Sunday, September 30, 2012

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake:  I went to my niece's birthday party today and it got me thinking about Birthday Cake.  This is the dessert that is supposed to be the piece d'resistance of the birthday celebration.  The culmination of a party full of activities.  The final capstone of the event.  And yet generally speaking birthday cakes are, simply put, bad.

Here are the usual suspects in the birthday cake line-up of offenders:

Sheet Cake of Doom: This was usually bought from a grocery store bakery.  The cake itself is totally unremarkable and forgettable.  In fact, if you stop right now and try to think about what the last giant sheet cake you ate tasted like, I suspect the answer you'll come up with is "????" [1]  It has a thin layer of icing on it that also tastes like nothing.  Of course this monstrosity has two big upsides.  The first is that it is large enough to play a decent game of football on and will feed 900.  The second is that the store will gladly air brushed your tot's favorite TV or movie character on it. [2]

Mount Icing: The cake part of this one could taste fine, it could be great or it could be horrible.  You will never know because it is buried under enough sugar icing to send Paula Deen into a coma.  The cake to frosting ratio is roughly: 1 to infinity.  Unfortunately the icing doesn't taste like anything except sugar.  And because there wasn't enough on it already, it is adorned with letters made of clear colored icing with the textural consistency of snot and the flavor of more sugar. [3]

Ridiculously Expensive Boutique Cake: Whoever paid for this one will be sure to mention where they got it about 60 times.  Of course, you've never heard of the place so even if you are paying attention it won't matter.  It's covered in fondant that is probably adorned with icing flowers, edible beads [4] and other overly fancy decorations.  However while it may be beautiful and look like the cover of a magazine, it has the flavor of the inside of that same magazine.  Also it is as dry as the Sahara.  People will line up for cake, but will rapidly disappear like a David Copperfield  trick [5] once they see the faces of the lucky people who were first in line. [6]

Ridiculously Expensive Boutique Cake That is Overcompensating for the Mistakes of the Previous Cake:  This cake looks exactly like the previous cake except that the cook evidently soaked the inside in a flavorless liquid.  Taking a forkful is akin to biting down on a damp sponge. [7]

The Ice Cream Cake: This cake attempts to wow you by taking out of your hands the presumably tricky game day decision of "do you want cake, ice cream or both?"  Hopefully the purchaser of this delight picked flavors you can at least stand. [8]  But you actually don't have to worry, because regardless of what flavors they say it is, the end result is relatively flavorless ice cream on completely flavorless cake.  If your lucky there are some Oreos crumbled between to two layers so you can discern the difference.  As an added bonus, the cake starts out extra dense so the ice cream doesn't melt straight into it and then the whole thing was put in the freezer for the last 48 hours.  Result?  It's all hard as a brick and requires a chain saw to cut.

The Tasty Cake: This is a myth and doesn't exist.  You may think you remember once having a delicious cake at your cousin Lucy's 14th birthday, but it's really a fantasy you keep in the corner of your mind to keep hope alive.

There are other cake miscreants out there that I haven't mentioned [9] but I believe I've covered the main offenders.  And you can get cakes that aren't bad, but they aren't the great birthday finale that you want either.  For the record when my birthday comes around and the Pook asks what dessert I want, I usually go with non-cake choices.  To me there's something more special about a Cannoli or Seven Layer Dessert than yet another entry in the faceless parade of bad birthday cakes.

Birthday Cake: C-

[1] - Meaning, "I can't remember."
[2] - So you are trading off flavor for being able to argue over who gets to eat Superman's face.
[3] - Later all anyone will remember of this cake is the spelling errors.  "Hapy Birtday. Dog."
[4] - That are "not food".
[5] - But with less smoke and scantily dressed women.
[6] - If you are serving this one, expect to end the party with a lot of uneaten cake or a lot of full dessert plates hidden around your house.
[7] - Depending on what you used the sponge to wipe up, the sponge probably has more flavor.
[8] - What?  Everyone loves Pistachio Ice Cream with German Chocolate cake.
[9] - Like the one with the strawberries or cherries on top that are covered in a syrup evidently made out of Vicks 44D.

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