Monday, July 9, 2012

Having Your Cake...

In two days I'll be 45 years old.  My wife thinks my birthday is funny because I'll be able to round up my age to 50.  I think she needs to trade in her sense of humor for something a little, well, more humorous. 

Birthdays are supposed to be enjoyable.  My kids seem to enjoy theirs.  They have parties and sleepovers with friends and presents and cake with butter cream frosting in the design of whatever they happen to be into at the time.  Growing up, I don't recall ever having a birthday party that included anyone other than my parents, grandparents and brother.  I recall having friends, but I don't remember any of them cheering me on while I extinguished a cake-full of birthday candles with a single mighty exhale. 

And, I know for sure the birthdays of my youth included cakes without frosting.  That's right, the first time I had a cake with anything other than lemon glaze or powdered sugar was on my wedding day.  It was usually a standard 12x9 rectangle.  Occasionally, if my mother was feeling creative, I'd get a bundt-style cake.  The only suprise I ever had during my birthdays was when I took a bite of one of those cakes, not knowing if I had a mouthful of cake with glaze or cake with melted candle wax -- they looked so much the same.  Surpisingly, the flavors weren't all that different.

So, most people who hate birthdays hate them because it makes them feel old.  I hate birthdays because of cake trauma.  I call them "prison cakes", though I'm sure convicts at least get frosting.

For the past few years I've just avoided cake altogether on my birthdays.  Part of the reason has to do with my mother.  Pent up guilt from having tortured me with those nondescript cakes for so many years caused her to attempt a make-good.  For a good three or four years she would bring over a frozen ice cream cake for my birthday.  A lot of people enjoy ice cream cakes.  They combine both of the festive treats in one simple package.  Plus, they eliminate the need to ask the question, "do you want cake, ice cream or both."  You don't have a choice with an ice cream cake.  You get both whether you want it or not.  There is just one small problem -- I've never wanted ice cream with my cake, mostly because I hate using a fork to eat the soupy mess from a woefully inadequate paper plate.  So, being forced to eat something on my birthday kind of rubbed me the wrong way.  I never told my mother how I felt, but after a few years, the ice cream cakes stopped coming.  Now, we just go out to a nice dinner and I try not to think of cake, frozen or baked.

Only one of my kids eats cake.  So, only one of my kids should want cake for their birthdays, right?  Wrong.  They all do.  And, they always want elaborate designs that I end up attempting, as if my name was Buddy from Carlo's Bakery.  My attempts don't always turn out as planned.  The Arthur-themed cake was quite impressive.  The Poke-mon cake was not.  Sports themes are usually easy to pull off, unless you're trying to put together a realistic-looking soccer ball and don't pre-plan the hexagon pattern.  You might end up with a few hexagons, some triangles and a new shape I call a squaircle. 

The kids are getting older now and the requests for special cakes don't seem to be as important to them as they once did.  A simple rectangle with a cream cheese frosting and some sprinkles often does the trick.

They say kids end up turning out just like their parents.  I've been fighting for almost fifteen years, but I'm thinking my days are numbered.  Cake making is hard work.  Maybe someday I'll be able to drizzle a lemon glaze onto a 9x12 sheet cake and call it a day.  Or better yet, I could just give DQ a call.

As for my kids, they can have their cake, but I don't have to eat it too.  Afterall, I am 50.

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