Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Poppy's Birthday Bash: Edmond's Baking Tips

It's almost the last day of Poppy's Birthday Bash! Today's guest poster is the wickedly charming Edmond Manning. Edmond and I bonded over vodka at the GRL retreat in Albuquerque. He's lucky we had that moment, because the clown suit almost put me off of him for life. Seriously...clowns...*shivers* But I loved him anyway and his constant ability to make me smile. He's arrived today with some tips of what not to do to my birthday cake. I wonder what he's come up with...

12 Things To Avoid Putting On Top Of Birthday Cakes
I’m sure many of us are considering making Poppy a birthday cake. Well, purchasing a cake. Okay, maybe not purchasing a cake, but we hope she has birthday cake. Or maybe that, you know, we had cake. Yes, fine, I’m projecting. I would like a piece of cake. I am actually hoping that Poppy mails me a piece of cake.
Let’s pretend that it’s the party moment where we’re all getting ready to sing. Poppy is a little drunk on the good cheer and congeniality of her birthday-celebrating friends (also possibly buzzed from two glasses of champagne slipped to her by her best friend) and we’ve reached the moment where someone dims the lights and we all take a deep breath in anticipation of singing loudly and poorly.

As the cake bearer walks toward Poppy, all smiles, what are the twelve things that would ruin a white-frosted cake with pink tubing and sugary red roses?

12. Broken glass
I think we all saw this one coming. Don’t put shit on a cake that has no business being on a cake. No hilariously broken Budwiser bottles, oily rags, used Kleenex, and broken pencils. I think most of us can avoid this trap, but it had to be said. No household items. Nothing from the garage. When you finish squeezing the last bit out of that toothpaste tube, throw it away. It does not belong on cake.

Poppy: Edmond, is there some cake trauma you need to share with us? I'm thinking there must be...

11. Pineapples
C’mon. Is there anything more disappointing on a cake than fresh fruit? Birthday cake = unhealthy sugar. It means indulgence. We lie to ourselves and say, “I would skip having cake, but it’s Poppy’s special day and I wouldn’t want to offend her by my not eating a piece.” Then, oops — we accidentally get a corner piece with thick frosting. Fruit on top of cake is an uncomfortable reminder that we should eat better. Nobody needs that reminder. You’re ruining our cake moment.

Poppy: Hey now! Them's fighting words! Don't put pineapple on my birthday cake??? Have you lost  your noodle? Have you never experienced the deliciousness that is pineapple upside down cake? There's fruit, sure, but it's carmalized fruit. Do you remember the caramel vodka? How yummy and delicious it was? Yeah, imagine that on a cake! Nom nom nom. Seriously, I have to stop thinking about this. I have to wait until my party this weekend to get my pineapple upside down cake...

10. Writing
 Does it really need to say ‘Happy Birthday Poppy?’ We all know it’s her birthday. We’re standing in her living room, aren’t we? We wrapped a present —it’s on the credenza. Writing gets in the way of the aesthetic appeal. The only exception to this rule is if the frosting is really, really good (i.e. lard-based sugar or chocolate. Or both).

In that case, written cake words become a vehicle for getting more sugar into your system and under these circumstances, words are permissible. In fact, with the right frosting, you might squeeze out Chapter one from A Tale of Two Cities.

Poppy: Agreed. Lots of frosting equals happy times. So write away. Or get rid of the writing and cover that cake with lots and lots of flowers. You know, the sugary ones that make you sugar hyper from just looking at them. 

9. Tiny clown heads
Are you trying to give the poor woman nightmares? They aren’t cute, they’re horrors. Did you know clowns are specifically mentioned in The Book of Revelations? Check out verse 16:3:  “Lo, and beware that you welcome unto your spirit, those who carnivalize with red noses, for they shall rend your flesh with pointed teeth and devour the meek of heart.” It’s true.

Poppy: Yes! Clowns are EVOL. I've been trying to tell everyone this for years. Thank goodness I finally have a verse to quote for proof!

8. A picture of the birthday honoree’s face
What better way to send a mixed message to the birthday guest than to sing a song wishing cheer and future happiness, and immediately cut up their face and canabalize it with friends? Poor Poppy. She’s trying to reflect on her life and what lies ahead. Meanwhile, you’re sticking a fork through her eyelid and pulling the sugary tendrils of her retina toward your mouth. “Oh, you’re thinking of taking a vacation, Poppy? Munch, munch, munch. That sounds great. Go to Mexico. Munch, munch, munch.  Boy, your hair tastes delicious.”

Poppy: Note to self-Never ever do one of those picture cakes again. I will never get the retina image out of my head. Thanks for that, Edmond.

