This particular year, this particular child has opted for a more traditional cake: Chocolate with white icing (can you hear me relax in relief?). I decided to try my friend Gayle's (Granny Smith) Magical Icing.
Sounds simple, doesn't it?
For the cake, I opted to make a variation on Kate Tietje's Chocolate Cake II from her book Treat Yourself.. I cannot express how delightful this cake is. I happen to love baked goods made with almond meal in the first place, but this cake gives me a fabulous chocolate fix, with no guilt, that manages to bring out the subtle flavor of almonds from the meal. MMmmmmmmm.
THAT was the win.
Well, well, well. When it comes to Magic Icing, let's just say that I didn't have any of that ol' magic feed corn left. My best guess is that I couldn't get the room (or the ingredients) warm enough to let the butter incorporate into the frosting base. I have made a variation on this frosting before, and it was pretty clear this was not a salvageable effort.
So, hm...he wants white frosting...How about the (sticky, sweet) 7-minute frosting my mother and grandmother relied on?
Egg whites? Check. Sugar? Check. Instant read thermometer? Check. Previous successful experience?
Doesn't matter. It's 4:00 in the afternoon now, options are limited.
Long story short...after following the cookbook directions religiously...the frosting looks right...but will NOT form peaks -- soft, firm, or otherwise.
Since my only remain option is NO frosting, and the request was "white," and this is, well, white, I pour (yes, I said pour) it onto the cake.
It's okay, you say -- it's ICING, everyone will eat it anyway, right?
Apparently, when serving time came, I made out the best, because I accidentally flipped one piece upside down while serving, and set that "ruined" slice aside for myself. When the birthday boy heard me commenting on the flavor of the cake (which I was extracting from the albinesque La Brea tar), he, in turn, flipped his cake over, too, to avoid the frosting-tar-goo.
We all have had our less-than-optimal experiences in the kitchen, but it's pretty disappointing when you mess up your child's birthday cake. He didn't seem to care much...I'm sure that, this cake being the topper on a season of far more successful and satisfying treats, it wasn't really that much of a "treat" at all. So I learned that birthday cake frosting isn't always the most important thing in the end to eight year old boys. And my particular eight year old is a pretty forgiving kid.