21 March 2010

Things I've Learned - Helping Mummy!

My sister-in-law is celebrating her 50th birthday today. I'm the designated birthday-cake-maker in the family, so this morning I was up early looking through recipes for something worthy of the occasion. Cake, filling & frosting chosen, I got out ingredients and got ready to bake. The Imp picked that very moment to become desperately in need of my attention, clinging to my leg and insisting "Up, Mummy!" repeatedly. He WOULD NOT like to go read books with Daddy, thank you very much.

He was, however, delighted to help me stir flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together.

And the problem with child labour would be...?

Well, I guess the problem with child workers is their tendency to eat the product.

Given that The Imp a) never stops moving, and b) has the attention span of a... well, an almost 2 year old, I was surprised at how diligent he was about stirring things together. He stuck with it until it was all mixed together, and then worked at it again once we added the wet ingredients. I can't even begin to describe how much fun he had - and how much I loved it. It's not often I recognize those perfect moments for what they are as they're happening. This morning I knew. As I stood there next to him, The Imp dressed in his too-big hand-me-down jammies on the chair pulled up to the kitchen counter, fork in hand, enthusiastically stirring cake batter, I knew.

This was one of those moments. I was so overcome with happiness that I had to struggle not to cry. I will remember the look on his face until the day I die. He was perfectly happy, stirring with purpose, saying proudly as he smiled up at me, "Helping Mummy!"

Happy sigh.

Daddy held him at a safe distance while the cakes went in to the oven.

Cake layers cooling on racks prior to filling/frosting
Far left is the layer The Imp made

Right then, dabbing a wee speck of sentiment from my eyes, on to frosting.

The genesis of cream cheese frosting

Add pure cocoa powder & icing sugar

Like most things in life, it needed more chocolate...

...and Kahlua.

And strawberries & whipped cream, of course.

Now for the assembly:

At this point in the process, I had to stop taking photos as things were getting a little messy. The four layers stacked were somewhat lacking in structural integrity. (Let's just say it's not an earthquake-proof cake.) And then the cream cheese frosting wasn't sticking to the whipped cream and the whole thing threatened to devolve into not so much cake as birthday pudding. I live in fear of the car journey to my sister-in-law's house.

I did manage to use ALL the frosting and filling, so.

The finished product:

The takeaway:

My husband and I were talking this afternoon about the things we remember from our childhood; the things that made us really happy. For him it was going skating with his whole family every weekend in the winter. For me it was sitting under a tropical night sky with my dad and having him teach me the constellations of the southern hemisphere.

We realized one of those Important Truths. It's not the fancy birthday party, the cool new bike, the "event" moments in our childhood that stick with us. It's the simple time spent standing on a kitchen chair with your mom stirring together your first cake.


  1. Sniff! Oh, those moments, they overwhelm you. I think it's how sudden and unexpected they can be that really gets me.

    And that is one GORGEOUS cake. I'm tempted to lick my monitor.

  2. I know..it is the little things...mine love cuddles and yes..the stirrings...and the licking of spoons..that is my memory!!

  3. The sister-in-law22 March, 2010 11:15

    I can tell you that the cake was even more delicious than it looks! And Darwin was so proud to tell us he had made it! As you get to my very advanced age, childhood memories do start to fade. But what I remember very well is going with my father and grandmother on his "rounds" Saturday mornings. Grandmama would pack a picnic lunch to have in the car as Dad went from house to house visiting his patients (yes, that was the very olden days). We would sing in the car outside the hospital (my Grandmother was an exceptional soprano). My favourite moments with my children definitely are bed time story time (though Sam and Hannah are past that now, sadly), girly time with Hannah (e.g., shopping, hair straightening, etc.), and with Sam, it's playing catch or dodge ball with everyone, though we don't do that enough. Maybe, with the wisdom of age, Sam will not remember homework sessions as so much nagging and torture, but as another example of me loving him as much as I can.

  4. Oh wow that cake looks amazing!

    I totally remember licking the beaters and helping my mom in the kitchen. It's some of my favorite memories. :)