I chuckled when I came across a recent article in Real Simple magazine where the author talked about her own dilemma of whether or not to bake a homemade birthday cake for her daughter (and I apologize to the author ….somehow I managed to only cut out the 2nd page of the story which did not contain the author's name, the title of the article, or even the publication month… and my attempts to locate a link to share with you have been fruitless). In the piece, the author reminisces about how when she was a little girl she longed for one of those beautiful store-bought cakes with “smooth as glass icing delicately accented with silver balls and sugared violets”, but her Mom continued to bake her homemade cakes that were painful lumpy and well, homemade. She goes on to say that when she became an adult and started attending kids birthday parties that were far too elaborate, it became clear that perhaps she should outsource the task of baking her own kids' birthday cakes because she was sure that her baking would only bring shame upon her family!
“But in the end I wavered. I couldn't bring myself to honor my son or my daughter with a store-bought cake. There was something soulless about it. Anyone could buy that cake. Anyone could have made it. I loved my children. And despite the fact it might seem more loving to spare them the spectacle of a cake that appeared to have been sat on, I would make their cakes.”
This story completely cracked me up because I can completely relate to it! I too absolutely insist on making homemade birthday cakes for my kids, indulging them in whatever flavors they might like, whatever animal-shape they might request- because I want them to feel that their cake is special…. unique- just like they are. But even I have to admit that about halfway through the task of creating the birthday cake (coupled with all of the other details I am trying to manage while throwing an at-home birthday party) I want to just throw in the towel and quit the whole thing! I can handle the cake-baking and I can usually handle the cake-assembly…. creating a shape out of it to make look like an elephant or a giraffe, or a Lego display….. but once I start icing that sucker I'm regretting the decision to make my own cake big-time! More than once I've called my husband to save the day and finish a decorating job that I was struggling to complete on my own.
And sometimes I cringe when I look at the finished work because the elephant really does not look that much like an elephant and the giraffe is falling apart and the Legos are all completely off-center…. but I know that I've once again allowed my own perfectionism to get in the way. And what my kids really see is that they got the cake that they wanted- and they are thrilled. Never once has one of them said, “Um Mom… that doesn't look like an elephant.” Not once.
And I know (or at least I like to believe) that when my kids are older and look back on their own childhood, these creative birthday cakes are going to be one of the things that makes them smile.
Are you a slave to the homemade birthday cake, or do you take the simpler path? Leave a comment and let me know!