For the first five years of my children’s lives, I baked all of their birthday cakes. Come to think of it, baked is not an adequate word; I slaved over their birthday cakes. Poured my blood, sweat and tears into cake pans time and time again. I am not a natural baker and the process made me far more miserable than happy, but the hours I spent creating them was a proof positive of my undying love for my kids. Good mothers bake their own cakes, so bake the cakes, I would, dammit.
Last year, Lily had a dual party with a friend (from which I learned that I am way to much of a control freak to ever do that again,) and the friend’s mother was in charge of the cake. Since I got to choose the venue, made the invitations and the goody bags and the thank you notes, it was only fair. The result of this team effort? A store bought ice cream cake simply bearing the words “Happy Birthday” sitting sadly on the table. I hid a scowl thinking that I would gladly have taken on cake duty in exchange for paper goods if I had known that was what she had in mind. Sure, it tasted like a little slice of heaven, but c’mon, where was the creativity? The effort? The love? I would never do such a thing to my own offspring.
Except this year Ben wanted a dinosaur birthday. Specifically, he wanted a big dinosaur cake. I spent days pouring over recipes as the date loomed closer. Everything I liked looked so complicated. Icing tips? Fondant? Oy. I had homework to deal with and boxes to pack and dinners to make. Was this stress worth it? For my four year old?
I was at my local grocery store when I saw it: A perfect dinosaur cake. Perfectly frosted, perfectly decorated and perfectly baked. Perfectly $19.99. And it fit perfectly in my trunk. The vanilla cake with butter-cream frosting was delicious and Ben was thrilled with it. So was I. And if any mother’s judged my lack of cake making, this year I was the wiser one. Not slaving over a cake doesn’t make you a failure. My kids prefer a mom who isn’t a basket case the day of their parties, anyway. And it allows time for other things, like making kick ass thank you notes. Which I will hope to get out one of these days, over a month after the party.
This article was originally published on