Miss Beth’s Incredible Shrinking Two-Inch Tall Curiously Leathery Trail Cake

(Doesn’t my little carrot look a bit like a manatee?)

A big thanks to y’all for your bevy of bounteous birthday wishes—you’re very kind. They meant a lot to me.

It was a pretty swell birthday, all in all. Actually, it was my second celebration since we’d partied earlier when the kids were home. This time was more subdued, though I was delighted at good wishes from friends, my birthday poem from Benjamin, and a Happy Birthday song from Ariel. Here’s the last verse of Benjamin’s poem:

While her two young’uns are busy,
they still would want to know,
that this is a blessed, happy birthday,
hopefully not drowning in snow.

How could I not have a great day with odes like that? 🙂

I did get a hankering for some birthday cake, though. And since it so happened that Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man had some freshly-dug carrots from our otherwise lifeless garden, I decided that what I was really craving was a carrot cake—my favorite.

So I set about chopping, shredding, measuring, mixing, pouring, and my favorite part (besides eating the cake)—watching it rise through the oven window. I really, really love to watch cake (or bread) rise in the oven because it seems like magic. (As I’ve mentioned before, we are easily amused).

So, as usual, I eagerly peered through the oven window about 20 minutes in. “Hmm…that’s weird.” I said to Tom. “It seems to be about the same size as when I put it in there.”

“Oh, it’s probably just slow rising,” Tom said helpfully.

“Thanks, honey,” I said. “You’re very likely right.” By now it had been 30 minutes. I checked again. “Hmm…that’s weird. Still the same size…no sign of rising.”

“A watched cake never rises,” Tom said, with a sage nod and a knowing look.

“I’m grateful for your insight, O Enlightened One,” I said, laughing. “How did I ever manage without you?”

“I have no idea,” said Tom. “It must have been a struggle.”

40 minutes in: this time I opened the oven door. The rush of warm fragrant air was heavenly. At least it smelled good. In fact, it appeared to be done. But it was still the same size as when I put it in. In fact, it almost seemed smaller, like it was shrinking. I touched the top. Strange—the cake seemed quite firm. Not firm as in “nice crust with moist center” but firm as in “well-cured beef jerky.”

I took both pans out and we stared at them. “They look like they’re about an inch tall,” said Tom.

“Yep,” I said. “About an inch, I’d say.” I pressed the top again. Still very, very firm. “Well, at least there are TWO of them. I’ll just put lots of icing on it.”

So I did. Only I was in such a hurry to get the icing on that the layers weren’t fully cooled, resulting in the icing melting and the top layer of the cake sliding off the bottom one to tilt precariously near the edge of the table. The icing was flowing off, too, dripping off the top and sides of the cake and plate like molten lava. I didn’t realize this, of course, until much later when I came back from an outdoor task.

“Oh no!” I hollered. “My cake!  It’s…melting!”

Tom came in from the other room and we stared at the cake. “That is one pitiful cake,” Tom said.

“Yeah,” I said. “It is indeed a wretched sight.” I spooned up all the icing I could and stuck the two layers back together. We both scooped up what remaining icing could be salvaged, doing our best to repair the wreckage.

“I’m afraid it’s not much use,” said Tom. He wrinkled his brow and frowned. “You know, I think your cake is about two inches tall.”

I got a ruler. It was almost exactly two inches tall. We looked at each other and started to laugh. I got a knife from the drawer and cut a small slice. I took a bite, then handed it to Tom. We both chewed thoughtfully.

“Hmm,” said Tom. “Curiously leathery.” He chewed some more. “Robust.” We started laughing again as we gnawed and gnawed.  “Sort of like…hardtack.”

For anyone that doesn’t know, hardtack was the name of the rock-hard bread that soldiers ate in the Civil War.  It was also called “sheet-iron biscuit.”  To break it into smaller pieces, troops would bash it with their musket butts. 

Then Tom picked the cake plate up with a flourish and held it aloft in his right hand. With his left, he pointed at the cake and looked into an imaginary television camera.

“Hi there, friends,” he said in a Texas drawl, to his imaginary television audience. “I’m Cowboy Tom!  You know, when I’m out on the range with the other cowpokes, we can’t be bothered with a big, bulky old birthday cake. No ma’am. So what do we eat on the trail?” Tom looked over at the cake and smiled.

“Well, we cowhands like to eat Miss Beth’s Trail Cake! Only two inches high, so it fits neatly into your saddlebags! And it has that manly consistency—it’s REAL cake that a buckeroo can sink his teeth into.” He looked back into the imaginary camera and winked.

“So, buckaroos and buckerettes, don’t weigh your horse down with unwieldy cakes! Yes, if you want that long-lasting chewing satisfaction, reach for…” He thrust the cake towards the imaginary camera. “…Miss Beth’s Trail Cake!”

I was laughing so hard at that point that I almost choked on the cake. Tom put the cake back on the table. I got a couple of plates and cut two pieces. Despite its curiously leathery texture, it tasted pretty darn good.

And there we sat on my 53rd birthday and chewed and laughed and laughed and chewed some more. I thought about how blessed I am to have a man who makes me laugh. Who saves me yet another goofy animal-shaped carrot from the garden. Who thinks I’m funny, too, and always laughs at my jokes. And I thought about what a gift our sense of humor is. How it has so often saved us through all these hard and sometimes lean years. And how often that sense of silliness and the absurd has helped us to see what’s worth getting upset about and what’s not. A fallen birthday cake is nothing in the Grand Scheme of Things. Well, nothing but an occasion to laugh. And chew. And to be thankful that it’s at least edible.

