Living in Sin: The Birthday Cake Dilemma

by Rachel on August 1, 2011

This weekend I began pondering a dilemma: is it wrong to make your own birthday cake?

This is one of my first birthdays in which my mom won’t be able to make me an amazing cake. My first thought is, OK…shouldn’t Eric be making me a cake? Then I imagined that. I imagined him sending me off for a birthday pedicure while he spent the day in the kitchen, burning himself and shouting obscenities. I saw myself coming home to two puppies covered in batter and a cake that looked like a third-grade art project.

That seems like an awful lot of effort on his part for an awful lot of disappointment on mine.

And on the other hand, I feel silly even questioning making my own cake. I mean, I am independent and I don’t see any reason you should wait around for other people to take care of you. If you really want a cake, you should just make it your damn self, right!?

Especially if you want a pretty pink cake, not a third-grade art project.

I suppose Eric could just order me a pretty pink cake from a bakery, but I don’t get that many opportunities to bake a cake and practice my cake skillz. And honestly, it’s just a birthday, not a huge deal to me. I don’t want to be That Girl who has to have a certain pink cake that her boyfriend has to take a half day off work to find a bakery to make it for her.

So at this point, I think I’m just going to make my own cake!

Here is my inspiration:

The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread: Cakes, Cookies, Bars, Pastries and More from New York City’s Favorite Bakery. It’s hard to see it in that picture, but the birthday cake I’ve been dreaming about is the pink cake from Amy’s Bread in NYC. I saw it in the cookbook last winter and fell in love. It’s just so delightfully retro and fabulous.

Rose Cake Tutorial from I Am Baker. I saw this cake earlier this year and fell in love. I’m not sure I can pull this technique off, but I am tempted to try!

Pink Rainbow Cake from Call Me Cupcake! This is a twist on the rainbow cake my mom made for me last year, just with slightly different colors. I try to do that rose frosting, I don’t think I’d attempt to do this too…but maybe I would.

Rose Cupcakes via Style Me Pretty. I love the rose technique from the white cake applied to individual cupcakes like this!

I mean, I think that once you look at these, it becomes kind of obvious that most guys wouldn’t be able to make a cake like any of these. Most people couldn’t even make a cake like any of these! This really is a job for my mother, and in her absence, I think I shall take it on myself.

But…it still feels like by not demanding Eric make my birthday cake dreams come true by any means necessary, I’m keeping him from demonstrating what society tells me is an extremely important opportunity for him to prove his love. We’ve already established I have to tell him exactly what I want when it comes to gifts, but perhaps making my own cake is taking it a step too far.


{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dori August 1, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Make your own cake! You will do a fantastic job and everyone will be happy. Why not!

No one has ever baked me a birthday cake, if that makes you feel any better. I still love my birthday though!


2 Emily August 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm

this was the first year in about a decade that i didnt make my own birthday cake! My dad made me cupcakes–no one really knows why he did it after 50 something years of never baking anything, but it was about a month after i moved out so i assume he just missed me. I loved making my own bday cakes because a) no one makes them better than me 2) I can load the cake with more frosting and sprinkles than a cake can handle and no one can get mad for it and 3) i get to lick the bowl. win, win, win! Regardless of what happens to the cake, i hope that your birthday is a very sweet one indeed.


3 Malorie August 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I would make my own birthday cake! I don’t see anything wrong with it. I love to bake and love any excuse to make a pretty cake or cupcakes. My husband has never in the 8 1/2 years we’ve been together made me a cake and I wouldn’t expect him to since baking is definitely not his thing.


4 Mary @ stylefyles August 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I would make my own cake. If you’re the better baker, why not? I’m a big believer that birthdays require homemade (not store-bought) cakes. Plus this way you can have exactly what you want. I agree, it’s better if you’ve got a mom or friend in town that will whip something up for you (and it does feel special when someone makes a cake in your honor) BUT he can always show his devotion to you in other ways.


5 Melissa August 1, 2011 at 1:12 pm

My mom stopped making me birthday cake at 18. She swears I’m better at it anyway, and I am, but I don’t know if that’s a real excuse. Still, I’d rather have it done the way I love it than poorly or not at all. We have a recipe my friends call Melissa Cake because they love it so much.


6 Emily @ Relishments August 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I’ve pondered this for the past few years. I keep telling myself (and my husband) that I’m going to make a cake, but usually I just get too busy to do so. But if I want a cake, I’m going to have to bake it because there’s no way my husband would even attempt it.


7 Zora's mom August 1, 2011 at 1:23 pm

It seems to me like you have two options: (1) make your own cake or (2) tell Eric (also my hubby’s name) what kind of cake you want and from where he should purchase said cake.
I vote for (1).


8 Ashley August 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Oh my gosh, we just went through this! I knew having him make a cake was not an option, so I considered making my own or buying one, and in the end bought an ice cream cake. I think next year I’m going to make myself a really cool one, though. I say go for it… surely your mom’s cake skillz are genetic?


