Last week was Nick’s birthday (the big 2-9) and I was on a mission to get him his favorite food: Birthday Cake.
On a bike ride the day before, we had come across two promising leads, a bakery and another restaurant with a sign outside that said “Happy Cake Birthday.” So it was with confidence that I started out on my birthday cake hunt.
After about 25 minutes on my bike, I came across the first bakery. It was owned by an Australian (or an Austrian, I didn’t pay too much attention to the sign) and was as proper a bakery as you can find in Laos. But when I inquired about a birthday cake, I was very disappointed. If I wanted a proper birthday cake, the smallest he would make for me would be to serve 15 people (for a 2-person party) and cost $150,000 kipp (about $17 or $18 USD). Wayyyy out of our budget. So I headed off to option number two.
5 minutes later, at the furthest point on these islands from our own guesthouse, I found the other restaurant. I found an old man there who spoke no English but was able to get out the words “Cake, Birthday?” and so I placed an order for one for $50,000 kipp and headed back to our guesthouse.
Later that day, on my way to pick up the cake, I worried myself thinking about the logistics of my cake transportation: How would I be able to fit the thing in my bicycle basket? What about the icing? Would it melt off? Be ruined on the bumpy ride home? Could they write “Happy Birthday Nick” on it for me?
But all of those worries were put to rest when the cook came out with the birthday cake - holding it in her hand the way you might hold a sandwich. There was no icing at all. It looked like the bottom layer of a layer cake (when you make each layer individually in a circular cake pan). No frills – just a chunk of yellow cake. The woman dropped it into a plastic bag and I was on my way.
Light and fluffy, this cake was not. It was dry and very dense - like a brick, and not very sweet either. But not to fear – condensed milk saved the day. We borrowed the can of condensed milk usually used for coffee and doused that cake with the stuff. MMMMM.
It almost tasted like real icing, and if we used enough of it, the cake was almost moist!
So I sang happy birthday to Nick, and the two of us proceeded to eat ½ of the cake all by ourselves. Then we gave the other half to the family who runs our guesthouse. I have to admit we felt a little guilty when we saw 10 children crowding the cake…. we had just eaten ½ of it between the two of us! But hey, it was his birthday cake.
All in all, besides the travelers indigestion Nick was dealing with all day, I’d call it a birthday success!