The politics of cake | NNoTW July 1, 2021

Our friends hosted a family birthday party for their ten-year-old last weekend.  The jury is still out between my sons as to the second-best part of the soiree (right now it’s a tie between the slip-and-slide covered in dish soap and “playing” in general), but they both have agreed that the number-one spot goes to the cake.

It was a homemade leopard cake.  The cake itself was green and white confetti because everything tastes better with a color; and on top was layered white frosting and gold sprinkles, followed by edible paint sketched into the leopard design.  The whole thing was surrounded by a garden’s worth of pink flowers handmade out of white chocolate.  It looked, as one might say, good enough to eat.

If you’re up on your birthday cake consumption, you’ll know that typically the most coveted pieces amongst today’s youth are those with a lot of frosting or some kind of atypical decoration.  For example, the most popular elements of my son’s birthday cake were the legs on the spider.  In the case of the leopard cake, the pieces with the most frosting did not include a chocolate flower – a fact the partygoers were well-aware, as there were numerous discussions during the aforementioned “playing” as to the superiority of chocolate or frosting.

The kids had been running around like wild animals for the entirety of the day; but the moment the cake was announced, they dropped whatever they were doing and got themselves, hands washed, to a seat at the table before the candles were fully placed.

“I call the eye!”  The first kid shouted with the confidence of someone who had scoped out the cake in advance and knew that the eye had the most paint.

“I call the ear!”  Another kid yelled.  “THIS ear, not that ear.”

“I call the other ear!”

“I call the big flower in the corner!”

I read somewhere that it’s a tradition in Brazil to give the first piece of birthday cake to the person you love the most.  In the United States and Canada we want our children to love themselves best because it’s a well-known fact that the birthday celebrant gets the prime piece.  And so, the birthday girl took in all of this information with cool silence and then, after all pieces had been called, stated,

“I want this eye and this flower.”

With her piece+ identified, the re-calling began.  “Okay, I call the other eye!”  “I call the ear!” Etc, etc.

We sang the song, the slices were distributed appropriately to the callers (with some last-minute trades) – and then, as per usual, the grownups slinked off to the kitchen to divvy up the remaining “undesirable” scraps.

As I sat eating my green and white confetti cake without any leopard paint or chocolate flower, I was struck by the fact that we adults have given up a well-earned right in birthday caking. For one, while I suppose we could just make and eat a birthday cake whenever we wanted regardless of the existence of an actual birthday (it’s a birthday somewhere), the number of actual birthday cakes to which grownups have access (outside of kids’ parties) goes down precipitously as we age due to things like birthday pie and restaurants serving a single slice of cake or people “just not wanting all that sugar,” making them all the more valuable.

For two, we are much older than children, meaning we have many, many more years of expertise in winning “Called It” battles, not just in cake, but in front car seats and other important life circumstances.  I’m definitely not suggesting we take the “good” pieces away from the kids like jerkfaces; but we don’t even make an attempt to gain superiority over our fellow grown-ups.  In fact, it’s the opposite – at this party, as is always the case, when the time came for the parents to get some cake, we didn’t take the pieces handed to us.  Instead, we kept passing them around to make sure that everyone else had a slice because “winning” in adulthood means picking the remaining crumbs and frosting bits off of the cake plate with a fork after all of the rest of the cake has been consumed.

In fact, we absolutely waste all of our “Called It” skills in general.  For instance, I have never once walked into a business meeting and proclaimed,

“I call the chocolate-covered doughnut, I call that chair with the good armrest, and I call $50,000 for a marketing campaign.”

I don’t know what my point is here, but I do think we are giving ourselves the short end of the sprinkles bottle somehow.  Maybe we need to bring back the “Called It” system.  Maybe we need more cakes with lots of frosting and decorations but also zero sugar because we don’t need all of the calories.  Someone should come up with a solution.  As I don’t really like cake, I call not it.

It’s both my son’s and my nephew’s birthday on Sunday.  The photo above is my son’s 6th birthday cake.  Obviously, he eschewed a piece of cake in lieu of eating the shark, which was made of Rice Krispies.  He had two bites and pooped out – so everyone, including the shark, won.

This week’s news is about hungry horses, family garage sales, and wheelchair baseball.  Read on.


I always love the days when there’s so little news that a horse going through a fast food drive-thru makes it to TV. (KFYR TV)

Bowman’s main street now has a new mural, which tells the story of Paul Harvey’s poem, “So God Made a Farmer.” (Bowman Extra)

A pop-up food pantry at West Fargo’s Lutheran Church of the Cross – which served 3,700 people last year – has now become the permanent West Fargo Eats, which brings together the YWCA, the Great Plains Food Bank, and Gate City Bank in order to better assist the community. (KFYR TV)

The Moms Club of Bismarck held a 20-family yard sale in order to raise money for the Dakota Children’s Advocacy Group. (KX Net)

Downtown Fargo has a new mural – a postcard featuring images that are representative of the city’s culture – courtesy of Victor Ving and Lisa Beggs’ mission to create one in all of the 50 states. (KVRR)

Twenty Grand Forks students played wheelchair baseball thanks to HOPE, Inc. (Fargo Forum)

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