The 5 emotional stages of making a child's birthday cake

2nd Feb 19 | Lifestyle

Even top chef Yotam Ottolenghi struggles with icing, it seems...

Homemade birthday cake unicorn on a table

Every year your children get older, there’s something to add to the list of party challenges. Home vs venue, whether to invite the whole class or selected friends, and what to put in the party bags. But perhaps the biggest challenge, the Everest of parties, if you will, is the cake.

Recently, chef Yotam Ottolenghi posted that his Lego cake ‘wasn’t perfect’ – so it’s reassuring to know that even the top dogs can find it a challenge. Here’s what all parents go through when they make a birthday cake…

1. The moment they say what they want

View this post on Instagram

This year’s 7th birthday cake request from my son? “Arsenal beating Tottenham 7-0” 🤣 I secretly LOVE doing the kids’ cakes each year. My mum did the same for my brother and I growing up, and it’s so lovely looking back at all the amazing designs she came up with over the years. I hope my two feel the same about their cakes one day. For now though, my hard work is about to be demolished by 12 hungry little footballers (including some Spurs fans – sorry guys!) at a party this afternoon. Yum! ⚽️⚽️⚽️ . . PS: the footballers are Subbuteo figures bought on @ebay_uk and the nets came free with a football mag the other day (although Subbuteo nets would also work fine) 😀 . . . #birthdaycake #football #soccer #footballcake #soccercake #footballparty #soccerparty #birthdaycakeideas #footballpartyideas #cake #cakestagram #cakesofinstagram #kidscakes #baking #bake #bakestagram #arsenal #arsenalcake @arsenal #footballpitch #footballpitchcake @officialsubbuteo

A post shared by Jenny Wood (@woodyjen) on

Star Wars, Paw Patrol, a football team winning the scoring goal, Lego or a Disney Princess – just a few of the words that parents hear and then get the absolute fear.

You pray daily that they’ll say they just want a chocolate sponge, or something that you can fudge (like a swamp), but you know deep down, it’s going to be something super complicated.

2. The fear of failing

From the moment they ask until the party, your stomach is laced with nausea that you are going to totally let your child down. Not to mention be the talk of the school/laughing stock as your pirate ship looks more Titanic than Pirates Of The Caribbean.

You pore over Instagram shots, cookbooks and YouTube videos of people icing cakes, and even consider a trial run late one Saturday night, after a second bottle of red wine has been opened.

3. The trying

While you might not try the whole cake, you decide to do a couple of practice runs on the sponge and laying icing over it. After all, they get a few test runs on Bake Off, don’t they?

You now realise that you are mainlining cake every day to eat up the test cakes, and the outfit you were going to wear for the party might be a little tight.

4. The cheating

A week to go, and you are concerned about your efforts – this is when you start Googling ‘local bakeries, quick turnaround’ and ‘cake toppers’. Cheating is fine, but you know deep down that you want people to know you made it.

5. The relief and pride

Mainly the pride, of course. You see, everyone at that party – EVERY single parent, knows how you feel. That there is even a cake on the table is seen as a tribute to your efforts. And only one person says, ‘Oh, it’s a UNICORN!’ before stifling giggles.

Your child is jubilant because, let’s face it, they don’t know what it could look like if a professional made it. They just see what they asked for, and that’s the best reward of all. That, and another slice of cake, of course.

© Press Association 2019