Sometimes I know that I am making my life more difficult than it needs to be. All because of some sort of long ago thought up principle I have since forgotten. And today, as it is A’s birthday, it is baking. I have done it, but the number of shop bought cakes I have provided for parties can be counted on the fingers of one hand. For some reason, it seems that, no matter how pressed for time I am, no matter how I lack the skill for ornate culinary creations, I must bake them a cake for their birthday.
Over the years, I have astonished myself with my level of over-confidence. The car cake was a bit weird looking, it has to be said (it would have been a worthy contender for a Pintrest cake fail page), but I didn’t let that stop me. I followed it up with a number 6 (the trickiest bit being the lining of it with strips of baking parchment), a Barbie cake (even though she has never liked Barbies) (they have freakishly long legs, needing an awful lot of cake to cover them), and, my pieces de resistance, the football cake, the train cake and the kitty cake.
It’s not as if birthday parties aren’t hard enough work on their own, without the additional demands not only of baking, but decorating a cake. After you’ve sent out the invitations, chased up the responses, shopped for the gift, the card, the themed table display, the party bags, made the sandwiches, bought the sausage rolls, the party rings and made the cheesy pineapple hedgehog, entertained the children with a variety of games varying in levels of excitement/marshalled everyone to the correct venue and made sure no one has been sick/cried/got lost, what you could really do with is a lie down in a darkened room, but no.
It’s not as if I am competing with anyone. My sister has been on a cake decorating course, so there’s no point even going there. I have several seriously arty crafty genius type friends who seem able to produce amazing creations like fairy castles and treasure chests complete with cascades of golden coins. My cakes might taste nice (once you’ve got past the crispy crust), but worthy of entrance into the Great British Bake Off they are not.
And it’s not as if shop bought cakes aren’t perfectly nice, either. I have a distinct fondness for those caterpillar cakes covered in Real Milk Chocolate, and Christmas isn’t Christmas without a chocolate log from the supermarket. When the request came for a Thomas cake, complete with lurid blue body and grey face, off to the shops I did trot.
I suppose I just really like making them a cake myself. I’ll even make two, if their birthday falls on a week day and I’ve got the wherewithal to get myself organised. It taps into that fundamental part of motherhood, the ability to feed one’s children, to celebrate their appearance in my life, no matter the circumstances.
So that’s what they are, this multitude of cakes that grace the birthday table, year on year. They are love gifts to my children, an affirmation of their preciousness in all their difference, and I’ll continue making as long as they continue eating.