Growing up, we never had birthday parties as such, but with eight children in the family, that was always enough for a celebration. We never received birthday presents, but my mother would always fix our favorite meal and special birthday cake. My favorite birthday cake was coconut cake with 7-minute icing with shredded coconut spread on the icing. My job was to put the coconut on the sides of the cake.
Before my tenth birthday, Mother saw a recipe for a "Colorvision Cake" in the Sunday paper and she and I thought it looked heavenly in the picture. Color television was rather new at the time, so obviously it was a play on words of that. She made the Colorvision Cake for my birthday that year.
My Colorvision Cake was the biggest, most beautiful cake I had ever seen. [Over the years of my telling the story, the cake has probably grown considerably, I think] All day long I would pass by the cake, looking longingly at my Colorvision Cake!
Two of my brothers were married, so that meant at least twelve pieces of cake to be cut from my Colorvision Cake! (seven brothers, parents. and two sisters-in-law) Twelve pieces? How big were the slices going to be? Most importantly, how much was going to be left for the Birthday Girl?
We had to wait for everyone to be there and Mother had prepared fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, tomatoes and cucumbers sliced together, and cantaloupe (which we called musk melon then). Hey, I still like that meal.
We were waiting for Brother Bode and his wife Kay to arrive. Kay had been babysitting for a friend of hers. When Bode drove up in the "Old Gray Ghost", out of the back seat crawled the three kids Kay had been babysitting. Oh, no! Maybe I could go in and hide the cake. No, that wouldn't work because Mother wanted to show off the masterpiece. We finished the meal and Bode had brought ice cream to go with the cake. I was counting--fifteen slices of cake--there was still a slight chance of leftover cake for me.
I kept glaring at those three little kids--those horrid brats--who had invaded my territory! My brothers will be the first to tell you that I was not a nice little kid; I knew there would be no leftover cake when I saw Mother cut the cake as Kay scooped the ice cream. Oh, thank you, Bode, butter pecan ice cream, my favorite. One scoop of ice cream and a tiny slice of Colorvision Cake for me. How fair was that? I remember licking the left-over 7-minute icing from the cake plate. No cake left--damn those interloping kids--they'd even taken drumsticks from the plate of fried chicken.
My mother never made the cake again, but for years afterward, I would whine about that cake and those unwelcome brats. Every year Mother would bake a coconut cake with 7-minute icing for my birthday. Mother would always say she'd lost the recipe for the Colorvision Cake.
One year after Mother died, I set out on a quest for the recipe for Colorvision Cake; I remembered that Mother had used red Jell-O gelatin in it; I wrote to the Jell-O company and told them about it. Voila! The Colorvision Cake recipe was sent to me. My brother Les and I made the cake, which turned out to look beautiful, but our attempt at making 7-minute icing was disastrous. I was in air-conditioning, I had chilled the bowl and beaters as my mother's recipe instructed, but the 7-minute icing wasn't fit to adorn my beautiful Colorvision Cake.
What to do? I turned to my "network" -- I told my sister-in-law Jean about the 7-minute icing crisis--she sprang into action and called her cousin Peggy, who immediately whipped up a bunch of 7-minute icing and brought it over; the icing was perfect and although I was afraid to tint it pink, I joyously slathered it over the cake. We had ten people come for dinner that evening and I'm here to tell you that that Colorvision Cake impressed everyone. It was huge and sumptuous-looking and I was serving the cake on the good china. As I looked around the dining room table, I could see the looks of appreciation from people as they received their cake and then I noticed they were only taking a bite or two.
When I put the first bite in my mouth, it was a shock to the palate and to those salivary glands which had been eagerly awaiting the Colorvision Cake. We had followed the recipe to the letter, but the Jell-O taste in the cake was not good. I said, "This is really awful!" and looked over at the remaining cake on the silver cake stand, knowing that I would have plenty of leftover Colorvision Cake all to myself.
"Be careful what you wish for." ran through my head.
My brother Duke said, "That's probably why Mom never made it again!"