Last time I referred to the family traits, I was less than flattering about my husband’s navigation and map-reading skills. What I haven’t owned up to is that my sister and I share a number of less than perfect traits.. namely a somewhat cavalier attitude to presentation. You only have to see her rendition of the Sausage Plait to see what I am talking about, and this morning I rediscovered historical evidence of my own poor performance. It was Martha’s fifth birthday in Nairobi.
It started with Martha requesting a Princess castle birthday cake. In Los Angeles or San Francisco, there are a multitude of creative bakers whose business is based on catering to the insane flights of fancy that only 5 year olds can dream up. In Kenya, not so much. My only help came in the form of an Australian Woman’s Weekly birthday cake recipe book, and Nakumatt’s* limited selection of food coloring – Barbie pink or nothing. And so began construction on the “Triple Tested, for your success every time” Palace of Dreams..
I have included a picture of what the cake should look like (right), and after 5 hours of sustained effort, what mine did (below, with happy cake recipient). Not too shabby, I felt, although it would never have passed a food safety check. It consisted of very little (crumbling) cake, vast tracts of migraine inducing butter icing, and a number of metal kebab skewers holding it all together. Now we just had to get it across to Ayesha’s house on the other side of Nairobi, where she had unwittingly volunteered her children for a group poisoning.
There are a number of factors that should be considered in any cake transport operation. Firstly, the likelihood of the cake remaining untouched and undamaged is reduced when the car is stuffed to the gills with three generations of family members. Secondly, potholes not only throw family members violently towards the cake, necessitating repeated brace positions and hand-offs worthy of a rugby international, but also have the same effect on a birthday cake that the 1906 earthquake had on San Francisco. And finally, 7 people in cramped confines in the African midday sun does not bode well for substances with a low melting point. Like butter. By the time we had reached the Nyari road, all efforts of keeping the cake plate level had been abandoned in favor of everyone grasping a turret with their bare hands, and telephoning ahead to request emergency icing backup.
Ayesha has many excellent qualities, but her unflappability in the face of a car load of Barbie-pink-icing covered guests moving in a crablike formation and clutching something that she would be expected to shortly eat was exemplary. Thankfully, so were her stocks of icing sugar. Children were despatched to play in the garden, while in the time-honored tradition of mothers everywhere, the flaws were plastered over with copious amounts of icing and sprinkles, and large rods were inserted into the remaining towers to keep them upright long enough to blow out the candles. And crack open the insulin and Maalox..
* Supermarket chain in Kenya, selling everything from hammers and bicycles to icing roses and party hats.