My wonderful son turns 10 tomorrow. That means that this time ten years ago I thought I was in labour. I remember saying to my husband “Take me to hospital because this is starting to hurt”. The clue to how wrong I was, as any experienced midwife would point out to you was in the fact that I was still talking calmly and coherently. I was far from established labour and was still in the “strong wince” phase. But I’ll save a blow by blow account of my first introduction to serious pain and NHS drugs for another post. This one’s about cake.
So with a birthday looming on the horizon all parents’ minds begin to formulate a plan for how to spend the day causing themselves the least discomfort possible.
My criteria were:
1 The house and garden don’t get trashed – I’ve just put down new gravel outside, and the living room carpet is a bugger to clean.
2. I don’t want to be stuck in a lightless, soulless room smelling faintly of sweat whilst some kid barely older than mine processes a slightly stale birthday cake past a load of hyper kids. So that ruled out the indoor activity “fun” parties such as climbing, bowling and just eating lots of pizza.
In fact I realised that I didn’t want to have a flippin’ party at all. I’m a teacher so I should be good at these things but it just seemed too much like a busman’s holiday for me this year. And why is there always one kid you daren’t take your eyes off? My son’s a good boy, surely – he can’t have any dodgy mates, surely.
So the next hurdle was how to break the news to my son. “No party for you this year my darling. Mummy really can’t be arsed.” I wasn’t looking forward to it but help came from an advert for Legoland. Guess what my son loves to build most of all? Lego? Well no, most of all he actually likes to build weird little roller coasters for pigs on a game called Minecraft (don’t ask) but second, and
what he’ll turn to when he’s dragged away from any screen, is Lego. If fact he’s a bit of a Lego geek. He builds the super complicated (and mega expensive) stuff with remote controls and battery packs. So it doesn’t take a genius to guess where we are going tomorrow. Especially not if you’ve been within a five mile radius of our house these last few days.
A great thing about Legoland is you are allowed to bring your own picnic. We love a picnic and now that April is finally warming up and possibly reaching a sweltering 12 degrees we thought it would be nice. You know – like you do. “And for the picnic birthday cake”, says the helpful still-nine-year-old “Can we have a Victoria sponge?” (See I told you there’d be cake). How could I say no? I was surreptitiously denying him a party; to take away his cake would be unforgivable. But this raised the perplexing question of how to transport a Victoria sponge all the way down to Windsor and half way around Legoland without it transforming into a pile of mush before we eat it. Then I had the idea of taking small, individual cakes. Ever one for living her life like someone who was being photographed for an article in Sainsbury’s Magazine, the image of the kids all eating their own little mini sponges seemed irresistible. Cute? For sure. Practical? You’d better believe it! But how to create them? Wouldn’t that be time consuming and fiddly?
In the end it was no more bother than a big one really. I made a sponge by beating 4 eggs with 225 grams each of self raising flour, caster sugar and marg and a dash of vanilla paste. I poured the mixture into a lined Swiss roll tin and baked on gas mark 5 for about 20 to 25 minutes. Then I used a cutter to cut out little circles which I sliced in half and filled with jam and butter icing. Now they are carefully packed in their own little card cylinders, in a special box I’ve made.
They will be stored safely in the car and carried gently round the park in my bag so they are looking their absolute best when they are unceremoniously scoffed as we dash from one ride to another tomorrow.
The things you do for your kids eh? Which brings me neatly back to that interminable labour and all that excruciating pain. Is it all worth it in the end? More than anything else I’ve ever known.