When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Cake


When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Cake


I have always baked and decorated the boys’ birthday cakes.

This is not because I am the victim of any supermom complex.  It’s not because making homemade cakes saves us heaps of money on professional cake-decorating expenses (although that’s certainly a welcome bonus).  And it’s not because I’m a particularly talented cake-decorator either.  (There’s the Ace of Cakes, and then there’s me–the four of hearts of cake, I suppose.)

I do this because it’s fun.  And because I think there’s some prematurely self-aware part of the boys that recognizes that their birthday cakes express just how much joy they bring to my life.

One of the things I do to load up on the birthday cake fun is to choose a “theme” for the cake that represents the boys’ interests/passions/obsessions.

So for A’s second birthday party, I decided to make a train cake (using a train cake pan that I already had) that would snake through a mountain of ice cream containers (A’s favorite dessert-food), upon which a little Caillou figurine (another of A’s obsessions) would be standing.

(That image is either woefully unclear or disturbingly clear to you right now, depending on your knowledge of PBS cartoons and your ability to picture mountains of ice cream.)

My mother-in-law, who was in town for the party, stayed up with me the night before the big day to keep me company while I baked the cake.  And at 11 p.m., after the cake had cooled, I went to turn the cake pan upside down onto the wire rack and…

…the entire thing crumbled into, well, crumbs.

(I learned later that I had made the grievous baking error of cutting a cake recipe in half, an error that I had never made before when using this recipe and will never make again thankyouverymuch.)

After a couple f-bombs growled their way out of my lips, I resolved not to let my cake disaster ruin my evening (or A’s birthday dessert, for that matter).

And so, thanks to a little bit of brainstorming with my mother-in-law, I pulled a box of lemon cake off the pantry shelf, whipped up the batter and poured it into two small pans, baked them exactly according to the instructions, turned out two perfect cakes onto the wire rack, let them cool, frosted them with lemon frosting, and stacked one on top of the other (with blueberries in the middle).

And I turned my “lemons” into a lemon-blueberry FIRETRUCK cake.  Though not aesthetically perfect, A was absolutely thrilled to see his very biggest current obsession (i.e.firetrucks) in edible, sweet, delicious form.

I think it was pretty darn cute too.  Even if it does look more like the work of a two-year-old than a 29-year-old.

Why yes, that's Caillou and A at the helm of the firetruck.

Want to see more of my “work”?  Oh, I know you do.  (And yes, it’s fine if these cakes make you laugh at me rather than with me…)

Here they are, in their “made with love and little skill” glory!

COOKIE MONSTER for M's first birthday.  Nom nom nom.

COOKIE MONSTER for M's first birthday. Nom nom nom.

The (successful) train cake, for M's second birthday.

A bug and worm "dirt" cake for M's third birthday. Nothing says "appetizing" like spiders, scorpions, and worms.

A puppy dog and kitty cat banana-cream cupcake "cake" for A's first birthday. With, for some odd reason, "font" that looks like it belongs on a poster for a horror film.

An animal habitats cake for M's fourth birthday.

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  1. Eliza

    Yeah, I made a cakewreck.com worthy cake for Oli’s birthday last year! Fondant is supposed to be thick if you ever attempt that!
    Eliza´s last blog post ..Our Garden

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      Eliza, I think that fondant is WAY beyond my skill set. :-)

  2. TheFeministBreeder

    Awesome! I love them!

    FTR, fondant is way, wayyyyyy easier than buttercream. I swear. That’s why I begged clients to use it for all their cakes. As long as you get the buttercream underneath it smoothed out (using the straight edge of a scraper) then the fondant lays perfectly over it. It takes a little practice to get the wrinkles out, but lots of decorators just hide their wrinkles with other decorations. :)
    TheFeministBreeder´s last blog post ..This is What a Doula Looks Like

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      I might be able to smooth out the fondant. But I’m not sure that the decorations themselves would look any less juvenile. :-)

  3. Ren

    I think a lemon-blueberry cake sounds fabulous and I also think the cakes you make the boys are sweet and adorable. Like you say, I think it’s a fun way to show them how much you care. Growing up my mom always made cakes and tried to do them in special shapes or with fun decorations based on whatever we were currently into – she even did this when I was a teenager (I got an X-Files cake and a Titanic one, complete with ice cream iceberg). Maybe it is hokey, but it actually always meant a lot to me that she did that.

  4. Linnette

    Those are such awesome cakes!!! WAY better than the same supermarket special year after year, after year…

  5. Elita @ Blacktating
    Elita @ Blacktating06-24-2010

    You did an awesome job, I could’ve never decorated so well. And I have a Miles too :)

  6. Tenille Shriver
    Tenille Shriver03-31-2012

    I love your cakes, I love your love for your kids even more!

    “Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” Henry van Dyke (1852 – 1933)

    • BirthingBeautifulIdeas

      I love, love, love that quote, Tenille! Thanks for sharing.

  7. How the Anti-Craft Made an At-Home Birthday Party
    How the Anti-Craft Made an At-Home Birthday Party05-17-2013

    […] I don’t knit.  I don’t sew.  I don’t paint.  I don’t whittle.  I can barely even make a halfway decent-looking birthday cake. […]

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