There is a lot to consider when starting a family. So many of the unknowns and the possibilities are exciting. Some are unnerving. Others are downright frightening. But mostly, the idea of starting a family and doing all sorts of family-things together is pretty darn wonderful.
But I have always been worried about one family-related thing in particular: Cake. I knew that as a Mom, I would be in charge of the birthday cakes. When I started dating, I took pride in being able to show my affection by baking my loved one a cake. But as time went on, and as each consecutive cake proved that I had absolutely no cake-baking abilities, I started to rely on specialty bakeries and Dairy Queen more often. When Dan and I were first married, I continued this tradition. I spent good money on gourmet cupcakes and supermarket delicacies.
But I knew things would have to change when I had children.
Unless you are one of those Moms who spend thousands of dollars catering a single birthday party, baking cake for your child’s birthday is just kind of expected of the Mom. And in the world of Pinterest and baking blogs and Martha Stewart, those cakes are expected to look perfect. I managed to do an okay job with Cameron’s first birthday. Thankfully, the Monster theme we chose lent itself to anything but perfection.
Well, we are once again into birthday season in this household. And now that I am a Mom and I proved myself at my son’s first birthday, I have taken on the designated role of birthday cake baker in my family. After spending copious amounts of hours on Pinterest and perusing cake recipes (tricking myself into believing that the instructions are actually as simple in execution as they appear on the screen), I bravely ventured into the unknown and asked my husband what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday.
After a few days of hemming and hawing, he finally came to me with his verdict.
I want a cake that you and Cameron make together. Just a simple boxed cake that you and Cameron pick out and bake, together.
But. … But. … But. …
What about an ice cream cake? What about a caramel banana cake? What about a Nutella swirl cheesecake cake? (What about any number of recipes that make my mouth water but that, I’m sure, will only cause me stress and anguish when I actually try to make it?)
Nope. Just a simple (boring?) cake mix from the grocery store.
So Cameron and I went to the grocery store. Together, we chose a mix (marble), an icing (milk chocolate), a package of decorating icing (red), and sprinkles (stars). And on Saturday, the day before my husband’s birthday, Cameron and I sat around the coffee table in the living room (yes – the LIVING ROOM!) with our box of cake, our mixing bowls, our egg carton, and our measuring cups. With my two big hands, his two little hands, and a lot of mess, Daddy’s cake started to take shape.
The cake turned out. It didn’t look like one of my Pinterest pictures, but it didn’t look completely unappetizing either. The cake itself hadn’t come out of the pan perfectly. The icing was uneven. The lettering wasn’t centred. The star sprinkles were likely covered in toddler slobber and were clustered in one small area where my son was determined to put them all.
But I won’t remember that part of the cake, and neither will my husband. We will remember the fun that filled our house as Cameron and I put the cake together. As he poured in the oil and counted out the eggs. As he took his baby spoon and “swirly, swirly, swirly”ed the chocolate batter in with the white batter. As he stood on a dining room chair in the kitchen and shoved handfull after handful of crunchy sprinkles into his mouth, pausing briefly to place a few on the cake.
And I will remember the proud look on both of my boys’ faces as I cut a piece and handed it to them.
Sometimes as the woman in the family, I try to be everything to every one. Wife and mother and employee are my designated roles. But sometimes, many times, I try to be more than that – entrepreneur, housewife, chef, photographer, nutritionist, event planner, and world class baker. I want to be perfection for my family. But in trying to do so, I come up short, like my pathetic attempts at baking cake often do, messy and crooked and crumbly. Sometimes it is just good to remember that even a simple, cheap, pre-mix can often create a better family experience than anything fancy ever could.