Parents Need to Eat Too

A Fire Truck Cake for a Four-Year-Old

A Fire Truck Cake for a Four-Year-Old

For Harry’s birthday last year, I discovered that fondant is no fundant. This year I discovered that it’s ridiculously difficult to make red frosting.

I knew Harry was going to ask for a fire truck cake. He’s been obsessed with them for the last few months. I also knew something Diego would be required; Harry spends part of every day shouting “al rescate!” But when he asked for a fire truck cake with Diego riding on it, I drew the line. My meager artistic abilities would be overtaxed enough just pulling off the darn truck.

So I made him a Diego cake for a party at his Grandma & Granddad’s house:

We’re just lucky he didn’t cry when he saw it. Lord knows I was a little scared of it myself. (Best line of the day goes to Harry’s great-grandmother. To Harry: “Oh, it looks just like you!”)

The fire truck cake, I thought, would be easier. After all, it didn’t need to appear humanoid. I even found a 6-minute video that made it look as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich. No problem!

The party was today, Sunday. Yesterday, we had a bar mitzvah to attend, so I made the frosting on Thursday (Sara’s Foolproof Frosting, and it sure was. Best frosting I’ve ever made). The cakes (Amazon Cake for the chocolate, and a recipe I’d never used before and ultimately didn’t love for the vanilla), I baked on Friday, then stuck em in the freezer. I thought about coloring the frosting ahead of time, but I’m so swamped with work I just didn’t think I could pull it off. Plus I wasn’t entirely sure that doing it two days ahead would be kosher; what if it mutated somehow? The thought of chucking it and starting over made my eye twitch. Instead I played it safe (ha!) and saved the coloring part for last night, after Harry went to bed.

Here’s the part nobody tells you, which I’m going to share with the entire world: Making red frosting is HARD. Crazy hard. It just looks pink, so you add some more coloring, and it keeps looking pink, so you add some more, and before you know it all the red coloring you’ve got on hand is gone, so you send your husband to the supermarket at 10PM to buy more, and he calls from there to say they’ve got two different kinds, which should he get, so you tell him to just get both & we’ll return what we don’t use, and in the end you wind up using ALL OF IT. That’s right, it took most of an already-open bottle of high-end gel paste, an entire tube of Betty Crocker gel coloring, and a bottle of I-forget-which-brand, just to make something approximating red.

I know, I know, it looks pretty good. But all I see are flaws: I used the wrong size pastry tip for the white, so it was all goopy. The gray and the red bled into each other. And I just could not get the frosting to be all smooth and seamless, the way I really really wanted it to be.

You can barely see them, but those are Diego cupcakes in the background. For those, I cheated: Diego-printed cupcake papers, and cheezy pre-fab candy toppers.

In the end, though, the flaws that are so glaring to me were pretty much invisible to everyone else. (Or else the parents of Harry’s pals are all exceptionally kind people.)

Next year: Store-bought. Or chocolate chip cookies. Those I know how to make.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. looks WONDERFUL!!! great job with the red coloring. did you use powdered/paste coloring? Buttercreambarbie

  2. When I was a child, my mum made me a circus tent cake for my 4th birthday. When I looked at it with a slightly confused and hesitant expression and asked, "But what IS it?" she burst into tears.

    I don't think she'll ever forgive me.

  3. Looks great to me! You are too hard on yourself! However, if you are going to continue to torture yourself with cake creativity challenges, get a set of Wilton paste food colors — totally different experience, and lasts forever as you just use a teeny bit to get intense colors.

  4. Thanks, everyone!

    @Tia, I used gel initially, then more gel, and finally liquid.

    @sarahp, I LOVE that story. I'm 100% certain I would've reacted the same way as your mom if jr had given me a hard time about ANY of this.

    @MelissaB, thanks for the tip. I've been wondering about paste colors; guess I"ll have to try them.

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