When my daughter was born I was very inexperienced in child rearing. I did not have a clue what I was doing nor did I have any pre-made plans. As it worked out I was asked by a co-worker when I went back to work to look at a fund raising book from her child’s school. I was not real excited about it but I thought I would look and see if there was something I could buy to help out this mother in need.
I ran across the most wonderful little paperback book about cakes and cupcakes you can make at home for children’s birthdays. These were the cutest, most creative decorating ideas I had ever seen but then I had not been in the children’s arena for long so what did I know. I ordered the book and pretty much forgot about it when it finally came in, you know how those fund raisers are.
When it arrived it was nearing my girls first birthday and I got really excited. We went through the book page by page together and because it was so colorful and she loved to be read to; she was mesmerized. I ran across a carrousel cake made with straws, and animal crackers glued together with icing and topping with a piece of cut out wrapping paper! I was so excited to see what I could do. I was a baker; I loved baking cakes but to date had not been big on decorating, just icing.
In the front of this little book they had actually put a place for you to write down the date and occasion and which cake you had made. I wrote down this cake for my little girls first birthday and gave it a whirl. I was so proud of the way it turned out and her eyes were as big as saucers when we put it in front of her on her day!
The next year she was old enough to point to the one she wanted for her birthday. Guess which one she picked? The carrousel it was and we did it again. She was as pleased as the first time. I think it was year four before I could actually talk her in to letting me try one of the other cakes! We finally did and she was as pleased as punch with the results. We wrote down her cakes every year and it became a tradition looking through the book a week or so in advance to make sure we had everything we needed.
We always had parties with family but when she got into Kindergarten we had a party with her friends from school and we picked a new cake. She was so proud of me when she showed her friends the birthday cake. I felt like a grand pastry chef with my wares on display. She was overjoyed with her cake, almost more than her gifts.
When my son was born, when she was seven years old, we talked about which one we should make him for his first birthday. We looked through the book and found a monster cake. Half the cake was in a cake pan and the other half was in an oven safe bowl to make it look like a round head. It was covered in green icing with green dyed coconut as fur. The antennas were straws with green dyed large marshmallows on the ends, the eyes were an open faced Oreo cookie with a malted milk ball stuck to the icing and all attached by icing. You carved a mouth out of the cake and filled it with icing and the teeth were candy corn and fang like. As you can imagine my son was purely tickled even at one year old.
That monster cake was his favorite for several years before I could get him to change as well. And to be honest I think he would still request it today at age twenty-one. I did make it for his eighteenth birthday and he got the biggest smile on his face and looked just like he did at one year, icing all over his fingers and everything! The memories came flooding back like a huge wave and it was amazing.
Building traditions with your kids, starting when they are very young, are memories that you both hold onto for a lifetime. The mere mention of a cake they loved or special toy or a particular moment that you both cherish not only brings it to your mind but warms your heart in a special way that can not be duplicated.
Not all of my cakes were successful either and those cakes stick out in our memories as well. One particular birthday when my daughter was about fourteen years old we took a few of her friends and went to a ranch with horse back riding. It had a small zoo, bumper cars, and tree houses as well. I can not remember the name of the place but a couple of things that we do remember bring a smile to our faces every time. One thing we remember was that the cake was a disaster, in more than one way! She had wanted a skate board that year. You carved off some of a sheet cake to a shape resembling the skate board and then you use four cupcakes cut to look like wheels. You ice the cake and put like pin stripes on the board and attach the wheels with icing and covered with chocolate sprinkles as I recall to make them look black. You could not cover it with sprinkles and then put it them on because you would pull the sprinkles off so I tried to do it afterwards and sort of press them on. Then as I was doing this the tires came undone. Pretty soon the icing no longer wanted to stick so I had to add more. By the time I was finished it looked awful but it was too late. Not only that but I had tried a new recipe and decided upon lemon. When the kids took a bite you could almost see their little cheeks sucking in from the sourness! All but my daughter’s one friend who is Hispanic and she absolutely loved it so we ended up sending most of it home with her! Not all my cakes were successes but his one is a
happy memory as well just because I tried and it failed so miserably. My daughter still loved me when we were done.
The other precious memory was of this same little friend that loved the cake (that she still has today at age twenty eight). She had never been even near a horse in her life and she ended up on one of the biggest of the bunch because according to the guide it was the sweetest. She sat on that horse and hardly moved a muscle. She did not even want to turn her head to look at anything around her. God bless her little heart she was terrified. We offered to ride with her but she said she was fine and by the end of the ride she looked so relieved. We joked with her all the way home about her experience which I am sure she will never forget. And I was not much better off myself even though I had ridden before. I got the horse that always wanted to go back to the stables and when you would not let him he tried to scrape you off on the fence. Fun times.
Traditions can be made brand new or passed down from generations. The good traditions are the ones that make everyone smile and remember years from the actual event. These memories are priceless in the hearts of children and parents alike no matter how small, like a paperback book filled with kid’s cake decorating ideas. This little book changed the course of our birthdays and our memories forever.
Ken holds a master’s in business leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College. As president of, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.