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Once upon a time in the land before motherhood, I actually used to enjoy baking.

It was relaxation and an artistic pursuit rolled into one delicious cake tin. And then I had to bake a first birthday cake.

It started with the planning, which sucked out all the spontaneity. What theme would the cake be? Could I find a recipe online with high ratings yet still foolproof? How far in advance should I bake? Should I do a practice run? What if I slice the cake open, with my family and friends looking on, and it isn’t baked in the middle? Could I use some sneaky technique to ensure the contents are baked evenly through?

Somewhere in the middle of those questions, I lost my baking mojo.

Unfortunately for me, my faltering confidence in the baking department then turned into an actual baking disaster.

The birthday cake looked amazing – a round vanilla mud cake covered in vanilla butter icing and a fence of Kit Kats round the edge with a pool of M&Ms in the middle.

I held my breath while sticking the candle in the middle before standing back to observe my efforts. It was perfection on a cake stand.

We enjoyed as a family the first candle being blown out and I shed a couple of tears cause, well, getting emotional in front of others is what I do best now that I’m a mum. I was handed the cake knife and the moment of truth came.

I began to slice through the supposed vanilla mud cake and I quickly wondered if I would need a chainsaw. It was…dense, too dense. I could feel my cheeks flush red as people watched on, licking their lips in anticipation.

To my slight defence, I did bake in my parents-in-law’s oven and they don’t have fan force. I had to navigate this on the fly, not aware beforehand that this was the case. But none of this matters to my inner-critic. The cake was bland and doughy.

People picked off the icing and chocolate bits before taking a couple of polite bites and telling me how wonderful it looked.

I have baked many, many cakes since that day. Some awesome, some flops. But the sense of failure and stress around the birthday cake remained. How could it have all gone so wrong?

Keen to avoid a repeat performance for the second birthday, I asked a friend to make Little Man’s birthday cake. I felt like I had dodged a bullet. Ah such a clever mummy to outsource the stress! But then the deal fell through.

I was filled with a sense of dread and I borrowed another friend’s Women’s Day Cake Book for inspiration.

They all looked so easy, maybe it will work. I tried self-affirmation: my dinosaur cake would totally rock rather than be rock hard. Yeah! But then the memory of the cake brick flashed into my mind. Oh no, it’s going to be a disaster again! Maybe I can find someone else to make the perfect cake….

And that is when I realised I had turned into a Cakezilla.

I was obsessing over detail, getting caught up in things that nobody else cares about and, worst of all, setting myself up to miss out on the fun cause I was stressing out. I may have also been mildly competitive too, sad to say.

And for what reason? I didn’t even get this worked up about my wedding!

My son is turning two. I could serve him a pre-made cake from the supermarket and he wouldn’t care less. In fact, he doesn’t even particularly like sweet things so he probably wouldn’t eat any cake – no matter how many hours and attention to detail went into it.

My friends and family know I can bake well. They ask me regularly to bake their favourites. There’s nothing to prove to them in that respect. It’s just the thought of failing in front of them and not having everything just right. Logically, it’s so stupid but so easy to get caught up in.

There are still a few weeks to go until the birthday party and I have resolved to make a simple butter cake minus the stress.

The second my stress levels start to rise beyond what is reasonable or I start researching impossible cakes, I will go out and buy a cake and spend my time more wisely on other things.

I don’t know where this Cakezilla alter ego came from but this birthday the best gift I could give my family is saying goodbye to it!

  • lol cakezillas is there going to be a show too lol

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  • I agree completely. So much pressure to make the birthday a big deal. The little ones don’t know or care.

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  • This made me laugh! It took me a while to realise that the “imperfections” I stressed about where never noticed by the kids and thy have loved their cakes :)

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  • The pressure we put on ourselves causes so much unnecessary stress. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  • thanks for the great read – we sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves

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  • Definitely empathise with the pressure aspect!

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  • I have run a whole gamut as a hobby baker to a professional cake decorator, from microwave quick cakes to instant cake mix cakes to allergy free, gluten free cakes and I have to agree baking for several little people is stressful.

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  • I always put too much pressure on myself for my kids birthday cakes also.

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  • Birthday stress gets the best of all of us at one time or another. As you said everyone knows how good you are at baking there is nothing to prove and no one cares that much about the cake at a birthday anyway.

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  • Thanks for sharing an interesting article; I go for a basic cake and concentrate on the decorating.

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  • I am also a bit nutty about making my kids birthday cakes, I haven’t had a complete failure so far, but I am definitely my harshest critic and I’m not really sure why I make it such an issue for myself.

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  • I just use cake mixes and put the effort into decorating.


    • Same here, I always say I won’t but it’s what ends up happening, it just too easy.

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  • I can relate to this! I used to love baking, but since having kids, there just isn’t time to casually have fun in the kitchen. Things have to be done to a tight deadline, with scremaing kids interrupting every step of the way!

    I’ve tried to relax more now, and cook basic things that can still be dressed up to look cool for birthday cakes etc. Kids are always happy!

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  • I can feel your pain with the stressing over perfection only to end up feeling like a failure…I stressed myself out over some cookies I was baking for my wedding reception to the point that 5 tries at the mixture that I can make with my eyes closed failed
    The best way to go is as you have done, don’t stress, go simple and everything will turn out great

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  • only way to teach

    Reply

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