my bake sale FAIL

The Christmas season is one in which to showcase the very best your baking skills have to offer, and after resolving last week to say yes to all things Christmas-y, no matter how too-busy I think I am, I reported to my son’s kindergarten class last Friday to help them decorate gingerbread cookies. The kids were still at lunch when I arrived, so the classroom was empty except for one mother hurrying to and fro getting everything ready. Skipping the chit-chat, she handed me a small box, a spoon, and a professional mixer.

OTHER MOM: Seven tablespoons of meringue powder. Thirteen to fourteen tablespoons of water. Then mix on high.

I did as I was told, but I’m thinking: meringue powder? Doesn’t she know about Betty Crocker?

Then I saw the unadorned gingerbread cookies laid out on the plates, and understood just what level we were playing at:

The smell of cloves and nutmeg warmed the air. Holy crap, the gingerbread girl had tiny strands of gingerbread HAIR. How did she do that?

We made pastry bags of three different color frostings (another first for me) and when the kids came in, helped them decorate their gingerbread people to their hearts’ content. Here’s what Seamus came up with:

which led to this conversation in our home that same evening:

CONNOR: Seamus, does your gingerbread lady have… bras?
SEAMUS: Mm hmm. Dose are her bras.
I had been afraid to ask.

Still, Seamus was so excited about his gingerbread girl and her bras that I decided to kick my own holiday baking up a notch. The school’s holiday party was two days away, so the next afternoon, Seamus and Maggie and I rolled up our sleeves and got to work making Magic Bars. “These were the hit of my bake sale!” one reviewer proclaimed, and since I ate about eight of the misshapen ones, I can aver that they are indeed magically delicious. So delicious I just went to the freezer to get another one.

What’s that you say? You thought I made them for my kids’ school holiday party? Why, I did. I walked in with my Tupperware container of Magic Bars, handed them in proudly, and was off to the face painting booth with Maggie.

About half an hour later, I came back to the bake sale booth, and saw hand-painted Christmas tree cookies, and bright green cornflake wreaths, and for sixty dollars, a three-tier confection that had a tiny Grinch attempting to steal Christmas on the top. I mean, this thing was Cake Boss good. But not my sweet, humble, single-pan Magic Bars. 

My friend behind the counter saw me looking around hopefully– perhaps they had sold already? Since they were *that* delicious? Then my friend sheepishly lifted the paper tablecloth. “I have them down here,” she said, sort of gritting her teeth apologetically. “Cause… they have NUTS.”

D’oh. I mean, yes they have nuts, but they’re right on top, and they’re magical, and anyone with a kid with a nut allergy is probably not buying random strangers’ baked goods, right?

They came back home with me. Bake sale FAIL.

When we got home, it was Maggie’s naptime- and time for me to focus on my next baked good adventure: a cake for Connor’s 8th birthday party the next day. We were having a LEGO themed party (more on that next post), and he wanted a LEGO cake. In a moment of insanity, I had decided that I would not outsource this request: I would make it myself. This was before I realized how much I sucked at baking things compared to, oh, every single other mother anywhere.

Here was the LEGO cake recipe I had decided to make, from Family Fun magazine. (Their name has “Fun” right in it! How could I go wrong?) Simply by baking a rectangular cake and eight upside-down cupcakes, then frosting them a bright LEGO color, my finished product was sure to look exactly like this!

After approximately eighteen hours of baking, cooling, digging out of pans, doing surgery with toothpicks, frosting, crying out to the gods, refrosting, taking deep cleansing breaths, and frosting some more, this is what I came up with:

Oh, that’s not… THAT bad, you say? Here’s a closeup:

And I mean, I worked HARD to make it look like that.
I revealed my handiwork to my family. My husband stifled a guffaw.
“It’s not really da color of a real Lego,” Seamus said, pointing out what was probably the 8th most glaring thing wrong with my cake.
Then Connor looked up at me and smiled.
“I love it,” he said.
And he did.

Last night when I tucked Connor in, he gave me an extra hug. “Thank you so much for my cake, Mom,” he said. “You worked so hard on it. And I really loved it.”

I’m no Cake Boss. But he appreciated that I tried. And I’ll never forget it. Next year I’m going to try to tackle this one:
Oh sure, this cake is pretty good. But I know how to make an anatomically correct ginger-girl, so… watch out.