Icing On the Cake

When my youngest cousin, Joe, turned ten, his older brother, D.Wayne, and I decided we needed to bake him a cake for his birthday, so we did.

All the birthday cakes my mom had made for me had writing on them, so of course, we had to do the same for Joe’s cake.  But we were at my cousins’ house – and their mom didn’t have the same set of cake decorating tools.

So what do you use to write with icing on a birthday cake when you don’t have that fancy gadget?

Thanks now to years of watching Martha Stewart, I know if nothing else, to roll up some wax paper into a cone shape and very carefully squeeze the icing through the tip of the cone.

At 16 I didn’t know that.  

D.Wayne and I scavenged through the kitchen trying to find something else.

And then it occurred to me – a toothpaste tube. 

We grabbed the oldest tube we could find and had a great time squeezing the rest of the toothpaste out into the sink.

Quite pleased with ourselves for being so clever, we realized that we needed to wash it out thoroughly, so the icing wouldn’t taste like Crest.  

We ran hot water through the hollow Crest tube til it scorched our fingers.

Convinced that it was now properly sanitized, even though it still smelled like toothpaste, we filled it full of icing and wrote “Happy Birthday, Joe!” on the top, with a scalloped border all around the cake. 

After all, the best part of any cake is the icing, right? 

Not on this cake.

Watching Martha Stewart has also taught me to test things before you serve it to anyone else.

It was a rare night where we were all sitting down at the dinner table together – my uncle was home early to join in Joe’s birthday celebration – and we couldn’t wait to bring out the big surprise cake. 

This wasn’t the same cake – this one came a few years later, with a little more practice, and minus the toothpaste flavor! Joe never had a birthday after that, though, that I didn’t tease him about the toothpaste cake.

Before anyone took a bite, though, I smelled it. 

That ‘minty fresh clean’ that you associate only with bathrooms and your dentist’s office. 

As they all started eating, I looked at D.Wayne and he bleated out a nervous giggle.  By now he and I realized it not only smelled like toothpaste, it tasted like it, too.  

So much so that you wanted to reach for your glass, rinse and spit. 

Almost everybody else recognized it, too, but after I bugged my eyes out at them and shook my head, they kept quiet about the icing tasting funny. Because my uncle was slowly eating his piece of cake down at the end of the table and we didn’t want to tip him off that there might be something wrong with it.

He sat there and ate the whole piece.

“What was that, mint?” he asked.


“Pretty good.” 

And four out of five dentists recommend it.

Happy Birthday, sweet boy.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lisa says:

    I love that story. What an appropriate day to be sharing it with everyone. As Joe got older, he acted like his birthday was no big deal and didn’t want the attention. However, he did seem to like the homemade yellow cake with chocolate icing that the boys and I would make special for him on June 26. That was his favorite and very few bakeries ever had it. I like to remember the little grin he had while eating his homemade cake and milk while the boys watched anxiously to make sure he liked it. We love and miss him very much.

    1. sallygary says:

      Sweet memories, aren’t they? Thanks for sharing that, Lisa. I love & miss him, too.

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