The Birthday Cake Calamity

by Faith

Part 1
Now, here is a day of disaster that I think you may find enjoyable. I blame Melinda for most of it though. We call it our “Birthday Cake Calamity.”
It all started on the morning of Mother’s 50th birthday. She had gone into town with Justin, after our birthday breakfast, to pick up some thread she needed for her cross-stitch pattern. Melinda pulled me aside when they left. “Andi, do you want to help me make Mother’s birthday cake?”
I scrunched up my nose, “Make a cake? What for? Luisa and Nila have no trouble whatsoever doing it by themselves.” I started to leave, when she reached out and caught my hand.
“Come on, Andi,” Melinda pleaded. “Mother would love it more if we made it for her. You know how much she appreciates those kinds of things. Please?”
Never had I seen Melinda so eager to do something with me before. Most of the time she would tell me to go away, or that she could take care of things herself. But here she was, asking me to make a . . . cake?
“Seriously?” I asked, wide-eyed. “But . . . we don’t know how to make a cake.”
“Luisa can show us a few pointers. I’m sure she won’t mind. But I want to try to make it all ourselves.”
“You’re loco.” I laughed and pulled my hand away. “I can’t tell a cake pan from a frying pan. Let’s think of something else.”
“No, Andi. I want to make Mother a birthday cake. Please do it with me?”
I could tell she was not going to be shaken. “Why are you asking me?” I could tell there had to be more to it than met the eye.
“Well, I just know that Mother would love it if we both made it for her. Besides, you would get half the credit.”
In other words, if something goes wrong I get “half” the blame. I should have known better. But I was too surprised that she wanted to include me to think there was another side to it.
“Well, if you really want me to, I—”Before I could finish, she had dragged me into the kitchen and was beginning to slip an apron over my head. “We’re going to make Mother’s birthday cake,” she was telling Luisa.
“Ouch!” I cried as Melinda pulled at the apron strings. “Not so tight!” Obviously she didn’t hear me, for the apron became tighter as she rattled away to our cook.
“Melinda!” I shouted. I could feel my face turning blue.
 “What?” she asked, slightly annoyed that I had interrupted her.
 “You’re tying this way too tight.”
 “Fine, tie it yourself,” she said in her bossy sister’s voice. The two strings fell to my sides. “We’ll need two large bowls and some spoons . . .” Melinda was in her own world.
Now, a little frustrated, I began to tie up my apron.
“But, señorita,” Luisa warned. “You girls have no experience at this kind of thing. Always someone is here to help you. Never you do it by yourselves.”
“Why don’t you help us?” I asked, taking a handful of things from Melinda.
, I willing to help you. This is big job for inexperienced girls.”
Melinda didn’t seem pleased. “But we’ve got to start somewhere. Every person has to try new things once in a while.”
 “I agree with Luisa,” Nila spoke up for the first time. “She know how much you want to do this, but it is much work. You need help.”
“I’ve got Andi.” Melinda smiled and put her arm around my shoulder. Yet, her voice sounded a little doubtful.
, you have Andrea. But she is clumsy at times and somewhat impatient. I think I help you.”
I know Luisa meant well, but calling me clumsy and impatient (although it is true) was too much of an offense.  “You think we can’t do it?” I huffed. “Well, just you wait and see what a masterpiece we will make for Mother.”
Rolling up my sleeves, I shouted to Melinda, “Come on, girl! We have a cake to bake!”
Melinda smiled with satisfaction. “That’s more like it. We’ll show them what’s what!”
Nila sighed. “Buena suerte. Good luck.”
Show them indeed. Had I known what lay ahead, I would have hung that apron back up on the wall.

