Cake Disaster

As our family grows the cost of birthdays keeps going up.  Now we have 3 birthdays to plan throughout the year though we do hope that number will grow. Luckily so far our birthdays are spread out nicely.


I am growing though and getting better at planning. I realize the day is for my children and for family to spend with them and while I try to provide a nice meal for our guests I make sure it is something that will require little prep time the morning of and attention from me once the guests arrive.


This year I decided to make our own cake. While the perfectly formed and decorated cakes look nice in pictures I couldn’t justify spending upwards of $15 on the cake alone. Last year I got a Kitchenaide mixer. So far I have only used it for the weekly bread making and macaroons a couple times. Time to pull out the accompanying recipe book and wow my guests with a fabulous home made cake I enthused.


Saturday night, the night before the party. It is getting late and I am strapped for time to make the cake. I had planned a plain white cake and frosting. I was surprised to see shortening in the recipe. I haven’t used shortening since last year Christmas when we made tamales. When I pulled out the shortening it was more yellow then white and smelled strongly. Could shortening go bad? I didn’t think so and since it had been so long since I used shortening I decided it must be OK. The fact that it was getting late and I had guests coming over the next day at 11:00 am I made a hasty decision, hoping that once the cake was cooked it would be OK.


My first sign of trouble was when my husband asked, “What’s that smell?” as I was beating up the batter in my handy mixer. Baking it didn’t help the smell and the cake tasted slightly greasy. I hoped a good frosting would mask it. I did make a good meringue frosting that I was pretty proud of. I liberally frosted the cake, put sprinkles on and waited till cake time.


My guests are all there, after a mediocre meal—we had other problems I hoped the cake would remedy it. We lit the candles, sang happy birthday then cut the cake. The smell came out, It was awful. My husband’s family asked him in Cambodian about the smell. He said, “does it smell like plastic? I know nothing about it.” My dad asked, “is there a different spice in here? There’s a taste I don’t recognize.” Luckily we had ice cream and our guests filled up on ice cream and threw away cake.


I am sure that this cake will go down in family history, like my aunt’s tough pie crust everyone still talks about. Next time if I make a cake again the family probably will think twice about eating it.


I have compiled a list of tips


  1. use only the best and freshest ingredients. When in doubt don’t use it. Run to the store if you have to, substitute or don’t make a cake.
  2. don’t over frost. If you are making a layer cake it can cause the top layer to slide.
  3. trim off the top of the bottom piece to make if flat for the top piece.
  4. Put pieces of waxed paper around the edges of the bottom of the cake. After frosting remove the paper and you have a clean plate.
  5. Try, try, try again.

So would I attempt a cake again–definitely. I simply have to own my mistake and laugh at myself.

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