7. Paper
I’m afraid this comes from personal experience. My mom likes to do ‘theme cakes.’ It’s not enough to make the cake and decorate it. Well, it’s enough for me. But mom likes there to be a thematic connection between the time of year or current events and that kid’s birthday. Two years ago, my brother and I celebrated our August birthdays together as we always do, as they are only a week apart. Mom frosted us a lovely cake, decorated with twin candy suns, spiraling out their firey heat with sliced yellow and orange gum drops. Quite charming.

She also made a small placard, attached to the cake with two straws taped to the back to lend support. The placard looked like a billboard on the cake, like someone had rented advertising space. The words she wrote on this sign said, “To the sizzling suns of summer.” Get it? Suns? Sons? She made smaller signs that had both our names on them, also paper squares.

Mom is awesome and her cakes are delicious.

However, disaster struck when metaphor and reality merged. None of us anticipated how my brother’s and my wish-blowing breath would send deadly solar wind currents directly to the cake’s paper-based explanation. While assorted family members clapped at our efforts, the cake top caught fire, and soon everything was ablaze. The straws melted, the paper turned to ash, and really, who doesn’t want to eat birthday cake covered in paper ash?

We scraped off the fire residue and glumly ate the charred remains. Happy birthday.

Poppy: Yikes! Good to know, though. Your mom is awfully clever...and hopefully good with a fire extinguisher! 

6. Hard candy / Tic Tacs

Poppy: Double no.

5. Swedish fish candy

Poppy: No squared.

4. Red licorice
C’mon. No.

Poppy: But I did see this really cute cake on Pinterest with licorice...oh, okay. No. 

3.  Advice
Cake is no time to get preachy. I’ve seen cakes that said, “Live well!” and “Celebrate!” Okay, well, celebrate isn’t so terrible, I guess. But for each of us, our birthday is a sacred, special thing. For some, surrounded by friends and loved ones means everything. For others, a day of quiet reflection on past and future is the thing.

Whatever your relationship with your mother, you and she did this crazy thing together, years ago. You popped out of her va-jayjay. On a less crude level, the day was emotionally draining for you (who cried your tiny little eyes out) and her. Whether she coddled you, promising to always keep you safe and happy, or she kissed you and gave you up for adoption, it was undeniably a huge day for you both.

What’s the right way for you to celebrate? Who knows?

What you don’t need is a bossy cake telling you how to live.

Poppy: Have you met my mother? 

2. Real flowers
Sure they look pretty. Orange and yellow with faint pink highlights. Or maybe soft lavender petals with periwinkle streaks leading right into the stem. Lovely. But incredibly disappointing if you think you get to eat it. I have witnessed luscious wedding and birthday cakes decorated with gorgeous flowers and thought, ‘I can’t wait to chomp the shit out of those pansies” only to discover they really are pansies. Not frosted pansies. Not candy pansies. No, just pansies.

Not cool, cake decorator. Sure they look lovely and prove you’re one-with-nature, I guess. But think of your recipients. We sing the song, we clap when Poppy blows out the candles, and then we start removing off the non-edibles. Off go the flowers? Damn. What’s left is a barren oil drum of a cake, a white-frosted shell reminding us that all the beauty is gone.

Cake decorator, I can hear you saying, “Go ahead and eat one of the flowers. They’re edible. Try one!”
Go to hell.

Poppy: And let's face it, real flowers alongside the sugary goodness that is frosting? No. Just no. A million times NOOOO!

1. Candles.
Whose brilliant idea was this? Let’s bake a delicious cake, frost it beautifully, decorate it to reflect our love and good cheer…and then stab it repeatedly with candles and set it aflame. But wait, that’s not all. Let’s also sing a long song with multiple verses so that the candles have plenty of time to melt into the frosting that two minutes ago looked very appealing.

But wait, there’s more. Two candles? Four? Nope. Let’s stab said cake with thirty candles. Forty candles. (And in Poppy’s case, twenty-two candles, right? That is what you told me…) How hilarious to use the exact number of birthday candles so as to coat the entire frosted cake in a shield of disgusting, melted wax that you discover when your teeth tell your brain ‘I taste something that doesn’t belong.'

Whoever invented sticking candles on the cake must be laughing their ass off at all of us for embracing that tradition.

You know what we should put on top of our birthday cakes?

More cake.
Happy birthday, Poppy.

Poppy: Thanks Edmond! And yes, a double or triple layer cake sounds so amazing right about now! But don't put candles on it. I don't need the reminder of how old I am. The cake might as well say "Flame On".


  1. K, I gotta go "there" - I've often reflected to my mother that at my birth, I was traumatized by the "vajayjay", took one look and said "OH HELL NO"!!! - been a queer ever since!!! On a (much) lighter side - cakes are best topped w/Cool Whip!!! Plain and simple, and does wonders for your cholesterol level!! Oh, and I'm trying something new (for me) today - will be making brownies w/Reese's peanut butter chips!!! XOXO!!!

  2. MMMMMMMm.....Cool Whip... And Bill, send me some of those brownies.