Part 2

Melinda and I giggled as she began to pour the flour into a large blow. Mother would be so proud when she saw what a lovely cake we would make her!
“That looks like enough,” I said as I watched the last few puffs of flour fall onto the top of our white mountain.
“Good,” Melinda agreed. “Now, we need to add the salt, baking soda, and vanilla.” She thought for a moment. “Oh, yes, and some sugar.”
Quickly, I jumped up and grabbed the salt and sugar. Now, that was the first thing I did wrong. They do look a lot alike. I set them both down on the table then grabbed up the measuring cups and spoons.
“Okay, so we need four cups of sugar and three teaspoons of salt,” Melinda instructed.
Four cups of sugar, four cups of sugar, four cups of sugar, I reminded myself silently over and over. Taking up the measuring cup that read, “1 cup,” I pressed it into the sugar sack. One, two, three, and . . . four. Done with the sugar.
Well . . . so I thought. Three teaspoons of salt, three teaspoons of salt, three teaspoons of salt. “Okay, got it.”
Now, for those who know how to make a cake, you know you always read the labels on the sacks first and/or taste the contents if you’re not sure which is which. Melinda and I did neither. That was a dumb move. I watched as Melinda carefully stirred the white ingredients into one solid mixture.
“Now, we need to mix this with the wet ingredients,” Melinda grunted as she lifted up the heavy bowl. We added them all into a larger bowl and stirred them carefully. My arms became tired by the time we were almost finished.
Glancing up at my sister, I could tell she was hot and warn out too. Her once-perfectly pinned up hair now hung loose around her shoulders. Every so often she would remove a runaway pin and toss it on the counter. Poor Melinda.
“Okay.” She sighed deeply as we finished the stirring. “We need to put it into the pans now.” Sweat beaded her forehead as she brought over three large cake pans.
A long and low sigh escaped Nila. I looked up in time to see her and Luisa shake their heads at one another. They think we won’t be able to do this, I thought to myself. I was determined to show them that we were not to be messed with.
 Once the cakes had been poured into the pans and placed in the oven, Melinda and I took a short rest.
*  *  *
“They look done,” Melinda said a short time later as we tapped them with our fingertips. The cakes were a nice, golden brown. We grabbed up some dishcloths, slid the cakes out of the oven, and placed them on the counter.
“Oh, that smells good!” I smiled. We had actually baked them! Ourselves!
“What an excellent job,” Melinda agreed, tossing down her dishcloth. “We need to make the icing now. Then we will be finished.”
 “How do we make icing?” I asked, looking up at Melinda. She looked unsure herself.
 No se preocupe, Don’t worry,” Luisa called over to us. “I already made it.”
 “Luisa! We wanted to do it ourselves, remember?” I could tell Melinda was upset. But that did give us one less thing to do. I tried to tell Melinda that, but she paid me no mind. Instead she took up Luisa’s frosting bowl and spoon and walked over to the table. She popped the cakes out of the pans, stacked them one on top of the other, and began to frost them with the pretty pink icing.
Señorita Melinda,” Nila warned. “You must first—” She was stopped by Luisa’s warning look.
“They want to do it alone,” Luisa said with a nod at us.
Nila looked puzzled, then her face expression changed to an understanding smile.
Now, I was mad. I took up a spoon and began to apply the pink fluff to the cake. It didn’t take Melinda and me long to get the job done. We stood back to look at our masterpiece. It looked wonderful!
Luisa and Nila only smiled when we told them we wanted it to be brought out at dinner. At the time, I thought they were impressed. Yeah? No.   
Part 3
I could hardly sit still in my chair all through dinner that night. We had a dining room filled with people. Cory and his family, some of Mother’s close friends from church, and a few of our neighbors from the surrounding ranches. Even my sister Kate was there with her kids.
Jeffrey Sullivan was there too (Oh yeah, this was before we found out he was a sneak.) I was sitting between Cory and my nephew, Levi. I glanced over at Melinda every so often, and she always smiled her biggest smile back at me. We had a secret. I giggled at one point, causing Cory to become curious.
“What’s so funny, Andi?” he asked, taking a drink of his punch.
“Nothing,” I beamed.
He gave me a mocking look then turned back to his dinner plate. Phew! I hadn’t let our surprise slip. Justin, Chad, and Mitch gave Mother some gifts then sang the birthday song for her. When they had finished, Mitch gave me a confused look and asked, “Do you have something for, Mother?”
 “You bet we do!” I said, nearly bubbling with joy.
 “Uh-huh!” Melinda came and stood by my side.
Just then, the kitchen doors flew open and Luisa came out, pushing our cake on a moveable cart. I gasped. That was not our cake! It couldn’t be! The cake that Luisa was pushing out was lopsided, breaking, and the frosting was all melted! Melinda’s hand flew over her mouth.
We’re doomed! I thought.
 “What is this?” Mother asked, at a loss for words. She pulled her hands back from the mound of cake.
Luisa smiled. “It’s your birthday cake, señora.” She bowed then stepped back behind Mother’s chair.
Chad stooped over it with a wrinkled face. “What happened to it?”
“I could do better than that,” Levi whispered to me with a laugh.
Tears filled my eyes.
“It’s . . . umm . . . lovely,” Mother said, looking up at Chad.
“Luisa, what did you do to this cake?” Chad asked with a slight chuckle.
“Oh, I did nothing.” She laughed. “This cake was made by las señoritas Andrea and Melinda.”
Chad’s eyebrows went up a hair. Cory pointed at me then burst out laughing. One by one, the room filled with uncontrollable laughter. Jeffrey took out his handkerchief and delicately wiped joyous tears form his eyes.
