Why is baking your child’s birthday cake still seen as the pinnacle of motherly devotion?
Why does the universe care whether the sugar-delivery mechanism to mark my child’s celebration come from a shop or my oven? More to the point, why do I?
I am terrible at baking. Spaghetti and salad? I’m your girl. But anything involving measurements, precision, folding and whipping, rising and cooling? Let’s just say, my skill-set is lacking.
This is a failing that only bothers me twice a year. On my daughter’s birthday. And on my son’s birthday.
Because suddenly, on those days, baking is less about domestic skill, and apparently about how much you love your kids.
Mum forums crackle with tales of staying up all night to make sure Jemima had her nut-free cupcakes to take to school, of hours spent pouring over the Women’s Weekly birthday cake bible. Facebook pulsates with images of thoughtfully-decorated choo-choo trains, dinosaur skeletons crafted from marzipan and pinata cakes that explode with sugar-free gummy bears at a gentle children’s tap.
Not in my house.
Pity my daughter, who, even when I turn to a packet mix cake mix, ended up taking this sort of thing to preschool:
In my house, as birthdays approach, my anxiety levels begin to creep skywards. Invitations, home-made cakes, party bags, tasteful but age-appropriate bunting, they’re all things that parents (let’s be honest here: mothers) are supposed to be really good at. And they’re all things I have absolutely no natural flair for. And for reasons that I can’t even fathom, it makes me grumpy and anxious and insecure.
And so, this year, knowing that even a packet mix was too risky for me, I decided, like many a parent before me, that I was going to Fake It. Big time.
I tell the story of my halfway cake on the latest episode of This Glorious Mess, Mamamia’s podcast for parents. I bring it as a Nailed or Failed to the segment where my co-host Andrew Daddo and I talk about what we got right and wrong each week. Was this a triumph or a fail? You decide, by listening to the segment, here: