In the 1970s, when it was your birthday, your mom bought a box of cake mix, made you a sheet cake, slapped some canned frosting on it and piled it high with Betty Crocker cake decorations. She lit your candles with the same lighter she used to light her cigarettes and she called it a day.
Or, she did what my mom did and bought an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins—which everyone was always really impressed with—but to be honest I hated. The cake was always dry and the frosting was always hard and had a funny taste from being frozen. However, today I would do anything for the taste of that dry cake and hard frosting.
My daughter never knew the joy of a ’70s birthday cake. She’s grown up in the age of Martha Stewart and Pinterest parenting. I’ll be the first to admit, I hate getting caught up in “Keeping up with the Joneses,” but it happens. I prefer cupcakes to birthday cake because it seems easier to me, to frost a cupcake and put a piece of candy or something on it—as opposed to spending hours trying to get a cake to look like the one on Pinterest.
For my daughter’s fourth birthday, I made “Pascale” cupcakes for her Rapunzel-themed party. I got the recipe from a Disney-affiliated website and thought they were easy enough.
When my daughter looked at the finished product, she said, “I thought you were making Pascale cakes? Where’s Pascale?” She was right, they were kind of awful-looking.
Her fifth birthday was Gnomeo and Juliet-themed and I decided to forgo Pinterest and come up with my own easy design. Some cupcakes were frosted white with chocolate chips placed randomly upside down so they resembled a mushroom. The other half of the cupcakes were frosted with a strawberry on top to resemble Juliet’s hat. Easy peasy.
Her sixth birthday was mermaid themed and that cake was a disaster. I got waaaay into Pinterest and I was waaay too confident about my ability to produce a Pinterest-worthy cake. It took me hours to make a cake that looked nothing like the picture.
I had to change my plan. What was supposed to be a smooth cake with candy seashells and starfish, turned into a cake that resembled the waves in the ocean. I still used the candy seashells and starfish, made it look like the cake was sitting in sand by using brown sugar, and made the letters of my daughter’s name out of the leftover Welton chocolate melts.
Turns out the mistake was better than the real thing. She loved it and never complained that it didn’t look anything like the photo.
Her eighth birthday, three years ago, is where I gave up on the Pinterest game. We were at Disneyland and her dad was at home. When we returned the day after her birthday, he made her a sheet cake and let her frost and decorate it with Betty Crocker cake decorations. She may have loved it more than any other cake.
This has now become our tradition. A super simple cake, left in the pan, frosted from a can and decorated with love and Betty Crocker. I can tell you a secret–it tastes the same and mom is so much more relaxed now that she’s not trying to keep up with the Joneses. Maybe mom really does know best.
And this cake, the next morning, in a bowl with milk? It’s pure heaven.