The Great Cake Debate

Birthdays are serious business in our family. We like the birthdays. Most of us do, anyway. Some CANNOT STAND (*coughmyhusband*) public birthday celebrations as the thought of the entire restaurant staff serenading him in a birthday song in front of hundreds of people makes him want to crawl under the table. He knows the song is coming when the entire waitstaff, all the cooks, the bus boys, the manager and a guy they found in the parking lot come to the table clapping and smiling with their own, unique rendition of the song. He gives me a sideways I-can't-believe-you-told-them-it-was-my-birthday glance and then tries to appear appreciative of the manager in a white short-sleeved shirt and a solid black tie singing his guts out right there by our chips and salsa.

That's him, though.

The rest of us really like the birthday celebrating- public or private. The primary reason we really like them is because of the cakes. The cakes, the cakes, the cakes. And, believe me, we'll eat a homemade cake in public. We'll march that cake right into a restaurant if we don't get together at someone's house. You think we want to pay for everyone in the family to have a slice of cake from a restaurant? THERE GOES THE COLLEGE FUNDS, FOLKS! Anyway, certain people in my family make exceptionally good desserts (and by "certain people" I definitely don't mean me), so it only makes sense to have them make it. *TGI Friday's desserts can take a hike.

*I haven't been to TGI Friday's since 1992.*

I'm not sure why I am not usually the one designated to make the cakes, seeing as I did make this dessert back in 1962 when I was -13 years old. Didn't I do a good job? IT WAS ABLE TO HOLD THE WEIGHT OF A DINGDANG MANNEQUIN.

 (Not a picture of a cake baked by anyone in our family. You looked a bit puzzled.  Source)

Some people in my family get really particular about their cakes, so, really, I'm fine with not being the cake baker. Personally, I'd happily go buy a cake from a store called Convenience Store & Cakes or Gasolines & Gut-Bustin' Good Cakes, if there were such places. As long as the decorating was cute and they said the cake was chocolate, I'd buy that sucker. The thing is, as soon as I brought it home, my husband would get all worked up:

"IS THAT WHIP CREAM ICING ON THERE?" he'd say as he glanced down at my Diesel and Delectables cake looking like he just witnessed an elephant sneeze all over it. "PLEASE TELL ME THAT'S NOT WHIPPED CREAM ICING."

"It's whipped stinkin' cream icing! Yes! Get a grip on life!"

"Kelley, don't say 'get a grip on life'. That makes no sense. You only say that because you know I think it's really stupid. You get a grip on life. You know I don't like whipped cream icing. I like buttercream icing."

"Whipped cream icing is much better than buttercream."

"No , it is isn't."

"It is."








(We continue this on until we feel we have achieved the last word or, in many cases, the last very faint, barely audible, requires-the-hearing-of-a-canine sound.)

We care about the cakes. I'm telling you. I care about eating really good ones (my grandmother's German Chocolate Cake is THE BEST!) and others in my family care about baking them. For my kids' parties, I typically buy a cake WITH BUTTERCREAM ICING (can't be having the husband on my case for the rest of the weekend) from a local bakery. The adult parties in the family, however, involve a homemade cake. MONEY DOESN'T GROW ON TREES, PEOPLE.

I imagine that the person in my family that ends up baking the cake for an adult family member's birthday follows this timeline:

TWO MONTHS FROM THE FAMILY BIRTHDAY PARTY: Discussion starts floating around about so-and-so's birthday coming up. It is not uncommon for someone to ask the upcoming birthday haver what type of cake he or she wants at this point in the timeline.

"Have you thought about what kind of cake you want for your birthday?"

"Ummmm, no. My birthday is, like, two months away."

ONE MONTH OUT: We are starting to get down to the wire here, so we start trying to nail down who will make the cake.

"Are you going to bake the cake?"

 "I can. Do you want me to or do you want to bake the cake? I don't mind."

"I don't mind either. I can make the cake."

"That's fine. You can make the cake, but if you want me to bake the cake, I'll be happy to do that. Let me know if you need me to bake the cake."

"Okay, I will. I enjoy baking cakes."

"I like baking cakes, too."

"Well, if you like baking cakes, why don't you go ahead and bake the cake."

"No, you bake the cake. It's fine. Just, you know, let me know if you need me to bake the cake is all I'm saying. No, you bake the cake."


"But, I'd be happy to bake the cake, if you change your mind. Just let me know."

THREE WEEKS OUT: The previously proclaimed cake baker makes sure she is still the cake baker.

"I'm still making the cake, right?"

"Yes, you are still baking the cake, unless you need me to bake the cake."

"No, I'll bake the cake. Well, I will unless..."

And on it goes.

TWO WEEKS OUT: The cake baker checks to make sure she has all of the ingredients for the cake. If not, she gets her hind end to the store for that Hershey's Cocoa PRONTO. After all, she only has two short weeks left before she has to bake a cake in the oven for 30 minutes!!

TEN DAYS OUT: Checks to make sure the 9 x 13 pan is still in the cabinet. Stresses over whether or not she'll add a filling. Starts wondering if she should go to the local bakery and buy a cake. Rams head into wall when she realizes the depths to which she almost plummeted.

FIVE DAYS OUT: Considers mixing the dry ingredients together but then realizes the party is still five days away and maybe it's time to get her head checked.

THREE DAYS OUT: Goes to the store for milk, eggs and vegetable oil. Sets it aside lovingly on the counter while it waits its very important job. Realizes quickly that milk and eggs need to be refrigerated. Eyes refrigerator closely over the next couple of days to make sure no one takes the stash. When someone's hands approach the dwindling milk supply, she'll be ready with her taser.

ONE DAY OUT: Bakes her heart out. Flips, scrapes, tosses, measures, heats, separates and samples the cake batter like a madman. Shoves that gooey mess in the oven and watches it lift. Wonders why she hasn't been picked up by The Food Network. Considers changing her name to The Barefoot Contessa, Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, Julia Child or Doug Llewelyn, but then realizes those are all taken and  belong to famous bakers, except for that last one (he was on People's Court). Ices the cake later and admires her creation for a good while. Stands amazed at herself for her unmatched baking skills and awesome organizational skills.



(People at the party are then sent scrambling for candles of any type- the wrong numbers modified with markers, Warm Vanilla Sugar votives, a gargantuan Yankee Candlee the size of bath tub that smells like Fresh Linen, etc. BIRTHDAY CAKES MUST HAVE CANDLES.)

Do birthday celebrations in your family look anything like they do in mine?