This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, January 2012
I have a theory that the ‘birthday cake’ segment of a kid’s brain is highly developed. Overly developed, in fact. So much so that a snapshot of a pre-schoolers brain at any point in time would break down something like this: 10% thinking about toast, 10% thinking about Peppa Pig and 80% thinking about their next birthday cake.
We're just emerging from the tail end of high season at our place, where four family members have birthdays over a couple of months. Parties are exciting, presents are fantastic, but the cake, for my crew, is the pinnacle of the whole celebratory mountain of riches.
We have a copy of the classic Women’s Weekly Birthday Cakes book that has been mended with so much sticky tape that it is twice its original size. My eldest kid only just turned six, so it hasn't been trashed through cooking. Rather, it has been pored over, dissected and explored so many times by the kids that they have almost loved it to death, in their quest to find the cakes with the greatest lolly-to-sponge ratio.
Both big kids can reel off all the cakes they have ever had in their short lives. Each one is a historic record, a snapshot in time that captures their interests and passions from that year, like the beach-scene cake made when T-Bone was two. It featured dogs made of dates and so much lurid blue icing that the grown-ups could barely eat it. At three, both big kids were mad-in-love with The Wiggles, so their cakes had cardboard Jeff’s and Murray’s stuck wonkily onto paddle-pop sticks, leaping out of the top and grinning like maniacs.
At four, Peanut was both jolly and morbid. She loved skulls, anatomy, blood and dinosaurs, and liked to dress up as a character she called the Black Ghost. Her T-Rex cake featured a plastic pig covered in raspberry jam and dangling from the dinosaur’s jaws. (Served with apologies to the vegans at the party.) Not long after, Peanut left her emo hobbies behind and leapt with gusto into the land of fairies and princesses. Her little brother, always wanting to be just like his big sister, followed suit, and so on his fourth birthday he requested a pink castle cake covered in glinting jewel lollies. This year Peanut turned six and swapped fairy princesses for Indiana Jones. (“Mum,’ she confided yesterday, ‘If I met Dr. Jones, I would kiss him!” I gave her a hi-five. ‘You and me both, Peanut!’ I said.) Her birthday cake was a treasure chest, overflowing with plastic jewels (and lollies, of course.)
Baby Pudding’s first birthday cake last month was a little bit of a disaster. It didn’t rise, I whipped the cream into butter and it was all a bit flat and dense, much like I was feeling. It was, perhaps, some kind of psychic detective cake, all a bit indicative of my state of mind through this first tough year of raising three kids under six. I feel a bit whipped into butter myself. But I feel my mojo returning. By Puddings second birthday, I think I’ll be back in the swing of family life, and Pudding’s personality will be really starting to flower. I can’t wait to watch this baby of mine develop, to find what makes her heart sing, to see who she is. And once I see what she loves, I will put it on a plate, stick two candles in it and celebrate it.