Party Rock Anthem

30 Sep

There are five in my little family.  Out of five, four of us have birthdays in a six week span here at the end of the summer and start of autumn.  Fun!  Exciting!  Exhausting!  And, of course, this year: cross-cultural and confusing!  Where to have the party, how to send out invitations correctly, navigating rsvps, making sure thank-yous go home promptly, making sure no one is left out.  Missing our friends back home, with whom we’ve shared birthday celebrations for years.

But mostly, it’s all about the cakes.

Each child has cake requests, which I try to honor.  They know not to ask for cakes in elaborate shapes or with fancy icing designs.  But sprinkles, that I can handle.

No combination of toppings is too extravagant.

Even Moshi Monsters, one of the current playground crazes.  With wafer flowers.  And Maltesers.  And candy stars.  It all makes perfect sense, right?

In one of the many examples of small cultural differences, we see that when children attend parties here, the candles are lit, the birthday song is sung, the cake is sliced — and then no one eats the cake at the party.  Slices of cake are wrapped in napkins and handed to each child on the way out, or put in to a goody bag.  Why is this, I wonder?

British cakes tend to be very firm, with fondant icing, so the cakes hold up to this rough treatment.  (Sort of like elven travel bread.  I once found a missing slice of party cake in the van two weeks after the party.  It appeared unchanged.)  I make what I now realize are “American style” cakes, which are soft and plushy, with whipped icing that would not tolerate being wrapped in a napkin and placed in a bag, no matter how delicately.  So we light the candles, sing the song, and then — shocking — eat the cake.   I don’t mean to be odd, but there are some Americanisms I’m just not willing to leave behind.

Hooray for another year’s birthday blitz successfully — and sweetly — celebrated.  Here, have some cake.

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12 Responses to “Party Rock Anthem”

  1. Zazzy September 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    I’m reading a book right now, set in the early 1700s in Britain, and they didn’t eat the wedding cake. Small pieces were given to the guests to take home and put underneath their pillows to dream about the one they were going to marry. I’m imagining that most of the cakes back then were dense fruitcakes or seedcakes – but not sure that would have anything to do with the tradition. And I wonder if there was some birthday tradition similar to the wedding tradition. Interesting, at any rate. And very creative cakes!

    • Monique October 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

      How interesting! Maybe we are meant to dream of birthdays and parties with our take-home cakes under our pillows. The traditional birthday cake does seem to be very dense and sometimes fruited.

  2. Lisa September 30, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    I thought the giving out of the cake odd too. I throw it away when we get back… It’s never a good cake. These cakes look delicious!! My girls love Moshi Monsters too!
    The other Americanism I refuse to give up is cake and icecream at birthday parties. Forget the cream! The look I got at my daughters party when I asked who wanted icecream. Everyone just stared and my mil recovered quickly and said oh it’s an American thing. Which made me a little prickly she made it sound like it was a disease or something. Nobody had icecream but me… They have no idea what they were missing!!
    ;0)

    • Monique October 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

      Those Moshi Monsters, omg! The household is slightly obsessed. I don’t know if it’s that we’re in a different area of the country, but ice cream at birthday parties is not totally uncommon here — those little 2oz containers with the tiny stick spoons? We had some at the last party, and while some kids seemed really discombobulated by eating cake at the party, the ice cream seemed to be acceptable. lol

      • Lisa October 3, 2012 at 7:00 am #

        We have a bag of Moshi’s and I have said enough is enough! Maybe it is a different part of the country or come to think of it her birthdays inthe middle of December …. lol.

      • Monique October 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

        lol!

  3. Aubrey Price Pettyjohn October 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    Attagirl, Monique! As any fool knows, eating cake at any party is the BEST PART OF THE PARTY. (That rule of thumb does not apply, however, when the aforementioned cake is tasteless and dense and topped with disgusting fondant. Frankly I’m happy they wrap it up and send it home. That way no one sees me toss it in the trash.)

    All joking aside, you’re doing the right thing in keeping the best bits of each culture. Hopefully you will take some of the best British practices home to the States when that time comes. Meanwhile, let them eat [delicious American-style] cake! 🙂

    • Monique October 1, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

      Someone must love these dense fondant cakes! It can’t be possible that everyone just keeps buying them for the sake of tradition … can it??? Sunday roasts and cream teas … those are going home with me, for sure.

  4. Andrea Kimball October 4, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Yeah for American cake! The saddest part of English cakes is definitely the icing … it’s just really sad.

    • Monique October 4, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

      lol! Fondant is just not my thing. Looks pretty, but not much to taste.

  5. Melissa November 25, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    Just noting that we are beginning our round of birthdays, with myself and my 3 kids in the next 2 months. I guess we all have our magick times!

    • Monique November 27, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

      Hm, yes, magick time minus 9ish months and I think we see a pattern. 😉

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