Children’s parties. So much expectation!
I made the rather foolish decision, when our eldest was about three, to start a tradition of “choose your cake.”
Now, I’m no Delilah Smith and quite frankly I have neither the patience or the ability for fondant modelling. Over the last few years, I’ve adjusted the tradition. Now I ask, “what kind of cake would you like?”
Answers like “Frozen!” and “Dragon cake!” are ideal because I can check out a few possibilities and then adjust (far) down to my limited ability level.
A week before our toddler’s birthday, I made a rash mistake.
It was a rainy day and we all had cabin fever. Miss 9 and Miss 5 were sniping at each other and generally becoming unpleasant.
Deciding to try redirecting them towards more happy thoughts, I opened up the laptop and, naturally, Pinterest.
“Let’s choose a cake for your brother’s birthday party!”
Don’t ever do that. Really.
Firstly, there are extremely talented cake decorators out there and you’ll just feel useless. Secondly, your children slowly realise your uselessness as they hear you admit that you can’t do that cake. Or that one. Or that one. Or that one.
“So which of these can you do?” Miss 9 asks disparagingly.
We finally settle on a cake which is still beyond my capabilities, but which I am willing to attempt to recreate.
And this is the thing: said recreation always ends up occurring at eleven o’clock at night, when my lovely husband and I are party-prep stressed and tired.
Still, it is in such trying times that you learn about yourself: I am great at colour matching buttercream icing. Husband is excellent at fine detail and can smooth buttercream to a flawless finish. Most importantly our marriage has survived 16 late night birthday cake decorating sessions, which is an enormous achievement. Especially after the Princess cake cone turret drama of 2009.
A lot of people ask why I don’t just buy a cake if I dislike the process so much. I could, but, to be honest, the children seem to love my efforts and I’m a total sucker for the delighted looks on their faces.
And let’s face it, the cost of a professional cake can be enormous. Parties are expensive enough.
If you wish to and can afford it, having a cake made and an entertainer on hand can be a blessing; the children are entertained, there’s very little stress and certainly no late night icing arguments.
I’ve even heard of people getting the entire party catered, when large families are involved. Again, why wouldn’t you? It’s hard enough getting ready for the big 1st birthday without having ti feed 50+ adults.
Coming from a small family, I never had that to contend with. And thank goodness!
Even so, we’re on a tight budget and I have to be canny with our pennies. Thankfully, thousands and thousands of thrifty and creative mothers share their tips and ideas on Pinterest. They are legion and they are genius.
Children’s parties are a nightmare on many levels, but we do it for the kids, right? All that squealing, excitement and pure joy makes all the cake drama fade into insignificance. Hearing my children raving about a cake we made a couple of years ago makes me smile, both because it bought them so much joy and because each cake reminds me of times my husband and I have battled with intricate icing dilemmas, always ending in overtired, hysterical laughter.
I am immeasurably fortunate.