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December 08, 2021

Piece of Cake!

Dear readers, how cool is this? One of my favorite parenting writers, Jenna McCarthy, is our guest blogger today. She's the author of the hilarious book, The Parent Trip: From High Heels and Parties to Highchairs and Potties. When she’s not busy buying and returning bakeware, she can be reached at jennamccarthy.com.

I’m famous for my cakes. Actually, infamous is probably more accurate. Ask anyone who’s been to one of my parties and they’ll tell you my confections are consistently dry, suspiciously tilted, usually burnt on one side and batter-y on the other, and my icing “flowers” would more aptly be described as icing “turds.” So you can understand why my children’s birthdays can make me a little anxious.

I have friends who swear by those high-end bakery cakes, but—and go ahead and call me cheap here—a hundred bucks seems a slightly obscene amount to pay for some frosted flour and eggs. Besides, the kids only ever eat the icing anyway. If I didn’t think the other moms would disapprove, I’d buy a case of Betty Crocker frosting, scoop a dollop into two dozen Dixie cups, add some plastic spoons and a couple sprinkles and call it a day.

Last year the birthday girl wanted a princess cake. Not just a cake with the likeness of a princess painted on top of it; no, she wanted one of those elaborate feats of culinary engineering where the plastic princess—that year, it was Belle—stands in the middle of her edible gown, its folds forming layer upon syrupy layer of decadent goodness. We’d seen one at a party, so I called the child’s mom. Martha-Rachel Stewart-Ray (not her real name) informed me that you could buy everything you needed at the local craft store. “You made it yourself?” I asked incredulously. Pumped by the powerful combination of her impolite snickering and my own indignation (if Martha-Rachel could do it, then so could I!), I drove recklessly to Michaels and traded the cost of approximately two months worth of lattes for the Wilton Wonder Mold.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that the doll figure torso (they don’t even give you the whole doll!) that came with the mold was blonde—unlike both my daughter and Belle—so I returned to the store and purchased a brunette head separately. Back at home again, I read the frosting and decorating instructions, which revealed I’d be heading back to the store yet again for some mysterious cake-topper known as fondant. At this point, I had well over $60 invested in my daughter’s three-dimensional dessert, a figure which did not include the $350 cake-decorating class I would clearly need to take in order to assure the final result would be even remotely princess-like.

In the end I gave up, made one last trip to the craft store to return the whole lot and got a standard-issue supermarket princess cake. It cost $17 and had four princesses on it. Amid all of the other party festivities, there wasn’t a single complaint. The birthday girl expected her friends to bring presents to her party. (They did.) These friends expected to get some sort of torched, sugary dessert in exchange. (They did.) With the money I saved, I was able to buy my daughter a doll that had legs and everything. Everyone was happy—but none of them happier than me.

And that, my friends, takes the cake.



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