I knew I was going to make C’s first birthday cake at home, because, in my mind, that was what a Good Mom™ does for their children. And then when her egg allergy cropped up, (and our nearest egg-free bakery cake option was heavy as a brick and dry a sand), I didn’t really have a choice. Since I like my cake to be light and fluffy, I settled on this recipe for the best vegan cupcake because the blogger described it as “light fluffy, sweet-vanilla deliciousness”. While I made it in cake form, and that ended up being heavier than a cupcake would have, it was still a lot lighter than anything else I tried (though mine was not very vegan with butter and milk in place of their animal friendly alternatives), but the recipe hinged on mixing just the right amount, with too much or too little mixing spelling disaster. What was really neat was seeing the ingredients weirdly bubble up, but the whole experience (especially since it all culminated the day before I went back to work), was not enjoyable in the least for me.
The next year, we were back on eggs and I went with a cake mix, and store bought icing. Multiple boxes of cake mix. Ah yes, the birthday where we discovered that the oven’s thermostat didn’t work. In the end, they were super cute. And again, super stressful. I resolved the next year to just buy a damn grocery store bakery cake with all the princesses on it, and everyone would be happy.
And then we found out sweet M couldn’t do egg. Sure, at C’s birthday, she didn’t NEED cake, but since she’d be underfoot, we didn’t want to chance her eating more than a couple crumbs, and so there I was again, baking. Fortunately, I was still lazy and crazy, so I tried the pinterest-style hack: a box of cake mix and a can of sprite. Guys, my world was rocked. Not only was it fun to watch all the foam and bubbles as I poured the soda into the mix, but these were also the most moist, delicious, light, fluffy cupcakes I had ever experienced! I would eat these every day if I could. Hands down the best cake I’ve ever tasted. Ever. And they were so light, I didn’t feel guilty wanting seconds. The problem was they were TOO moist, and the icing (also store bought) began to run while we waited for guests to arrive.
So when Madeline’s first birthday rolled around, I went old school. Really old school. 1930s old school, when eggs and milk were expensive and so many housewives made do without. Some 80 years later, the cake is now known as “crazy cake” but still uses 7-9 pantry staples. It makes an adequate cake. It tastes a little more like baking soda than I would like, and you have to make it into cupcakes or double-to-triple the recipe to make a decent looking cake, but it never fails. So this cake? It will never be my first choice, but it will likely the cake I’m going to be making for at least the next two years at every birthday party we have.
But the day we drive home from the hospital after M’s first successful food challenge, I’m going to stop at the grocery store and pick up a cake. Because while I’m sure I will have honed my baking and decorating skills in that time, there is nothing I love more than knowing exactly what the cake is going to look like, and taste like, and best of all, not having to do anything for it.
Thank goodness I no longer believe in the myth of the Good Mom™.