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Published January 09, 2011, 12:00 AM

Swift: Cake tale shows apple doesn’t fall far from tree

In the Swift family, the apple doesn’t fall far from the Margaret Tree. We five kids have all grown up to discover that the Mom DNA likes to rear its overachieving head at the most inconvenient times.

In the Swift family, the apple doesn’t fall far from the Margaret Tree.

We five kids have all grown up to discover that the Mom DNA likes to rear its overachieving head at the most inconvenient times.

Consequently, I cannot place a salad on the table without first meticulously wiping away any dressing that splashed up on the sides of the bowl. And I would rather skip a potluck completely than bring brownies topped with canned frosting. (Mmmm, the secret ingredient is carnauba wax.)

But my sister Mabel seems to be especially afflicted by congenital Margaretonia. She will go to any lengths to bake, decorate, craft and garden to perfection.

This was illustrated a couple of weeks ago, when she volunteered to bring dessert to a friend’s Christmas dinner. She decided to bring a red velvet cake, as she figured its scarlet hue would add a festive touch to the table.

But then she started thinking, which is always a dangerous move in the Swift family. What if everyone didn’t like red velvet cake? And she was almost positive one of the guests was lactose-intolerant and couldn’t stomach cream cheese.

So she had an idea. She could bake cupcakes so guests would have a choice. Besides the red velvet, she would bake little chocolate cakes and, in a nod to the season, gingerbread cakes.

In what I can only term Swift Logic, Mabel figured that baking 60-plus cupcakes would be less work than one layer cake.

Don’t ask me why; it’s just how we roll.

As she baked the little cakes, she realized they were all rising to different heights. She could not stand the thought of bringing criminally mismatched cupcakes to a holiday dinner. What was she, a cave dweller? And so she started sawing them off on top so they were all the same size.

Which created yet another dilemma. Now the cupcakes were too small. What if the dinner guests thought she’d brought Dolly Madison snack cakes and tried to pawn them off as homemade? Oh, the humiliation.

Unfortunately, stacking two cakes atop each other made them ridiculously high. But then Bakeylocks discovered that a cupcake-and-a-half would be juuuust right.

This is how my sister wound up cutting 60-some cupcakes into 240-odd layers, then filling them with three different frostings.

And that’s only the beginning.

The next day – Dec. 25, in fact – she jumped out of bed, determined to have a fun-filled day decorating her cupcake army. First, she iced the gingerbread sweets, even frosting the sides to make them look like tiny cakes. She’d also had the foresight to make gingerbread men, which she used to garnish them.

Sadly, the other cakes now paled in comparisonn.

So Mabel dared to ask: WWMD? (What Would Margaret Do?)

Margaret, she decided, would gild the lily.

Mabel proceeded to spend hours garnishing each red velvet cakelet with poinsettia leaves carved from strawberry fruit roll-ups.

By this time, it was late afternoon, and her husband, Ellworth, had returned from his golf game. He took one look at the kitchen, complete with bowls stacked in the sink, cats licking powdered sugar off the floor and tiny cakes stacked atop every available surface.

“What happened?” he gasped. “It looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy died a violent death.”

Mabel handed him a Fruit Roll-Up and told him to start cutting poinsettias leaves. Meanwhile, she proceeded to cut a snowflake out of waxed paper so she could stencil each wee chocolate cake with powdered sugar.

Mabel and Ellworth barely made it to the Christmas dinner. In fact, Mabel said she “looked like a scarecrow that had been left out in the field too long.” But nobody cared. They were all raving over the cakes. Photos were taken and the cakes were devoured.

Then Mabel went home and did dishes until 2 in the morning.

Because, as horrifying as this all may sound, that’s how we do things.

Unbelievably, the insanity did not stop there. Mabel saved all the little cupcake tops, which she frosted like little, soft cookies.

I guess you could say that’s what really took the cake.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525

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