This is a post primarily about cake.
When Raphaela was in NICU, I’d walk past the coffee shop at the Sunninghill Hospital several times a day. Nestled against the wall, waiting to confront the unwary passer-by, were the cakes: death by chocolate, Bar One cake, baked cheesecake, carrot cake and, of course, red velvet cake.
So it was that those weeks became indelibly associated, not just with antibacterial hand gel and beeping alarms and feeding tubes, but also with… red velvet cake. That’s perhaps why, when my husband asked me what I wanted to do for my first Mother’s Day, my second thought was: I want to bake a cake. Specifically, a red velvet cake with cream cheese icing.
(My first thought was: I don’t want spa vouchers of gift sets or any of the things we associate with Mother’s Day marketing. All I really want is to spend time with my mother, and for her to spend time with the baby.)
But the cake was the thing, even more so because I wasn’t able to bake it the day before because, well, breastfeeding. I can’t remember the last time I baked a cake – years ago, probably. Baking a red velvet cake from scratch is a challenge. I’ve attempted it before, but this time I didn’t want to take the risk. I didn’t want to just buy a cake either; there was something about the mixing and making that mattered. So I bought a cake mix and frosting, and – in a moment of extreme extravagance – heart-shaped silicone muffin pans.
I got home from the shops an hour before my mother was due to arrive. This was where a cake mix came into its own. No faffing about with buttermilk or red food coloring. You measure the water and oil, chuck in the eggs and it’s done. No worrying about disasters and, most importantly, I got to lick the batter in the bowl.
l mixed, baked and iced the cupcakes in record time, photographed the process, placed the muffins on one of the Portmeirion plates I’d received as a gift for wedding number 1. And then… waited.
In the end my sister came along too, with her two daughters, which was a bonus because this would be the first time that Ra-Ra would meet them. (Endless bouts of bad germs meant that they couldn’t see the baby until now.)
The cake was a hit with them. I’m glad I baked it. Cake is decadent and unnecessary. We do not need cake in our lives, which of course is precisely why we do.