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.
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.