I like baking.
I’m not terribly brilliant at it, but I do like it.
I find it a great way to channel my creative energy, to focus, and I find it rather stress relieving. It’s not an uncommon phenomena; baking is a common therapy for many of the overstressed.
I also quite love birthdays. Mostly my own, but really, I’ll take anyone’s. Birthdays are fun!
My combined love and need for both baking and birthdays sees my kids receiving upwards of two cakes each birthday. Yep, every year, they have minimum two cakes … for no other reason than “I like it and it makes me feel good”.
There are no expectations, from myself or others. I simply enjoy doing it. I know it’s not for everyone, and that’s cool. I don’t expect that others do the same. In fact, I offer my considerably average services to any who prefer not to make cakes for their kids’ birthdays; I’m happy to take it on.
(So long as you want your birthday cake looking very home-made, we’re all good!)
After 14 years of birthday cake making for my offspring, the first few years of which involved tears, tantrums and much self-deprecation about the fact that the version that was the final product was rather out of line with the version that was in my head, I have learnt many great lessons from the humble birthday cake.
Let me explain…
What a Birthday Cake Taught me About Business
My first birthday cake inspired epiphany was about running a business.
Unable to attain a certain level of perfection, I realised a few things:
1. I wasn’t putting in the learning and training required to create the Cakes of Pinterest and Good Mothering/Domestic Goddesses. If I wanted to attain a particular goal, I had to do the things required to actually reach that goal. Not rocket science, I realise, but it made sense.
2. It hit me exactly who my target market were. Each cake I made was for the kids attending the party I was also hosting. I wasn’t making the cake for Pinterest, or other parents, or anyone but those kids.
The best bit? The kids have LOVED every cake that I’ve made. I’ve been allowed to be creative, to be silly, to put ‘brains’ in the head of a LEGO man made entirely of cake, and to have it look about as home-made as one can get.
By focussing on the target audience, I gave them what they wanted, what they appreciated, and what they loved – and it made me feel good, because I pleased who I’d set out to please.
What the Birthday Cake Taught me About Parenting
I spent a few days last week, for example, making a white chocolate mud cake.
I didn’t eat it, because I don’t like white chocolate, nor mud cake of the same name, and I find white chocolate ganache too sweet.
My sister-in-law didn’t even try it; because she is dairy and gluten free.
Someone else was too full.
Someone else wanted the other cake, because it wasn’t on offer.
Someone else had a hot dog jammed in theirs and I don’t even wanna think about how it got there.
What I learnt though, years ago, was I just ain’t ever gonna please everyone. I can only do my best, working with the tools I have, the skills I have, and the resources I have available AND those I make available through research and learning and asking.
Oh, and following the ‘recipe’ that works best for me and my family.
What the Birthday Cake Taught me About Life
It took a little longer to get the Life lessons.
The above two form part of it, obviously; focus on the outcome you want for those that matter, and forget what everyone else expects, and stop striving for perfection and doing ‘everything’ right, because ‘everything’ is subjective and individual.
More than that, however, I learnt to focus on the enjoyment of the process.
Of dancing in the storm when the cake goes to shit, I am out of the ingredients I need, or I leave things too late. I learnt about flexibility, about dealing with the situation, and even making the most of a cake that has fallen to bits the morning of a party and simply making it a part of the creation.
I learn to take the advice from those who listen to my concerns, and not those who simply want to push their own agenda, whatever that agenda is.
Those who laugh when I find I’m out of at least one, usually two of the most essential ingredients of eggs, milk, sugar and/or flour are my favourites, and help me to chill a little.
Those who, albeit with the best of intentions, offer me recipes with substitutes for any and all of my missing items are of no help; if I am incapable of ensuring I have milk, what makes anyone think I would possess almond meal, apple cider vinegar, or 3kg of organic gluten free flour.
Or, at least not any that are in date…
To be given advice from one who doesn’t know you is rather frustrating, not to mention annoying and slightly disrespectful.
Don’t even get me started on the suggestions to use a Thermomix…
This is a lesson equally applied to business and to parenting; being dictated to by someone who has no interest in your beliefs, your values, and your morals is easy to flick off when it comes to recipes, yet in business, we’re merely confused, and in parenting, we become so revoltingly offended, upset, and either head down the path of anger, or of feeling inadequate, or both.
Whilst the slap in the face with a fish revelation of knowing if I wanted to achieve a certain look, I would be required to put in the training and practice to do it, I also got another wet-fish-slap-revelation in realising I wasn’t actually interested in all that training and practice and working with a whole bunch of other materials, and that is okay!
I got that I wasn’t interested, and all the expectations I was putting on myself, and all the berating about my cake-creating-inadequacies I gave myself all fell away.
I simply enjoyed the process, all of it, at the level I had achieved. I had no interest in going further, and I was perfectly okay with that.
The result? I create the cakes I’m capable of creating, and I thoroughly enjoy myself.
To the point of laughing, long and often, at my cake-creating-inadequacies.
I am happy to state I am a Domestic Godless, and I wear the title loud and proud (if only it came with a tiara and a cape).
And that is another point; whilst some may look at the cake I present with much excitement and say “oh, um, yes, it’s lovely” others will say “OMG! That’s freaking awesome!”
It’s all subjective. Or possibly relative. Or both.
And so I give my most humble of thanks to the most benevolent of culinary fare; the birthday cake.
I am grateful for the lessons in business, in parenting, and most definitely in life.
So, to toast the baked brilliance, I say “Let me eat cake!”
Have you learnt anything from a food?