Our lovely daughter had a 16th birthday party yesterday, complete with a fruity tropical theme, light drizzly rain that wasn't really in keeping with the bubbliness of the 'party customers' personalities (or the theme), and as always, a home-made and most wondrous birthday cake. If our kids have a home party, then I will always make a celebration cake. We have a range of well-thumbed Women's Weekly Birthday Cake cookbooks, with various scribbled notations indicating for which child and which age or year each cake was made.
I know some other mums who have always coughed up the home-made special and continue to do so, but I do believe that sadly, we are a dying breed. Every year, when the mums and dads come to drop off or pick up from one of our parties, the comments they give on my cake works of art astound me. You would think I had re-created the Mona Lisa. You know, birthday cakes are not actually that hard to do. Once you have a reliable cake mix, you just stick with it. You have to be able to cut and shape it without excessive crumbling, and you just need to make the cake the day before, so it's not too 'fresh'. Then the design, if it's a Women's Weekly option, is usually well-described, with the steps to creating all explained with pictures. It's a 'follow the words and pictures' type exercise. Seriously people, how hard can that be?
Simple it sounds, and pretty simple it usually is, but time-consuming it can be too. Just allow several hours alone in the kitchen in the morning before the party kicks off. Never start a party before 11am, and all will be ready in time!
I wish I had kept a gallery of my cake works of art in a more easily locatable place, because it would be so cool to be able to pull them all up at once to really wow the party-comers. But, for you, I will dig out a few from iPhoto. I am known far and wide for 'awesome' icing so drool away, feel free to comment, and be inspired to step up to the plate next year when your kids ask for a 'special' cake. I look back on these and am so glad I put the effort in.