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When you hear hoofbeats, think zebra cake

October 4, 2012

Last week was LOD’s birthday, which was a little weird because he was traveling for work almost the entire week, including his actual birthday, and was only in town the night before his birthday. So I had the kids all week, except for the night before his birthday, when they were having a special birthday dinner.

The boys talked about making him something, but then the older one said there was something he wanted to give his dad, and the younger signed on to that, so we got it: a crock pot. (Apparently my crock pot efforts over the last year have been good enough for them to think their dad needed one, too.) It was a biggish kind of box, so they decided not to wrap it, but just to give it to him as is. We wrote some of our favorite recipes on file cards to give to him with the crock pot. I was feeling good that the kids were going to be able to give their dad what they wanted to give him and see him the next night when he was home for the birthday dinner.

And then my older son walked out from his room after he’d gone to bed and asked me, “Mom, will you make a birthday cake for Dad tomorrow since I can’t ’cause I’ll be at school all day?”

Hmm. I was not expecting that. And I didn’t want to make my ex-husband a birthday cake.

I would have been completely ok with going to Kroger and buying LOD a cake. But there’s something personal about making a cake. And LOD and I aren’t personal.

But my son wanted me to.

It just didn’t feel right. It seemed a little creepy, even, to make a birthday cake for an ex. Like something I wouldn’t tell anyone else about, because how could I explain it?

But what kind of jerk doesn’t let their kid give their father a birthday cake? So I said I would.

And then I remembered: LOD’s favorite cake is not a baked cake at all, but a Zebra Cake, which is concocted of Famous Chocolate Wafers, whipped cream, and time in the refrigerator to set. So I didn’t have to bake anything, and I only needed two ingredients, and as long I got it done first thing in the morning it would be done and ready by afternoon.

I’m not sure why putting together an icebox cake seemed ok where baking a cake seemed too far over a border. But the Zebra Cake resolved my internal conflict, and I put it together and even put it on my favorite platter (pristine turquoise melmac obtained at a garage sale, which somehow seems perfect for an icebox cake).

The kids were thrilled with the Zebra Cake. LOD was shocked, by the cake and the gift. I still think it was probably too a little too much closeness, but I’m glad the kids got to give their dad a cake and I decided not to be a jerk just because I was uncomfortable.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Terri permalink
    October 4, 2012 1:13 pm

    Appreciate this post very much. Always awkward. Did you pay for the Crock pot or make the kids pay for it?

    • askmoxie permalink*
      October 4, 2012 1:47 pm

      Oh, I paid for it, same as I pay for the gifts they give each other for birthdays and Christmas, etc.

      • Terri permalink
        October 4, 2012 5:14 pm

        Yes, I do too. Makes my new partner crazy. Sigh.

  2. October 4, 2012 9:27 pm

    You will want to buy the America’s Test Kitchen recipe book “Slow Cooker Revolution”. Some of the recipes require a little bit more prep work than your usual “toss everything in and leave for 12 hours” recipes, but it’s *so* worth it.

  3. Mog permalink
    October 4, 2012 10:12 pm

    Tangentially, this is called Choc Ripple Cake in Australia – hard Choc Ripple biscuits (cookies) and cream. Better yet (although it doesn’t sound right, it really is) dip one side of the cookie in orange juice before slathering on the whipped cream.

    • October 5, 2012 12:00 pm

      Man, Australia. You’re giving gay dads equal rights to paternal care, you’re treating dads with dignity on House Husbands, and now you’re adding orange to my zebra cake? I want to go to there.

  4. Stephanie permalink
    October 4, 2012 11:34 pm

    Fave easy recipe-Swiss steak. Put a piece of Top Round beef (or any beef really, just a big hunk -about a pound) in the slow cooker with a can of cream of mushroom soup and cook on high 5 hrs. Serve with mashed potatoes.

  5. Linda permalink
    October 5, 2012 8:06 am

    I love that it is a kid issue for you rather than allowing it to be a divorce issue. I realize that you had to make that decision and it wasn’t necessarily an easy one to make. But whatever our reasons are for being kind to one another, it’s always good to be kind.

  6. October 5, 2012 10:10 am

    I’d been seeing my now-husband-of-nine-years for a couple of months when Mother’s Day rolled around. One of the things that solidified my feelings for him was when he took his then-teenaged kids to the store and told them to pick out one thing each to give to their mom for Mother’s Day. He made that about them, the kids, not about his ex, a woman he’d rather not think about much less purchase gifts for.

  7. Tine permalink
    October 5, 2012 10:20 am

    I hear someone’s looking for crockpot recipes? This is my favorite:

    Crock Pot Fish Chowder

    • 1 lb firm fleshed white fish fillets, cut in 1 inch cubes
    • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
    • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
    • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
    • 2 large peeled and diced potatoes
    • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
    • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce (or to taste)
    • 1 (16 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice (or vegetable/chicken broth)
    • 3 tablespoons flour
    • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
    • 1 cup cream or milk (use 2 if you like more broth)

    1. Place onion, celery and carrots in the bottom of a crock pot and top with fish cubes.
    2. Sprinkle with herbs and seasonings.
    3. Top with tomatoes, wine and clam juice.
    4. Cover and cook on Low 7-8 hours (High 3-4 hours).
    5. One hour before serving, combine flour, melted butter and cream.
    6. Stir into chowder and continue cooking for remaining time.

    • October 5, 2012 1:03 pm

      This appeals directly to my New England, chowder-based roots. Consider it done.

      • christinezw permalink
        October 5, 2012 1:33 pm

        I’m a Minnesotan…so my chowder cred may be suspect…but it is a damn good stew. I promise.

  8. October 5, 2012 1:00 pm

    Awesome. That is my favorite cake, too.

    My mom had me making it all by myself by the time I was 7. You know. For next year.

  9. October 13, 2012 9:44 pm

    I never considered that even after a marriage with children, post-divorce birthday cake could become something uncomfortable and awkward. Really enlightening, and I mean that sincerely.

  10. Sarah S permalink
    October 15, 2012 1:54 pm

    This was kind of an issue for me growing up as well – my dad had remarried and had more kids. I often spent Christmas with him and his family. My mother, understandably, did not want to buy him or his new wife and kids a bunch or presents (even indirectly, by giving me money), but it was really uncomfortable for me not to have anything to give them. One year I remember wrapping up some of my things I owned to give to them, like jewelry of mine. It was and is a really sad memory for me. I get where my mom was coming from, especially now that I’m older, but it wasn’t fair to me as a kid – I didn’t choose the marriage or the divorce. So I really think it’s great you’re supporting them with the present and cake, even if it’s a little weird for you.

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