When I was eleven years old, I wrote a very bad science fiction story about sending a rocket to explore the icy moons of Jupiter.
Then last week the European Space Agency announced we're going to send a rocket to probe the very same moons of Jupiter. Coincidence, my friends? I think not.
I think I was imitating Robert Heinlein, my favourite author at the time - undoubtedly because Julian, an older boy who I had a crush on (I remember long legs and muscular thighs), read a lot of Robert Heinlein himself.
I did not show this story to anyone, but there were space aliens in it. And unrequited space alien love. Do you see art imitating life there, readers? That's the creative muse laid bare.
Therefore it is in honour of Julian that this week I am blogging the Space Cake. I doubt he would even remember me now, and I want to cringe horribly and writhe a bit with embarrassment when I think about how much I wanted him to notice me - but unrequited love is unrequited love, even at the tender age of eleven.
When I began the Space Cake, however, I did not love this cake. I did not love it one bit.
I offered to bake it for a colleague's son, George. George was turning eight, and I had three week's notice, so I immediately starting looking for all the little toys that feature on its marshmallowy surface. I did not want to make George cry because the right toys weren't on his cake. And then have to face his father every single day at work from then on.
So I spent days - days! - hunting for tiny astronauts. I canvassed every children's shop within a 10km radius. I turned $2 shops upside down. I even went on safari to Toys R Us at Northlands, which I am sure I deserve some kind of prize for (and by golly, I wish I'd taken an elephant gun with me when I did).
But no luck. Time was starting to run out.
I considered substituting toy soldiers. I even went to the lengths of painting one white with liquid paper to see what it would look like, but at the last minute I decided I would rather make my colleague's son cry than actually, you know, kill him. Even in my warped universe of unreasonable justification, tears are better than death.
In the end my husband saved the day by turning up some little Lego men from an old box of childhood toys. Brilliant! They weren't white, but by this time I was beyond caring. They were going on the cake, whatever damn colour they were.
And I must say, readers, that in the end I TOTALLY ROCKED THIS BABY. Don't you think it looks almost exactly like the picture (whiteness of tiny astronauts aside)?
I even managed to get the perfect colour of coconut, owing to which my hands were green for a week.
And please, notice that bright yellow icing. That is not icing. That is marshmallow meringue, which requires a long and technical process where you beat the egg whites to a stiff peak but not so much that they split, while simultaneously dissolving sugar in water over a high heat and then boiling the hell out of it for ex-ACT-ly six minutes while getting it to ex-ACT-ly 115 degrees Celsius - no more, no less - which is known as the "soft ball" stage (thank heaven for my sugar thermometer) and then let it cool ever so slightly but not too much and then pour it into the still-beating egg whites in a stream of prescribed proportions so that the egg whites thicken up properly to form marshmallow. One false step, readers, and it's over.
Oh yes, it was a process. Which I TOTALLY NAILED.
Totally. Nailed. Which was something, at the tender age of eleven, that I did not even think about doing with Julian. But it does bring me nicely back to the beginning of the story.
Happy Birthday, George. May your life be filled with many space aliens and not too many unrequited loves.