As we begin to gear up for what will forever be known to us as ‘Cake Week‘, I can’t help but think back to my own family’s birthday traditions. There were themed birthday parties each year, from ‘magic’ to ‘Double Dare’ to attempts at surprise parties (Mom, I love you, but I knew). There was a birthday cereal – a treat that diverted from our standard Cheerios and Chex to a sugar and marshmallow laden disaster of our choosing, that most often went stale before it was finished. And, with a little bit of pleading, there was homemade cake.
I can distinctly remember my mother cautioning me each time I asked her to make a homemade cake (which honestly might have been ‘boxed’, but came out of her oven- which was all I really cared about). “It’s never even” or “It won’t look as pretty as if we bought one from the store” she always reminded me following my request.
And she was right.
The cakes were always a little wonky, requiring a bit of extra frosting on one side to try to even it out or a heavy hand of sprinkles to distract. To this day I can’t really remember what any particular cake looked like. But I can still remember, vividly in fact, how they tasted. They were soft and springy on the inside, unlike any store-bought cake I had ever had. I remember what they tasted like the day after the party or the birthday too; chilled from being put into the fridge. The icing always had a thin hard skin on top that I loved to break through, revealing a soft layer just underneath the outer film. The icing in between the two sandwiched cakes was always my favourite part- cool and smooth, taking on a thicker texture from sitting overnight in the cold air. I can even remember the heavy glass plate they were served on the first day, that I then hunted for on a fridge raid on day two.
Despite my mother’s worry that I would be disappointed in how her cake turned out, embarrassed that it wasn’t ‘pretty’ or in a fancy shape (she did write my name on it- I can remember that), she carried on making them every time I asked her to.
Making two birthday cakes in one week is an undertaking. And it would be very much within my personality to get carried away in setting up standards and expectations that I would struggle at best to meet, or beat myself up about if I fail. I still have a couple small things I would like to do, but as I am mixing and stacking the night before both girls’ big days, I will remind myself of my own mother’s cakes for me, and how despite their lumps or lopsided stature, their taste and her willingness to make them have become their greatest, most memorable features.
Happy almost birthday to these two little monkeys. Best things I’ve ever made by miles.