This is a story about King Cake shrinkage.
Now, a King Cake is the easiest cake in the world to sneak a slice of without nobody knowing.
If you cut a wedge out of a regular cake without asking, you’re in trouble – especially if it was for birthday party purposes or something like that.
But a King Cake is a big, rambling oval – only one skinny layer high. All you gotta do is cut yourself a sliver, pull it out and then force the edges back together and smear the icing to cover up the cut.
Not that you, personally, would ever do it.
If that don’t work – if maybe you cut your slice too big and you can’t force the edges to come together – you got to fall back on your high school geometry. You calculate the exact opposite place on the other side of the oval and take out the same size slice on that side. Then you can push the cake back together and nobody will know.
But you got to eat the slices you stole immediately, before you put the cake back together, so in case you got the slice the plastic baby is in – which you probably will because God’s watching and He won’t approve – you can slip that back before you fix the cake.
You can’t do it more than once on the same cake. Two slices maximum. Otherwise, somebody’s going to notice the shrinkage.
You would think my brothers-in-law, Lurch and Leech, would understand that, as many cakes as they’ve personally shrunk. But even highly practiced experts can get distracted by lady mud wrestlers with large bosoms.
And that’s what happened to them.
Now that they’ve moved back into their double house in Chalmette, my mother-in-law Ms. Larda and whatever old friends – mostly widow ladies, like her – have washed up nearby, have started holding King Cake parties at each other’s houses or trailers every week; dancing to old Vince Vance albums and talking about what’s gone (everything) and what’s not (Metairie). Ms. Larda got the baby in the cake last week, so it’s her turn. She went all the way out to Randazzo’s in Metairie for one of their super-sized King Cakes.
She brings it home, and then she thinks of the million and one other things she needs before the ladies come, and she’s just getting ready to tear out of the house when Leech shows up at the door and says he and Lurch need to watch an important wrestling match on her TV because theirs isn’t working; so she says “fine.” But knowing them, she runs back in the laundry room behind the kitchen and leaves the king cake on the ironing board. Them boys have never looked at an ironing board in their lives, so she figures it’s safe.
Wrong, of course. Them two have a sense of smell like basset hounds, and she ain’t a block away before they’ve sniffed it out.
Anyway, they set it on the coffee table, and they start watching the show, and they cut a little slice here, and a matching slice there, and another slice here …
Thank God I show up early, because when I walk in and ask what they think they’re doing, they got it down to the size of a glazed doughnut.
There’s no time to get to Randazzo’s. Or anywhere else.
Like they say, desperation is the mother of all inventions. They got 20 minutes until party time.
They run back to their side of the house and come back with three boxes of Hostess Twinkies, which they always keep a stash of in case of a food emergency. Leech asks me to find a knife; and then he asks for the sugar. Then he wants to know if Ms. Larda got any food coloring, which she does, and then he roots through the refrigerator and grabs a squeeze bottle of grape jelly.
Then Lurch, precise as a surgeon, slices a Twinkie lengthwise, halfway up, and forms it into a Y, and shoves another Twinkie into the arms of the Y, and then cuts the bottom half of that into a Y, and so on, until he got a chain of Twinkies looking like braided dough, sort of. Meanwhile, Lurch mixes yellow food coloring with sugar in one coffee cup, and green food coloring with sugar in another cup. They arrange the braided-looking Twinkies into a big oval in the Randazzo’s box, fill in the gaps between Twinkies with grape jelly, and then dump the colored sugar all over it – at the last minute they remember to stick the baby in – and voilà! – it does look like a purple, green and gold King Cake.
“Presentation is everything,” Lurch says to me with a straight face.
Now, the most I’ve ever seen Leech or Lurch do in regards to food preparation is to remove the peel off a banana before they eat it. They must’ve fell asleep with the Food Network on.
Ms. Larda rushes in and starts laying out little triangle sandwiches and healthy vegetables with unhealthy dip. Then the ladies arrive, and there’s a lot of talking and chomping. Lurch and Leech beat it out the back door.
Then Ms. Larda opens the Randazzo’s box and frowns. “I asked for their traditional cake,” she says; but shrugs and starts slicing.
It’s delicious, because in addition to the maybe 5,000 calories worth of filling in the middle of every Twinkie, it also got colored sugar and grape jelly on top.
Maybe them boys got an undiscovered talent. You got to wonder what they could do with Moon Pies.