Parenting

What makes a perfect birthday cake?

Under pressure to make the perfect birthday cake for her son, Run-at-home mom Jennifer opts for making memories instead of a cake

This is what our son will remember most about his birthday — the fun.

Being a Christmas Eve baby, we make a big effort to make Isaac’s birthday larger than life — no joint parties or gifts in this house. This extends to the cake. Months before his party we pick out a theme and Google cake ideas (if I had my way it would be decorated cupcakes, my forte, but Mr. P insists that no birthday is complete without a cake). And each year I stress out about how perfect I must make this cake — from scratch. Each year the cakes get more elaborate and the stress level skyrockets, especially with the Google cake search led by Mr. P and our son. For example, Isaac wanted a Spider-Man cake for his 3rd birthday and the boys picked a colossal fondant covered tower. Needless to say, it was scaled back, but I remember working on it until 2 a.m. the night before his party. Hugely pregnant with his baby sister, I fretted about how detailed it was, and even spent the hours before his party driving around and looking for black icing to outline New York City skyscraper windows for the buildings Spidey was scaling. And of course, the cake was made from scratch, as they all have been.

Two days before Isaac’s fifth birthday party, I stood paralyzed in the grocery store in front of of the box mixes. Should I? Shouldn’t I? I bought two. Because we returned from holidays only a few days before the party, I was pressed for time to turn out the perfect Lego cake. But as I was getting ready to open the box mix, Isaac asked me why I wasn’t baking a cake with love (our family’s nickname for anything scratch made). He wanted to help make his cake, and a box mix wasn’t going to cut it for him this year. He wanted Martha Stewart’s lemon cake (this is what I get for raising baking snobs).

So we baked and laughed and decorated and connected. No, the cake wasn’t the perfectly smooth stack of Lego bricks that I have pictured in my mind. I’m sure Gillian like some of the fondant and there were fingernail pokes from Isaac and the whole thing was lopsided. Mr. P threatened to send it to Cake Wrecks. But topped with five candles with a sugar-fuelled rendition of Happy Birthday sung by his best buddies in the background, Isaac told me that this was his favourite cake ever.

You know what? It was my favourite cake ever too.