I’m standing there with a box of Betty Crocker and a hand mixer and wondering what to do.

All I can think is “How did I get myself into this?”

You see I’m no baker.

I mean I know my way around the kitchen but baking isn’t my forte. I’ve mostly left the sweeter science alone.

My sister is the baker in the family, however a global pandemic she’s 2,000 miles away.

So I thought about buying a cake. I mean it’d be easy enough, just a quick jaunt over to the grocery story. I mean they’re already done and decorated and everything.

But it just feels a little impersonal. Besides, well I…ummmm….don’t have much else to do.

So I decided two days before the big day to become an amateur pastry chef. I spent far too much time on the Internet looking up fancy cakes.

I mean go big or go home.


Those require a bit of skill.

And if we are being honest, I do not have the greatest skill when it comes to decoration. I can handle a canvas just fine, or give me some pencils and bristol board and I’m good, but cake decorating eludes me.

You see dear reader, this is not my first cake.

In fact, this cake isn’t even what the story is about.

Nope, we’re going a little further back.

When she was in high school she started baking cakes. Good cakes, with all kinds of decorations whether the theme was Game of Thrones, sports, or even the beach.

Every birthday was met with a new creation and there was a stirring as people wonder what the new cake would be.

She’d get more elaborate each time. Bigger cakes. More tools. Soon our kitchen started looking like Ace of Cakes.

One year, my sister’s birthday was coming up. She wouldn’t be home as her and my parents were visiting Northwestern in Chicago.

So my little brother and I decided to make her a cake. I mean how hard could it be? We thought we’d even make a fancy like her’s.

It was so simple, just a giant purple ’N’ to signify Northwestern.

Turns out it is MUCh harder than it looks. Especially when you don’t know what you’re doing. We figured we could make a simple sheet cake and then cut two triangles out, thus giving us our large N shape.

Well, the cake was still warm when we tried. It was much softer than we anticipated and didn’t really want to hold its shape.

Being the gullible gastronomes that we were, we reasoned it would be more sturdy once the frosting was on.

Any bakers reading are cringing now.

By the way, all these years later, I know how dumb this sounds now. I’ve since learned.

And so we started trying to frost a warm cake.

It was an absolute disaster. The cake was tearing away every time we moved the spatula. The frosting was melting in places. Parts or the cake were just sinking. We were trying to make culinary concrete by mixing cake with frosting to mold the sunken parts into a reasonable shape.

At this point the cake was 90 percent frosting.

Finally, we figured out that it needed to be cold, and it firmed up nicely in the refrigerator. We dumped even more purple frosting onto it to cover mistakes.

At the end, at least from the outside, it looked presentable.

Our sister was surprised, and everyone was surprised when they tried to eat the icing and cake mixture.

Laughs were had all around and my brother learned our lesson, we would leave all future baking to her.

Until today, I picked up the spatula once more.

And I must tell you it went much better.

The cake is frosted and done and with much less frustration than last time.

And the kitchen isn’t covered frosting this time either.

Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories.

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