When A Cake Is More Than Just A Cake

My grandmother’s birthday was last Thursday–the big 70!  Naturally, the whole family wanted to get together Saturday evening at my aunt’s house to celebrate.  It was, as always, utter and complete chaos.  Visits with my family are not for the faint of heart, or those sensitive to lots of loud noise, close quarters, and screaming children under your feet all the time.  Oh, and don’t think all the loud noise is just from the kids, the adults (i.e. my uncles) make just as much racket.  One thing is for sure though, there never fails to be a table of good food and enough laughter to make your eyes water and your cheeks hurt.

Now that you know the evening was a wonderful success, everyone had fun, and my grandmother loved it, let’s go back to the night before–an entirely different story.  Mom was in charge of making and decorating the birthday cake.  If you’ve never decorated a large sheet cake before, it is a very involved process.  Bake the cake, cool the cake (for many hours, usually overnight), frost evenly in all white, mix the appropriate frosting colors for decorating, then finally decorate the cake.

Friday night about 8:45pm the cake is done baking, with the plan to let it cool overnight–plenty of time to decorate on Saturday for the party in the evening.  But alas!  The cake is too thin!  She only used 2 boxes of cake mix and the poor cake was only about 1 inch high.  Deciding she can’t serve people a 1 inch high cake, she cuts it up and puts it in storage containers to eat later.  But now she’s out of cake mix, out of oil, and only has a few eggs left.

It’s now 9pm, dark and rainy, and me and my brother are hauling it to Wal-Mart for 3 more boxes of cake mix, a bottle of oil, and a dozen eggs.  Not a problem, it’ll just be a late night since now there’s a whole other cake to bake.  She whips up the batter in no time and sticks it in the oven.


Cake #2 (my personal favorite)


11:30pm–I’m in bed (I need to get up at 4:30 in the morning), and the cake has only a few minutes to go.  As I nod off under the warmest snowflake blanket I wished I owned, I hear a loud crash followed by many expletives.  A LOT of expletives.  Actually, just one, but repeated many many times.  I run to the kitchen and find Mom had dropped Cake #2 on the floor.  Half of it stuck to the pan, the other half popped out on floor and it was all I could do to keep the dog from leaping into it.

Poor Mom, half laughing, half crying, swearing and slamming doors all over the house, has no idea what to do now.  You may think this is an over-reaction to cake, that really it’s a cake, what’s the big deal?  Awful, yes, but not the end of the world.  I thought the same thing at the time, trying to keep cool and calm her down.  But then I realized something–to her, this is more than just a cake.  It’s her responsibility, it’s something wonderfully thoughtful and homemade for her own Mom, it’s important because 70 is a big birthday and she wants to make it special.  To her, this cake has strong ties to family, and integrity, and dedication.

The Lesson Here

My family would do anything for each other.  We don’t take short-cuts if we can help it, and we go the extra mile.  This is something I love about my family, and it’s a trait they’ve instilled in me.  These are lessons I apply to all areas of my life, and would do well to remember even in the hard times.  Lessons like:

  • Never give up
  • Always put your best into everything you do
  • If you want it bad enough, keep trying
  • Even when you fall, keep getting up and moving forward
  • Do the best you can with what you have
  • Family is always there to support you

These lessons went into Cake #3 Mom inevitably made on Saturday morning (after going out to buy 3 more boxes of cake mix and another dozen eggs), and they are lessons I remember to put into my business, my crafting, and my life.

So the next time something goes horribly wrong, you can go ahead and laugh and cry and scream if you want to (expletives and door slamming completely optional), just remember the next morning to get back up and try again.

70th birthday cake

The final cake!