9 Emma August 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Um, since when do you worry about what society tells you? ;) But seriously – the situation seems to be that a) You want a pretty cake, b) Eric is not capable of making said cake, c) You kind of *want* to make the cake, maybe even more than you want Eric to buy one for you, sooooo… I vote you go ahead and make the cake! Unless you don’t want to, THEN recruit Eric.


10 Danielle August 1, 2011 at 2:44 pm

It kind of sounds like your birthday IS a huge deal to you! And sorry to say this, but when you are turning 20-something (25? 26?), and are still concerned about where your pretty pink cake is coming from – you ARE That Girl. You shouldn’t be making your own cake because your boyfriend is incapable – you should be making it yourself (or ordering it) because, honestly, you are a little old to be worrying about the design of your birthday cake!


11 Rachel August 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm

This post? Isn’t really about a pink cake. It’s about my first birthday without my mom as my #1. Yes, 26 might be too old to worry about that, but I still do.


12 Danielle August 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Now THAT is what you should have written about! Forget the cake. Everyone feels lost without their mom on “grownup” milestones, but you covered up any vulnerability with cake talk that comes off kind of silly. I feel your pain on the mom thing, so I hope you consider writing about that in a more genuine, vulnerable way.


13 Rachel August 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Well…I try to avoid emo shit as much as I can! But I should have communicated that more clearly; it was kinda drowning in the pink fluff.


14 lauramich August 3, 2011 at 8:47 am

My birthday is tomorrow. I’ll be 37. It’ll be my first birthday with both of my parents gone—I lost my mother in May 2009, and my father died back in March.

And part of what I’m grieving right now is that there’s no one left to really make a fuss over me on my birthday. My husband tries, but it’s not the same. So, I’m not sure it’s possible to be too old to want your parents around on your birthday.

As for the main topic … I say if you want to make your own cake, then go for it! I love to bake, but while I’m not a cake person (!), I’ve come to see my birthday as an excuse to whip up something decadent that appeals to me—not catering to anyone else’s tastes. Translation: Bring on the chocolate! Last year was espresso cheesecake brownies, and this year I’m leaning toward a chocolate peanut butter torte.

Happy birthday, Rachel!


15 Ashley August 3, 2011 at 8:42 pm

I just turned 27 and am totally THAT girl about my birthday. It earned me 10 percent off at Dunkin Donuts on the big day, too. Sorry I’m not sorry.


16 Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic August 1, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Definitely make your own cake!! I made some birthday treats for myself but now wish I had baked a cake instead. Not only will it be a fun challenge, but you will be so proud of yourself as you enjoy your own pretty cake with Eric!


17 Jackie @ That Deep Breath August 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making your own cake! Plus, you get to lick the bowl and don’t have to share. Winning.


18 Pippa August 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Bosh! Making your own birthday cake is NOT taking it a step too far! He can show his birthday love in other, more dudely ways. Besides, if you really want him to be a part of this process, why not make it together? What can be more romantic than sharing the kitchen and the icing bowl? Good time for bonding, being naughty and (incidentally) buttering up his mad cake skillz, too!



19 Kali Ravel August 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm

I remember seeing a similar discussion on Etiquette Hell, once. Apparently, in some places, it’s considered rude and greedy to do things for your own birthday, since it’s a celebration of yourself, and one should expect their friends to do it for them. If none of their friends step up, then that’s their problem.

In other places, like where I come from, it would be considered rude and greedy to expect someone else to organise anything for your birthday. It’s your birthday, you know what you want to do, why should someone else try and take that over?

In other words, from over here, the whole idea that you’d have to make a decision to make your own cake seems really abstract.


20 Jessica August 1, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Def make your own. I made cupcakes for myself this year and they were the best– chocolate cake, raspberry filling with chocolate ganache icing. Uh yeah. FANTASTIC.


21 Rachel August 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm



22 Rachel August 1, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I haven’t had a birthday cake since I graduated college. (So three birthdays with no cake.) I think pretty much every male in my life, except for one cousin, would fail at making some sort of birthday cake. I definitely say you should make your own. I’ve missed not having a cake and I’m planning on baking my own for my next birthday. And I’m not even a good baker. Although I had a great surprise sweet sixteen, I’ve also realized that my best birthdays have been the ones I planned and not hoped others would cater for me. Besides, Eric can provide other desserts…


23 Liz @ IHeartVegetables August 1, 2011 at 6:36 pm

What if you guys made the cake together??


24 Rachel August 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I think that I would love that! Judging from most things we “make together” I bet he would just watch me for the most part, but it sounds fun. Like…wine + tunes + cake batter? Love!


