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!