lavender but…

If you blur your eyes, you can see a Jack o ‘lantern face.

I was so worried the cake was too horrible to serve that I was up at 6:30am Saturday morning making chocolate cupcakes as penance for my baking sins.

Yes I have two stand mixers. Because I’m crazy like that.

The penance cupcakes also turned out ugly because if I’ve learned anything it’s that baking while sick and exhausted will yield ugly products. For me anyway.

Sloppy icing and sloppy airbrush color. Penance cupcakes are also a fail.

Maybe some of you could whip these things up in your sleep but I’m a lowly amateur that needs to be on point to make anything remotely pretty.
Usually I spend days or weeks planning and prepping for their cakes. Here are some examples from better times:

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