A New Birthday Tradition

My younger daughter turned two today. That’s right, TWO. In about fifteen minutes, it will be exactly two years ago that she came into this world, right in the middle of our bedroom.

This morning, when she and DD1 woke up, we spent a relaxing half-hour in bed, playing with the girls. I wished DD2 a “happy birthday”. I told an abbreviated version of her birth story, and asked DD1 if she remembered any of the details of her sister’s big day (night).

“That’s when [sister] was still in your belly, Mama,” she informed me. “She got bigger, and bigger, and Bigger, and BIGGer, and then she was READY to be BORN! And then she was BORN!!”

“I BORN!” DD2 piped up.

“Yes, you were born,” I agreed. “And now, you’re two years old. You’re two!”

“I two!” DD2 echoed.

We giggled and tickled and snuggled a few minutes more, then it was time to Get Up. I had a birthday cake to prepare, after all.

I got out a simple buttercream recipe and started the stand mixer churning it into fluffy yummyness. Next, I went down to the spare fridge to get out the cake layers, which I had baked the day before. The plan was to quickly frost up the cake, then make breakfast and get everyone ready to go. We were having our party at the local children’s museum, along with the cousins and several friends.

In my desire to make a Nice Cake, I was going to stealthily frost it out in the kitchen while DH played with the kids. I could have whipped that cake out in minutes, complete with a piped Happy Birthday message and matching border. It would have looked fabulous, if not professional. It would not involve a ton of cleaning-up. It would have been efficient, and simple. It also would have been very sterile, uninspired, and Not Our Cake.

So, when DD1 peeked into the kitchen to see what was going on, and then wanted to help, I hesitated, and then figured, “what the heck?” Why not let her and DD2 decorate the cake?

I can’t imagine, now that I’ve stopped to think about it, what better cake you could provide for your child’s birthday than one they got to decorate themselves. Why do we agonize over themed birthday cakes with cartoon icons, or make elaborate, wedding-quality trophies that only we adults can appreciate? This is my daughter’s birthday, after all. Why can’t she make the cake she wants?

So we made it a Family Event. I called DH out to the kitchen, where we placed the cake on a pretty silver serving platter. I filled it and frosted the sides, to facilitate things (after all, smearing the top and putting the decorations on it are the true fun of making cakes!). DH helped the girls take turns spreading the frosting over the top. We dug through our cupboards and found some leftover candies from our FEMA project gingerbread house. They were bright and colorful, and made a lovely addition on the top of the cake. The girls added sprinkles, and put the candles in just the right spot (on the edge- not where I would have placed them, but obvious for efficient candle-blowing-out operations!)



I tinted the remaining frosting blue, at the ladies’ request, and piped the birthday girl’s name onto the center of the cake. DD1 squealed as she saw the letters forming, and read them out loud excitedly. DD2 watched critically as I worked on her cake, pointing at the surface as if to say, “put the next letter there, Mama.”


When we were all finished, I couldn’t believe what a lovely cake we had created. It was absolutely nothing like my vision. Truthfully, that was the whole point. We made our cake, not my cake. It had my daughters’ touches and my husband’s pragmatic eye and my idealistic piping (and probably more than a little toddler saliva, but shhhh- don’t tell anyone!). It was beautiful. Who cares that it didn’t have Dora or Spiderman or Elmo on it? Not my birthday-girl, that’s for sure.

Later, in the van on the way to our party, I sat with our lovely cake on its silver platter. I glanced back at DD2, who was curiously peeking out of her hooded coat at the scene out her window. “Are we going to your birthday party?” I asked her.

“I ready to party, mama,” she grinned. “I ready cake party.”

And so we did.


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