We had only been in the Dominican Republic 5 days when Katie celebrated her 5th birthday. We tried our best to celebrate in a style that she would recognise and had a little party on our balcony for all the people we had met in our short stay. We bought her an enormous cake from the local bakery and whilst it looked the perfect cake for a little girl – all pink sugary icing, flowers and fairies – it was fairly expensive (about £30) and was a big let down when it came to the taste test.
It was Rich’s birthday during Granny and Grandad’s visit and Rich’s mum, being the amazing baker and general all round wonder-woman that she is, brought a home-made birthday cake for him so I did not need to worry about producing a cake for him.
We have celebrated many dolls’ and bears’ birthdays since we arrived but they are fairly undemanding in the cake department and are very happy with a few buns or a donut from the local panaderia. But April is a big birthday month for us, (Zach will be four on Saturday and Matt and Ben will be eight just a few days later on the 26th), so the issue of birthday cakes is upon us once again. At home, one of the things we all used to look forward to about all our birthdays was getting together to make and, more importantly, decorate the cake. Now we have been here a few months and are a little better acquainted with the shops and markets we decided to make our own birthday cakes. It is Zach’s birthday on Saturday so we thought we might need a little practice before the big event because, as with all things here, making a cake was not going to be without its challenges: we have no mixing bowl, no cake tins, no weighing scales and an oven with only two settings: on and off!
We managed to buy a square baking tray that would just about do for a cake and found some baking powder in a dusty corner of a local dry goods store (with a sell-by date of about 5 years ago but hopefully it still had a bit of its lifting power left!). Butter, eggs, all purpose flour and sugar are easy to come by so we were all set. For a first attempt I have to say the cake was rather delicious. If anyone would like to try it, here is our recipe:
- Some sugar
- Some butter
- Some flour
- Between 3 and 7 eggs (depending how much flour Matthew heaps in and how many eggs Zach breaks whilst your back is turned!)
- Some milk
- A lot of baking powder
- Take butter out of fridge. Put sugar in a big saucepan (or mixing bowl if you have one). Watch butter melt all over table (85 degrees here!). Quickly scoop up the butter that hasn’t melted the instant you took it out of the fridge!. Foolishly hand 2 spoons over to small children, close your eyes and tell them to cream the butter and sugar together.
- Add eggs, flour and an enormous spoonful of baking powder alternatively until you think you have enough mixture (that vaguely resembles what you remember cake mixture to look like) to cover the bottom of the baking tray.
- If it has the constituency of concrete, add a few more eggs or some milk, depending what is in your fridge.
- If it has the consistency of water, add more flour. Ask one of the children to add more baking powder, just incase.
- Repeat steps 3&4 until you run out of one of the key ingredients and then the mixture will have to do.
- As quickly as you can put the mixture into the cake tin. (Warning: This part must be done extremely rapidly as two more children have just appeared, armed with spoons, ready to clean out the saucepan and there is a danger that there soon won’t be enough mixture left to cover the bottom of the cake tin!)
- Stick head in gas oven and wave a match around in the vague hopes that it might make contact with the gas and ignite, ideally, but not necessarily, leaving all facial hair in tact (I mean eyebrows, lashes etc. – I have not grown a moustache since we arrived!) . You know the oven is hot enough when, if you inadvertently touch the shelf whilst wearing oven gloves made in the Dominican Republic, the skin on your fingers starts to melt.
- Put cake in oven, close door, cross fingers and remove in about 30 minutes, ideally just after you start to smell cakey type smells and just before you can smell burning.
- Melt 15 bars of chocolate in sun (this takes about 3 minutes) and apply liberally to every surface of the cake using 4 small children armed with knives and spoons. Ideally do not limit your chocolate smearing to the cake but also to all walls, tables, chairs, inside of cupboard doors, light switches and other visible surfaces.
- Before the chocolate sets (so you have lots and lots of time here) cover liberally with 7 packets of M&Ms.
- Make a cup of tea, sit in hammock and enjoy a slice of your own hard work before facing the devastation and chaos now situated where the kitchen once was!