My son turns 2 years old today. Two on the second! A golden birthday! He was born unexpectedly early–while we were out of town on an annual family weekend trip. So, for his first birthday, we returned. Because I didn’t have access to my kitchen, we simply ordered a cake from a nearby grocery store.
One of the joys of having kids is celebrating their birthdays. Not only does it feel like a personal victory (We kept this baby alive! I gave birth to a living creature! This kid, under our guidance, is growing into an amazing human!), but it’s fun to see their faces light up when those near and dear to them gather around and look right at them, usually singing the birthday song.
But then there’s cake. Out of all the cakes–wedding, retirement, get well, engagement, promotion, farewell–birthday, literally takes the cake. Maybe the addition of candles does the trick. Maybe it’s because it’s only eaten once a year (per person, of course), but also consumed as often as once a year!
A couple months in advance, I asked my 3-year old for creative direction when it came to her brother’s birthday cake. “A fish!” she exclaimed, connecting the dots that in this past year, he has shown a fondness for fish–one of his first words and interests.
So I made this:
It’s not exactly what I had envisioned. All my cakes look better in my head than on the platter. At one point, I cursed the cake for being so crumbly after I had cut it and shaped it. Midway, I thought I was going to have to scrap the entire thing and literally start from scratch–this cake was made from a mix and I had only bought one box, so starting over would have meant pulling out a recipe and flour and sugar and eggs.
Alas, it came together in an okay-ish manner. As my older sister pointed out via Facebook, it’s all about the target audience: a 2-year old. And, true to that, when I presented my son with the cake, he didn’t make mention of the design, but pointed and simply said, “Cut it! Cut a piece!” He is 2.
I’ve made my daughter 3 cakes. Her first was the face of Bumble, the Abominable Snow Monster from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I don’t have a picture of that. But, here’s her second:
At the time she was digging Elmo and animal crackers. That Elmo is a spoon that I found online (Elmo is the handle).
Her third cake was a “crown” per her request:
I bought a special candy mold to make those gems. I let her help me put those gold ball sprinkles on top. They were really hard and had a kinda gross flavor, but I like the way they look. And, maybe having her help me was more special than the actual cake itself.
My hope is that my kids remember these cakes with the filter of childhood magic that tints even the most mundane points of life–that their memory of these cakes will be better than the actual cake. Because for me, the joy of celebrating my kids is much more better than any cake could ever be.