Today, I woke up in the funk I've been in for most of the week. I couldn't put my finger on what was bothering me, and so I decided to do what I always do when I need a pick me up. I baked a cake.
But not just any cake. I'd been thinking about the cake I made today for a few days, and I picked up the ingredients for it last night.
I decided to make a Martha Stewart White Layer Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and to top it with homemade Raspberry frosting.
Since I have two small children, this cake took me all day to make. I started off by making the curd in the morning. It looked glorious, and then I tasted it. I almost spit it out, it was so sour. Then, after an ingredient check, I realized I'd left out 11 of the 12 tablespoons of sugar the recipe called for. Oops. So I did what any culinary genius would do, I added it, right then and there. I figured, after zesting lemons and squeezing fresh juice out of 4 lemons, it was this curd or nothing.
While I set the curd in the fridge, I put together lunch for Noah and me in a little cooler to bring on a playdate we had scheduled with a friend of his. We went to the playdate, ate lunch and came back home and started on the cake. Noah wanted the cake to be done, so he lost interest for a while and played with some of his action figures while I frantically whipped the cake batter together or well gently folded in 8 fluffy egg whites.
The batter looked really good when it was done so I had a feeling the cake was going to turn out well.
I took the cakes out when I began to really smell them. Every time I smell a cake enough to think it will taste good, it means it is time for the cake to come out of the oven regardless of what the clock is telling me.
I pulled the cake out and then whipped up a raspberry frosting from a strawberry frosting recipe a friend from Junior High sent to me to use (Thanks Casey!)
At this point, I'd tasted the curd and it was delicious, I'd tasted the cake when I leveled it off, and I tasted the frosting. Each of them was delicious. So I followed the Martha Stewart recommendation to use a pastry bag (who knew I had those sitting around in my baking cabinet) to pipe frosting around the bottom layer of the cake before putting the curd in so it wouldn't seep out.
And here my friend's is where things got real. I piped the frosting. It looked really pretty so I said to myself, "I should do this on the whole cake it's so pretty!" As I said that I realized that both my children were digging into the frosting. Noah eating one side and Maya (who is not yet six months old) eating the other. Both were scooping their hands to their mouths so fast, I couldn't believe it. Next thing I knew curd was streaming out through the breaks in the barrier created by my children.
I had this moment, and it was only a moment, where I broke down without crying. Where I said, "Why did you think you had to be Martha Stewart?" Why do you have to push yourself so hard to do it all? Why can't taking really good care of two children be enough without making yourself prove you can do more? It wasn't even long enough to say all that. But that was the gist of it. I'd been pushing myself so hard for the last five and half months to prove to myself I can do it all. My husband came back last week after being out of town for two weeks, during that time, I cooked dinner while we were home (sometimes one for me one for the toddler) and I took the kids alone to and from Chicago without anyone to help me pack or pick us up or drop us off at BWI. I'd been trying too hard to make sure I could do everything. For what?
The kids were laughing and making sucking sounds. They were so happy that I baked a cake with a toddler at my feet and a baby on my hip. All they wanted was to eat the raspberry frosting with their fingers. They didn't care that there was lemon curd all over the table or that the frosting barrier failed. They were having fun with me just like we do all day every day. Minus a few tantrums (the toddler or me) here or there.
I called my husband at work and let him know that the cake was a failure, the barrier broke, but that I'd fixed it with frosting and we put it in the fridge for after dinner. I let him know that I realized I don't have to be perfect and that I'd been trying too hard to be. I was laughing, the kids were laughing. That's all I cared about.
Later, when I went to take the cake out of the fridge, I realized it wasn't really that ugly. It looked pretty good actually. And when I took a bite of it, it literally took my breath away. The cake is amazing. Everything about it tasted delicious. The cake, the curd, the frosting. It was perfect, even though I'd written it off and accepted that it didn't need to be.