Oh, the joys in a spoonful of cake icing

Published 7:19 pm Monday, March 28, 2011

Our grandsons were visiting the other day: Sean Robert Irwin (“Sir”) and Neill Leiton Irwin (“Nil”) at the ages of four and two. It was a beautiful afternoon, so naturally we headed for the swings, hammock, and sandpile in the back yard, where they swung for a while, blew bubbles (their grandmother, “Doots,” fixes up bubble stuff and uses — get this — plastic fly swatters to get the stuff on and swing in the breeze to make swarms of bubbles), and then constructed a playhouse out of the huge cardboard box that their Uncle Adam & Aunt Cici gifted them a real Gator in for Christmas, the which resides at their house in town, but the box was left out here after construction of the machine. I had to affix a door on it with duct tape, then cut out for bubble-wrap windows to be taped on, and both boys crawled in to plan further activities, including a fort to shoot skunks out of when darkness came and the stinky critters ventured forth. After I thought about it, it was a really good idea, with our last spring’s history of skunk overpopulation.

After they’d gotten their fill of that playhouse box, we went out to the Swimming Hole with the BB gun to shoot at waterbugs and the duck decoys that mark how far out a four-year-old can venture, once swimming season starts. Nil doesn’t make a whole lot of sense talking as of yet, but he sure has one phrase down pat: “My turn!”

As darkness approached, Doots returned to the house to fix supper and dessert: a caramel cake, which my Aunt Rose used to call a “Burnt Sugar” cake, and those capitals are there for a reason. Betsy’s is better, but the standard was set for her to best a long time ago. Of course, the best part of any cake is the icing.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

She had finished the cake, then was busy doing something to her chicken spaghetti at the stove, and while her back was turned, I was able to observe Nil putting two and two together: that cracked skull a year ago ain’t slowed that boy’s thinking down atall!

He had watched her ice the cake from a big yellow bowl that was on the island in the kitchen, and both boys (and their Grunk!) had been allowed to lick the spoon, sharing any good or bad germs, of course. As if germs could possibly be in leftover caramel cake icing!  Get real!

There’s a small one-step stool in the kitchen, and Nil slyly shoved it across to the island without attracting his Doots’ attention. I was quietly watching from the screen porch. The kid then mounted the stool, which put his eyes just at the level of the island top. The icing bowl rim was six inches further up, with the spoon handle sticking up out of it, which he now reached for. I eased forward, prepared to make a grab for the yellow bowl if he pulled it off the counter.

Nope, the boy knew what he was doing, and the rewards of a job well done. He carefully levered the spoon up out of the bowl and transferred the contents to his mouth, licking the evidence carefully from his lips. Then he stretched up to stick the spoon into the bowl again and scrape it around the inside – understand that Doots had already iced the cake, so there wasn’t much in there.

Yet the kid had absolute faith that his grandmother had left enough icing in that yellow bowl for him to enjoy. He was very careful not to shift the bowl atall, appreciative of whatever icing clung to the spoon when he put it in his mouth after each swipe into the bowl, and it always came up with a little more on it.

Her motto has forever been, “Life is short: eat dessert first!” Her youngest grandson obviously has already learned that from her. By the time his chicken spaghetti was ready, he had consumed most of that caramel icing, never having even glimpsed the inside of the bowl.

Good thing he got it early. She declared that the aforesaid Burnt Sugar cake was for her customers at The Coffee Shop, and passed out Girl Scout cookies to us.