I could feel my face turning red with an embarrassment. I thought for sure it would make me sick. Cory’s father was pounding the table with his fist, while Levi slapped his knee. They all looked so tickled. I wanted to run to my room, but I seemed glued to the floor.
Then Mitch’s voice cut in over all the noise. “Now, now.” He smiled, holding his hands up to quiet the group. “It was very sweet of you girls to do this for Mother.”
 “I think so too,” Mother said, giving us a loving smile.
 “I think we should dig in and enjoy this wonderful gift the girls gave you, Mother.” Mitch took up a cake knife. With a wink to me and Melinda, he cut the top layer.
Mitch has always been overly generous when it comes to cake cutting. He gave Mother an embarrassingly large portion of our . . .  not-quite-a-masterpiece. Chad jumped in with another knife, while Justin passed out pieces to everyone. I watched as Mother poked her fork into the pink cake and brought it up to her mouth. She tasted the frosting and smiled. Then she took a bite of the cake part.
That’s when it happened . . .
“It’s terrible!” Cory shouted, dropping his fork.
I couldn’t breathe. I watched as Mother’s lips began to twist into a disgusted expression. “It’s . . . it’s very salty,” she said, trying to be light-hearted about it.
I was startled then by Chad’s outburst of laughter. “Did you girls taste this?” He asked, amazed.
Melinda and I just shook our heads dumbly.
“The frosting is wonderful, girls.” Mitch smiled with twinkling eyes. “It’s the best part.”
 “I think so too,” Justin added quickly.
 “It’s the only good part.” Cory puffed our his cheeks and took a drink of water.
 “And you girls made it my favorite color,” Mother said with a “thanks” in her voice.
That did it. Melinda turned and ran for kitchen. Without thinking, I did the same. I guess when you see your big sister run, it’s in your blood to run too. We burst into the kitchen like a bunch of frightened kittens.
Melinda slumped into a chair near the table and sobbed. I stood by the door with tears in my eyes. Of all the things they had to compliment, it had to be the one thing we didn’t do! I was mortified.
Nila stood at the sink washing dishes. “Was a good lesson, no?” She smiled softly.
“I can’t ever show my face again,” Melinda cried.
“We should have listened to them, sis,” I told Melinda. “They were right.”
Sí, we were right,” Luisa said, coming in.
“What did we do wrong?” I asked as tears threatened to spill over.
Luisa walked over to the salt and sugar sacks. “You mixed them up, Andrea,” she said, pointing at the bags. “I saw it all.”
“Why didn’t you stop me?” I was even more horrified now, to know that this outrage could have been spared.
“And why did our cake melt?” Melinda demanded to know.
“You girls know little about baking,” Luisa said. “I know much. I know that one learns from mistakes. You girls will learn from this. Next time, trust that we know what we say.”
“I guess you’re right,” I said.
“It takes a strong person to confess their faults,” Mother said, coming into the kitchen. She slipped her arm around me. “I was so blessed by your gift,” she told me and Melinda. “When I heard it was from you, I could tell that you girls had done your best. Even if the taste was bitter, it was the thought that counts. Right?”
“Right.” I sighed.
At that point, Mitch and Justin came in. “Well, you girls did good on the icing.” Mitch winked.
Melinda sobbed. “We didn’t make the icing!”
“Luisa and Nila did,” I said, gulping back tears.
 Mitch’s face softened. “No wonder.”
Mother took my hand in one of hers and Melinda’s in her other. “Listen, girls.” She smiled. “I have never felt so blessed by you on my birthday. I really do love my cake. And I don’t feel disappointed one bit. Really.”
“Say, look on the bright side,” Justin put in, crossing his arms over his chest. “It will make a great story one day. And both of you learned to work together. Spending time with one another is the best way to build relationships.”
Melinda and I looked at one another. She smiled. “I guess we did kind of have fun.”
“Sure we did,” I agreed.
“See! I knew that something good would come out of this,” Mother said. “I need to go see to my guests.” She stood up. “You girls don’t have to join us if you don’t want to.”
 “Thanks.” I sighed with relief.
Mother pushed open the door with a wave. Justin wrapped me up in a big hug and said, “You girls are special.”
“Thanks, Justin.” I laughed. “I’ll say one thing for it, though.”
“What’s that, sis?” Mitch asked.
“If ever someone to wants play a cake joke on another, all they have to do is ask Melinda or me, and we’ll take care of it. We’re regular experts!”
“Isn’t that the truth!” Melinda giggled.
“One last thing,” Mitch remembered. He reached into his pocket and pulled out two hair pins. Dropping them into Melinda’s hand he chuckled, “I found these in my piece of cake.”
Melinda shook her head. With a genuine smile she said, “Well, I guess this is what we call a birthday-cake calamity! I’ll never make a cake again without a chef's hat on.” She tossed the pins across the room and made them land square in the waste bin.
We all laughed. This was one birthday we would not forget! 

P.S. (Andi's addition. Here is what the cake looked like after Luisa and Nila baked one the next day. This is what a birthday cake is supposed to look like.)
 The End


  1. Oh, my, Faith, this was a FANTASTIC story! I could read it over and over again! I LOVED it. You surely do have a talent to write stores! Keep up the good work! ;)

  2. Great job Faith! You have such a talent for writing!
    I especialy liked the line: I can’t tell a cake pan from a frying pan. :) And the part where Mitch pulled the hairpins from his pocket was really funny! This was an awesome story!!

    -Jocelyn Kaye


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