CAKES are mysterious and totally fascinating. Why does a cake rise even though it has no yeast? And what makes a cake smell so nice? Is it the vanilla essence, or the butter, or the cocoa powder, or everything, including the eggs, which don’t smell nice on their own?
One of life’s greatest joys, apart from eating cake, is to watch it rise and rise and rise. The other is to stand side by side with Mommy on an exclusive birthday bake date. No boys allowed, no girls either, and definitely no quibblings—that’s Edie and Amos, my two younger siblings, the mistress and master of quibbling.
All my life, since I was seven or eight, I’ve been quite a hands-on baking assistant to Mommy, producing all kinds of yummy bakes: breads, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, chiffon cake, pandan cake, chocolate cake, cheese cake, you name it. The only thing that has been missing so far is that one dream cake, my very own birthday cake—not just any cake, but an ultra-fudgy, frosting-filled chocolate cake. And I didn’t want to be just an assistant playing “fetch this” or “pour that.”
That special day arrived on 6 June 2016, a Friday, the eve of my tenth birthday. We were in Melbourne at a lodge with a fireplace and a well-stocked kitchen. It had every single thing we needed to make this one dream cake.
The recipe I had downloaded from the website was straightforward enough, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked. We took the whole evening to bake the cake, slice it into two layers, and whip up the frosting, a rich, decadent chocolate buttercream. Actually, it’s not so much “we” but Mommy. I was still the same old boring baking assistant, but not for long.
The next morning, I was the frosting girl wielding the offset spatula, ready to conquer the giant bowl of buttercream. Mommy offered to kick off the process. Plop! She dropped a dainty dollop of buttercream on the cake and went on to smoosh and spread it. Then she stepped aside and left me alone with my dream cake.
Easy enough, I thought. I plonked a whole glob of buttercream, but soon found that no one was cooperating with me—not the spatula, not the cream. The cream was just skidding out of control, and why was there cream on the handle? And what a mess! They were all over my fingers.
The more I did it, the more I felt I should just remain a baking assistant. My wish came true. Mommy flew in to the rescue. How could she not? Even though she wasn’t by my side while I was floundering, she could feel my distress.
Mothers always watch over you, they always do—even when you least expect it.
Therese Lee, Primary Five
For more essays by Therese, visit Therese Writes.
This is a special feature essay celebrating Mother’s Day.
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