In the weeks leading up to his third birthday, the little guy was ultra-specific about what kind of cake he wanted – “a strawberry cake with Lightning McQueen” – and as the weeks shortned to days he also stipulated that blueberries should be included as well. My wife and I were nothing but gratified that our boy had made his wishes so abundantly clear, because they seemed reasonably attainable and we truly did want him to have a happy birthday. Originally the plan was to bake and decorate the cake on Saturday night so that it could simply be brought out at the appropriate time during the party on Sunday, but the evening ended up getting consumed in various other ways, not least in catching up with my mother who, after only recently relocating to the East Coast, was forced very suddenly to re-relocate. (She is now living with my Little Bro and it is a long story.) Oh and also we did not have the right size baking pan for a sheet cake made from the specifically purchased mix.
So here is a rough timeline of the cake’s overall existence:
Early Sunday morning – I ran out to the grocery store to buy a cake pan
Still Fairly Early Sunday morning – I returned home with the pan, my wife followed the red velvet cake mix directions and got the cake in the oven
Mid Sunday morning – my wife took to kids to the hotel where grandma and poppop were staying for some pool play, I got the cake out of the oven at the appropriate time and set it on a rack to cool
Late morning – my wife got home with the kids and we finished readying the house
Noon Sunday – the birthday party began with the arrival of grandparents, uncle and aunt and godparents
Early afternoon Sunday – my wife iced the cake with white vanilla frosting-in-a-can and decorated it with strawberries and blueberries, including both a border and a fruit-paved highway. She asked me to fetch the Lightning McQueen toys which would also festoon the cake. These toys were part of a boxed collector’s set of Cars we purchased quite a while ago because (a) it was on clearance at Target and (b) it contained the desired-by-little-guy but otherwise hard to find Chick Hicks and The King cars, which were used in due course as rewards to cajole good behavior out of said little guy. I ran downstairs to grab the box and spent several panic-stricken minutes searching in vain for the box amidst various other boxes in the closet to my dork room. Finally I abandoned the search because I was simultaneously supposed to be grilling hamburgers and hot dogs on the kitchen deck. Upon returning to the grill I found the burgers a trifle well done and the hot dogs as charred as used firewood. I got the burgers off, started more hot dogs, and ran downstairs again. On the second try I spotted the box of Cars sitting in the corner of the main basement area, which explained why I couldn’t find it in the closet. I humped it back upstairs.
Slightly later – the little guy enjoyed some of the second-batch hot dogs and some sliced berries left over after the cake decoration, while I began artfully arranging cars around and on top of the cake, including Lightning himself and one of his generic racing rivals balanced on top of skewer segments to keep their wheels out of the icing. The little guy noticed all these actual cool Cars toys going on the cake and wanted the cake RIGHT THAT SECOND and I had to convince him that it wasn’t quite ready and we needed to wait for everyone else to finish their lunch before we could bring out dessert. Somehow, he proved willing to wait a little longer
Slightly later still – with the addition and lighting of a “3” candle the cake was ready, the birthday boy was seated, and the pomp and ceremony of presenting dessert and singing Happy Birthday To You was underway. The little guy beamed from the center of attention, blew out the candle, and ran off with some of the cars. We cut the cake and offered it around, including to the little guy – who declined to try even a single bite. Of the cake made to order to his exact specifications.
Ever so slightly later still – I deemed the cake delicious after consuming a piece myself.
Some time Sunday afternoon after the opening of presents – the little guy said “I want one of those” and pointed to the special, egg-and-dairy-free cupcakes which his godparents had brought to the party because their own daughter has some food allergy issues. I obligingly grabbed one for him and partially unwrapped it and held it out. The little guy hoovered most of the frosting off the top, never bit into the cake, and wandered off to continue playing with his new toys
Sunday evening – after the little guy went to bed, I had some more of his red velvet and berries cake. Still delicious.
Monday (Labor Day) afternoon – more cake for me. Still none for the little guy.
Monday night – I finished the cake.
So, to recap:
TOTAL INVESTMENT IN PRODUCTION OF SPECFICALLY REQUESTED CAKE: one box of cake mix, one egg, one-third cup of milk, one canister of frosting, one pint of strawberries, one pint of blueberries, one brand-new cake pan, one package of immolated hot dogs (well, to be fair, maybe 5/8 a package as some people ate a couple of the less-crispy ones), a couple hours of time in shopping, baking and decorating (and looking for misplaced decorative toys), a few kilowatts of electricity to run the hand mixer and the oven, and theoretically a handful of months off my life due to eating approximately 9000 calories worth of refined sugar within 24 hours.
TOTAL SPECFICALLY REQUESTED CAKE EATEN BY THE LITTLE GUY: naught.
Ah, but it made him happy that it was simply part of the party, and that’s really all that matters.