Let Them See Cake!

I’ve commented before on the high caliber of kids’ birthday parties here in L.A. But I may not have mentioned one of the specific aspects that keeps hitting new heights: the cakes.

A couple of months back we went to a pizza-themed party for a two-year-old. It was held in a pizzeria; the parents were both dressed like pizzas; the kids made little individual pizzas as their activity; the favor bags were filled with pizza-related toys (yes, these exist). Last, but not least, they brought out a cake  — baked by the mother —  that was really an extraordinary rendition of a Domino’s Deep Dish with the works. (Its verisimilitude was particularly humbling to those of us who can’t draw a cat without our child assuming it’s a school bus.) The mom had crafted “toppings” of sugar and food coloring that might have fooled even an accomplished chef. (Until he ate them, of course, and nearly keeled over from the glucose surge.) I wish I had taken a picture, but in that case I was too busy rushing MJ out of there before she realized that what she was seeing was, indeed, a confection. Why deal with the sugar psychosis if you don’t have to?

This weekend, as I mentioned in my last post,  we attended another 2-year-old’s birthday party. This was a much mellower affair, with no theme, parents dressed –remarkably — as themselves, and no chef hats for the kids. (Thank God. Try keeping one of those on your two-year-old for longer than a millisecond.) But even these laid-back hosts had a cake that was absolutely ingenious. Made by a neighbor! Alright, she’s a pro, but still! The bar is getting too high, people!

Here’s what this friend just tossed together in her kitchen:

Sorry it’s out of focus. My hands were shaking with envy. Not really, but Jesus. It was gorgeous! And the entire thing, down to the fire hydrants, was edible. One little girl walked around nibbling on the ladder for a solid hour. She looked like Gollum with his ring. “Preeeeeciioooouusss!”

And on top of everything else, it was delicious. Not, as I half-expected, cardboard-y, like a wedding cake three weeks in the making, but light, flavorful, and moist. I, myself, ate an entire slice. Plus a door handle. Vroom! I always thought you had to choose between flavor and appearance, and God knows I would take the former over the latter any day of the week, but this turns out not to be the case. More the shame for me, who has provided her daughter with delicious but, ahem, humble representations of the form at each birthday.

This year, in particular, we hit a low. It was only partially our fault. True, we chose a banal looking (but delectable) round layer cake from Delilah’s. But then the day of the party their “writer” called in sick. The counter-person was forced to fill in, and, from his work, I’d have to guess than penmanship wasn’t his top subject at school.

It was supposed to say “Happy 2nd Birthday Myra-Jean!”

Instead, we got:

You see why my self-esteem is teetering, here?

Next year I’m thinking we’ll see if we can get Chris Burden cheap. I feel like he’d do a cake we could be proud of. As for the flavor? Well, you can’t have everything. We can hit Delilah’s for cupcakes some other time.

3 thoughts on “Let Them See Cake!

  1. Emily

    OK, first of all…wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful as always. I love reading you, and your posts always make my day.

    Next, however…as the mother of the above-referenced two-year-old, I’m afraid I must offer a rebuttal.

    I was planning to celebrate my son’s second birthday some way or another, but then Nathan’s old friend Donna offered to make Milo’s cake. She’s a professional who is just getting started and said she could “use the practice”, and we gratefully accepted. Then Donna showed me some early photos from the preparation of this cake, and my jaw dropped. I immediately felt like I had to have a real party specifically so that this cake could be properly received.

    As my friend Linda said, it was just like the first Sex and the City movie.

    How, you may ask? (I certainly did.)

    Well, Carrie decides to have a mellow wedding, but then gets given an amazing free Vivienne Westwood dress, and feels compelled to plan a wedding adequate to its fabulousness.

    On that count, just like Carrie, I failed flamboyantly. Because I was having a relaxed party, I didn’t really clean. I discovered after the fact that many of my son’s toys – which were touched by the beloved hands of your daughter, and by many of our other favorite children – were likely covered with actual grime. As you sat on the floor of his bedroom, I can only hope you enjoyed the view of the dust bunnies and hairballs I now sadly know existed.

    I’m beyond humbled, because heaven knows a mom like me doesn’t deserve a cake like that. Thank goodness a kid like Milo does.

    In the end, the party was a huge success, we loved having everyone, Milo had a ball, and yet…I plummeted into a shame spiral as soon as the door closed behind our last guest.

    I know intellectually that the shame was disproportionate…and yet there it was. I don’t know why, really, but I do know that reading you helps me breathe about it. You truly are a high-water mark of motherhood to me, and yet…it happens to you too. I love how you let us in and let us laugh, and how you always perform that wonderful writerly trick of making what could so easily be mundane seem so fresh and revelatory and magical. Much like motherhood itself.

    Keep writing. Please!

  2. Jeff McElroy

    I agree. I would never be able to put it as nicely as Emily did, however.
    I’m probably among the few (the proud!), the males that read your blog. (Gardening and Motherhood are not normally high on our list of interests) And not because I can identify with your struggles, because I have no idea how it FEELS to be a wife and mother, but luckily I did have one growing up and the older I get – which seems to be happening all too quickly – the more I appreciate what my mom did and the sacrifices she made for our family.
    So, reading your blog sort of helps me remember even some of the more stressful moments of my childhood in a new, funny and entertaining light.
    You do indeed have a gift for writing. Otherwise, there is no way a regular guy like me could stay interested. It gives me a better understanding and appreciation of the fairer sex, which I must freely admit, much like your brutally honest self-analysis, I have been less than considerate of in the past.
    To make it short and sweet, it’s enlightening and extremely entertaining writing!
    Please DO keep it up!


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