But even more, I’m thankful for someone to share it all with. Not only to share Miss Beth’s Incredible Shrinking Two-Inch Tall Curiously Leathery Trail Cake, but to share the joy and pleasure of a big, ol’ deep-down, belly-shakin’, knee-slappin’ guffaw.

What a gift it is. And I am so grateful.


20 Responses to “Miss Beth’s Incredible Shrinking Two-Inch Tall Curiously Leathery Trail Cake”

  1. Jayne Says:

    OH my!!! I am wiping the tears from my eyes. That was so funny Beth! And, I am sure it tasted just delightful!! Man, but I’ve missed your and your wonderful stories here and am so glad you are back writing and sharing your wicked sense of humor! And indeed…. there is so much to be thankful for (and laugh about) even when life seems to be handing us lemons more often than not. xoxo

  2. The Southern Lady Says:

    What a funny story! You are so right about that fallen cake being funny in the grand scheme of things. Carrot cake does happen to be one of my favorites, too. It sounds to me like you had a great birthday and enjoyed the antics of your hubby making fun of that cake. I could just imagine him standing there performing his little act for you. You have a great family and we all have so much to be thankful for. One other thing! You simply amaze me with your characters you make.

  3. Martha Says:

    Ha ha…loved this story, Beth! Oh my goodness, you and your husband are exactly like me and my hubby. We share the same silly, wonderful sense of humour. And my sweet husband makes me laugh every day, and even laughs at my own corny jokes. We are the best of friends and never get tired of each other’s company. I live a very simple but amazingly happy life, just as you do. Oh yes, we have a lot to be thankful for.

    I’m so happy you had such a great time on your birthday. I wish you many more such blessed years.

  4. Betsyfromtennessee Says:

    Oh how hilarious, Beth… Your 53rd birthday will be one that you will remember forever… I love hearing you tell your story about your 2 inch cake… Glad you all laughed about it –and just made the best out of the situation. What a GREAT birthday —and oh, how I love your sweet hubby…

  5. Darla Says:

    LOL Thanks for sharing your birthday — I appreciate the gift! 😉

  6. Ariel Says:

    Hahahaha! This story is hilarious, even funnier to me because I can hear Daddy’s cowboy voice in my head as I read this. I would like a piece of Miss Beth’s Trail Cake sometime. 😀 Bet you couldn’t put any candles in that!

    Also, despite your stunning oeuvre of googly-eyed creatures and vegetables, I think that the carrot manatee trumps all. He’s ridiculously cute.

  7. Debi Says:

    I wonder what happened to the cake? Yum, I love carrot cake too. Wish we were closer, I’d make you one.

    What a good man the Blue Ridge Husband is. Yeah, who needs a cake when you have a guy that can make you laugh?

  8. colleen Says:

    What happened to it?! Glad you had a good birthday in spite of the melting cake.

    Your carrot creature made me smile and I love your snow photos below.

  9. sweetflutterbys Says:

    What a wonderful memory to have of your birthday! I think Blue Ridge Husband could not have done a better thing even if he had flew you to Paris, took you to dinner and bought you a two caret rock. What a sweet guy.

    And a belated Happy Birthday to you!

  10. wesley Says:

    In the new version of True Grit, the characters use hardtack for target shooting. Perhaps there’s another use of your cake.

    You are blessed indeed, my friend.

  11. CountryDew Says:

    You are blessed in many ways. A good husband is a particularly good blessing to have!

  12. eemilla Says:

    Yep you’ve grown a manatee carrot. I literally have tears leaking out of my eyes from laughing so hard about your cake and Tom’s cowboy, but really it stems from my empathy. I’ve had all kinds of cooking disasters, and I’ve laughed at my mom’s too (like chocolate chip cookies without flour).

  13. Colonel O'Trooth Says:

    I think Wesley’s suggestion for target shooting is excellent. Perhaps your cake could also be employed as weaponry (to be used as rations, in a pinch).

  14. Vicki Lane Says:

    Too funny! But I would have loved a picture of the infamous cake!

  15. Jeff Says:

    Well, I guess I’m not too late to comment! So funny, Beth. Yes, indeed, it is truly special to have someone who can find humor in a cooking “disaster”. I’ve had some of those, myself! I don’t think I’ve ever made carrot cake, but I’ve made lots of banana nut bread – sometimes good, sometimes bad. If you ever get to Floyd, the Country Store makes divine carrot cake. And they serve it with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream. Since you love ice cream, I think that alone is worth the trip!

  16. Rider Says:

    Yours is a wonderful posting, Ms. Blue. Do you know the best part of it? Your final three paragraphs.

    It does us, your readers, good to see something written by and from the heart. It does us especially good to know that you and Mr. Blue really are blessed.

  17. Clara Melvin Says:

    Hi Beth my friend, I have been slow about posting this winter, but am now trying to get back into the swing of things. You made me laush with your post this morning. (and I needed that) Your little carrot fellow is so cute. Can’t you freeze him and keep him forever? It reminded me of my “manly carrot” that I sent to you a long time ago. The cake story was funny too. Did you figure out why it didn’t rise? I have had some cake failures myself. Just part of life I guess. At least we can laugh about it. Now, I’m going to read your eariler post that I have missed. I’m sure I will feel better when I finish! Thank you Beth for being you!

  18. viola Says:

    I made a carrot cake just like that once. Frosted it, hoping for the best. But it was just the blandest, chewiest cake. I carefully went over the list of ingredients again and realized I’d forgotten the sugar! Believe me, I scraped that cream cheese frosting off and ate it before tossing out that awful cake.

  19. birdsandbenjamin Says:

    It feels good to see you guys doing this sort of thing. I love it. You do great. A little bit of light levity laughing at the unleavened legendary lob of luscious lip-licking lunch.

  20. birdsandbenjamin Says:

    This pun’s for yooouuuu 🙂

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