Last night I was invited by my friend Pingue to come over to his house and help him bake his birthday cake to take into work. He told me he was planning on baking a cake with rainbow coloured layers, which made me super excited as I’ve always wanted to try to make one myself. Unfortunately I had a doctor’s appointment that evening which meant that I’d be turning up quite late. Pingue said that this would be fine as he had another friend Thork coming so they could get started without me.
Burly and I turned up at the door with some extra mixing bowls and baking tools, itching to get stuck in to the bake. As the door opened I was greeted with ‘You should have come sooner!’
Little did I know how true those words were.
After a short time I was a bit alarmed to see Thork ‘mixing’ the ingredients using a stick blender. In other words, he was just pulverising it. I tried to casually suggest using the electric whisk I had brought with me but they were both quite content to continue as they were.
I didn’t realise at the time that this was only the tip of a humungous ice berg and that things were about to very swiftly escalate towards calamity, starting with the first batch of cakes to come out of the oven.
As they were produced, Pingue sheepishly admitted that he forgot to grease the tins. This wasn’t a massive problem and we managed to gently ease them away from the base. I noticed there was something a bit strange about the texture of the cakes but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
It was at this point that we realised the red layer was in fact purple with blue speckles. Something very bizarre had occurred with the food colouring they had added before I got there. There was nothing we could do about it now, purple it was.
As the next batch was being readied to enter the oven, I was casually scanning the kitchen when I was forced to do a double take in horror. What on earth had Pingue done!? I grabbed the flour bag, read the name again and burst out laughing.
He, in his infinite baking wisdom, had been using strong white flour instead of just plain flour. Strong white flour is the kind that you would use for baking bread, which means that the structure is a lot more solid than the nice, fluffy texture you look for in a cake.
No wonder the cakes had felt funny to me! I’m fairly certain you could have thrown them across the room and they would have bounce back off the wall like a basket ball!!
Pingue claimed innocence, ‘How was I supposed to know it was meant for bread!’
I then pointed out the picture of bread on the front of the packet and the helpful recipe for bread on the back of the packet.
His response? ‘You expect me to LOOK at the packet?’
I just couldn’t believe it! This is what happens when children do not have sufficient adult guidance. But again, there was nothing we could do now, multi-coloured bread cake it was!
Only, we soon discovered that even getting the multi-coloured part would be nothing more than a pipe dream. Pingue had been dared to include a layer of black ‘sponge’ (now bread) in his rainbow. The batter that he and Thork produced looked something like the horrible, smelly tar you sometimes find on the beach. They decided that the final layer should just be plain so that it contrasted with the black. As we pulled out the second batch of bread to make room for the tar, we noticed that yet again some kind of strange alchemy had occurred with the food colouring. The green layer was not green. It was yellow with red speckles.
‘Black and purple and blue and yellow,
Yellow with speckles and plain.’
Then came assembly time. The recipe called for a mascarpone cream icing which I was instantly wary about. I’ve made cream cheese based icing before and I know that it can be quite slippery and wet. But I was there to follow instructions so I set to the job at hand. Pingue wanted to just set the cakes one on top of the other, which is fine, only he hadn’t sliced any of them into thin layers. In the end our vapid rainbow bread cake stood over a foot and a half tall.
Fairly soon the instability of the icing began to show. The sheer weight of the mountain of sponge was forcing the layers to slide about in the middle as well as at the bottom. There was no way that this cake was going to survive us letting go, never mind a journey all the way to Pingue’s work! I tentatively asked if he happened to have any wooden kebab skewers that could be stuck through the centre to help it hold together.
And so he promptly produced a massive knife.
I knew this wasn’t a good idea and pleaded for him to check if he had any skewers but there were none to be found. Great big massive knife sticking out of the middle it was. To be fair, once the knife was inserted the bread cake definitely became more structurally sound. All we had to do now was deal with the problem of having a massive knife handle sticking out of the top. I jokingly suggested that we should pour some red food colouring on the top to make it look like we stabbed the cake. Apparently this was one of the best ideas we’d had all night.
We took the little bit of icing that was left and added the red food colouring. I have no idea what kind of food colouring Pingue had bought but instantly I saw why they had issues making the sponge red as straight away the icing turned purply. When we spooned it around the knife handle, it started to look more like mushed up liver than like blood. So I took the ‘red’ food colouring, poured some onto a spoon and flicked it a little bit at a time over the cake. That was the crucial finishing touch. Some how, by making our cake gruesomely gory, it suddenly made it work.
And so ended the short tragic life of a poor tortured rainbow that never really came to be. From the ashes of the broken dream rose a grotesque, mutated zombie rainbow, akin to Frankenstein’s Monster. But as grim as Frankenstein’s Monster may look, you’ve got to admit that he’s got a look all of his own.
I think this quote from Burly really summed it up;
‘It’s possibly both the best and worst cake I have ever seen’.