25 Phoebe August 1, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I would vote for making it together too! I’m in the same position; as of today it’s my birthday month and this is also my first birthday without my mom making my cake, sniff sniff (summer birthday = always home for it during college). The other day I was demanding my boyfriend help me make the bed but then not giving him anything to do – he asked me if I really wanted his help and I said “No, I just want to feel like I’m not doing it all myself.” So he complimented me on my self-awareness. I think we’ll probably take the same approach to cake baking!

That pink rainbow cake is GORGEOUS – I hope you take lots of pics if you go for that option!


26 jenna k August 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm

i like baking, because i don’t get to do it very often, so i would have so much fun with baking my own cake. it’s your birthday, so you can totally do whatever the hell you want. :) all those cakes are ridiculously beautiful, so i’d def rather try to make one of those myself than get something ho-hum.


27 kt August 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I made my own cake — two, actually — for my birthday yesterday. =) A few people commented on it, and I could tell my mom kinda felt bad, but like she said… I like my own cakes better. Plus I relish any free time I get to bake! The best part was she did ALL the dishes and clean up, for both cakes! Now that is a great gift.


28 Triz August 1, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Totally disagree with the majority of the comments above. You can make all the cakes you want for HIS birthday. For your birthday, he doesn’t need to make it, but he is certainly capable of tracking down a yummy cake and picking it up. Same with dinner – he can cook or he can make reservations. Three reasons:

1) You’ll be setting a precedent for all your birthdays to come (and probably anniversaries etc also) – that he is not expected to take any responsibility. It’s also like you are saying his cake wouldn’t be good enough, so you should just do it yourself.

2) Are you sure he doesn’t WANT to make a cake? Or maybe start with buy a cake and make you dinner? (This is where mine started). Thought that counts, etc … and Eric definitely thinks enough of you to track down a pink cake.

3) You’ll be setting a precedent for all your birthdays to come if and when you have children as well. Then the “it’s the thought that counts” message is REALLY going to get messed up – will you be disdaining a cake mix cake if that’s the best a 3-year-old can do?

Sorry … I usually agree with you, but not this time.


29 Courtney August 2, 2011 at 6:32 am

I happen to love to bake, so every year I make a big deal of researching recipes to find the exact right thing to bake for my birthday. My husband cooks dinner 95% of the time anyway, so I like to be able to contribute something to the culinary aspect of our lives. I’ve made that chocolate cake on Smitten Kitchen, but the way, and it is phenomenal, but this one is better:

Not as pretty as the rose cake, but I have seriously had girlfriends tell me that I could open my own bakery and sell nothing but that cake, and I’d be a millionaire. This birthday (which is in 5 days, by the way) I am deviating from tradition a bit and making Mexican chocolate brownies as the basis for a brownie sundae bar, where you can choose all your own toppings and such. Yeah, I get excited about stuff like this.

So I guess that is my long-ass-winded way of saying it’s okay to do it yourself – do whatever makes you happy!


30 Rachel August 2, 2011 at 8:53 am

It’s your partyyyyyy (and you can make your own cake if you want to) Go for it Rachel! I admire you. Baking is the one thing I SUCK at; I simply can’t bake for the life of me. But if I could, I’d probably do the same thing. Those cakes are beautiful!


31 Erin August 2, 2011 at 10:33 am

Make your cake! I rarely ever have birthday cakes, and I really should just make my own because I still want one sometimes. Plus, I really enjoy baking and I know you do, too. Make your cake. It’s not weird at all.


32 Suzanne August 2, 2011 at 10:51 am

As I am not a fan of store-bought cakes (the only kind my man could do), I would totally make my own cake! My hubby, bless his heart, is good at many things, but baking ain’t one of those things. So, why add the pressure? When you do it yourself, you get exactly what you want.


33 Diane August 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm

My mom has made her own birthday cake quite often, and I’ve never seen anything wrong with it. It doesn’t mean we get to slack when it comes to her birthday! Actually, she’s told me that she prefers it because she can try out new recipes that she might otherwise not make, since she’s baking for her own preferences and not someone else’s.

As some other readers have mentioned, I think baking the cake “with” Eric seems like your best option. Obviously, do what will make you happiest.

My first birthday without my family was February 2010. It was hard, but my friends (both long distance and local) managed to make me feel loved just the same. Like you said in your “how to avoid homesickness” post, it’s all about knowing your triggers and appreciating what you do have. Good luck! <3


34 [SMASH] at Sweat. Style. Swoon. August 2, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Excited to see how your cake turns out. I bought my cake once — I really wanted a Coach-inspired cake [Yes, I was THAT girl…] so $40 later, I bought my own birthday cake.


35 John February 26, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Don’t get me wrong I don’t see it as an issue who makes the birthday cake. That being said, you would be disappointed in a cake that your Eric tried his best to make. I hope it isn’t too late for him to run, and I mean run real fast out of a life with a self centered woman who doesn’t appreciate sacrifice.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: