Why I indulged in a custom birthday cake

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

I recently celebrated my birthday with a party that featured a live blues trio and the most decadent cake I could imagine.

It was worth every single penny!

Brooklyn baker artiste Stacy-Ann Douge created an Alice in Wonderland-themed cake that tasted as good as it looked, with moist coconut pineapple cake inside the Caterpillar’s mushroom.

me with Alice in Wonderland birthday cake 2019

Me with my magnificent birthday cake, marking my 48th year. The caterpillar’s mushroom is coconut pineapple cat, the Mad Hatter’s hat is Rice Krispie treat. Created by Stacy-Ann Douge.

Why Alice in Wonderland?

After years as a recovering Catholic and lapsed Episcopalian, I have been returning to faith and to prayer.

But praying to “God” felt distant to me. It felt like I was yelling into a cave and maybe hearing the echo of my own voice but definitely only talking to myself.

I didn’t want an arm’s reach relationship. I wanted to feel that my prayers were reaching someone. I also didn’t want to picture a gray-haired man in the sky.

I have experimented by praying to God and Goddess, reclaiming the notion that the Divine encompasses male and female energy and calling in the Feminine Divine. I have prayed to the Great Powerful Universe. But it still felt off.

One night, I meditated and asked the Divine, “What should I call you?”

Mad Hatter pendant

John got me this Mad Hatter pendant for Christmas, and I’ve been wearing it almost constantly since.

Immediately, I got a clear mental picture of a giant top hat scurrying around a festive scene, sort of a Lidsville version of the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

I believe we get answers to our prayers in language we can recognize — for some, it might be song lyrics while for someone else, it could be the tagline on an ad — but to be honest, I wasn’t expecting a clear, direct answer to my question. And I wasn’t expecting an image so personal, since I have fond memories of performing in Alice in Wonderland in high school.

Still, I was a bit confused. How do I start a prayer with “Dear Giant Top Hat at the Tea Party”?

I tried again. “What name shall I call you?”

Again, I got an immediate clear picture. My field of vision turned pink and sparkly as the name Sally was written in cursive. 

Sally doesn’t sound like a distant, removed deity to me, but instead like inviting your aunt over for tea.

I combined the two images by buying a bright pink teapot, which I use to make tea when I want to talk with Sally.

I read up on the long tradition of trickster gods, exploring the notion that the Divine might have a sense of humor and that my relationship doesn’t need to be so stiff and serious as what I grew up with in Catholicism. It can be playful and even mischievous.

Commissioning a birthday cake that includes the Mad Hatter’s top hat felt like a perfectly playful way to invite Sally to my party.

Why order an expensive one-of-a-kind birthday cake?

Before this year, I have never spent three figures on a birthday cake. It felt indulgent in exactly the right way.

I love celebrating my birthday — I love gifts, parties, the whole shebang — and I feel like a birthday without a cake just isn’t complete.

My husband, John, is totally on board with fussing over my birthday, but year after year, I want a cake and he doesn’t get one. We live alone, it’s impractical, he doesn’t really like cake …

Now, we’re pretty good at communicating our needs, letting each other know what would make us happy or what we need to work on to avoid hurt and frustration. I told John when we’d only been dating a few months that I like to make a fuss about my birthday and he happily delivered.

But after two decades together, he still wasn’t into birthday cake. So I had a choice:

  • I could nag him into doing this thing I want, thereby pressing him to do it out of obligation, not from joy or love.
  • I could resent that he’s not doing it. ORRRR
  • I could buy my own damn cake!

It felt so liberating (and maybe obvious) to decide that if I wanted something, it is within my power to meet my own needs.

Strictly speaking, no one needs birthday cake. It’s an indulgence. And it’s one I thoroughly enjoy. I loved the process of collaborating with Stacy on flavors and the design, and felt totally giddy picking it up on my birthday.

Stacy with Alice in Wonderland birthday cake 2019

Stacy-Ann Douge sketched, baked and formed this fantastical Alice in Wonderland cake.

I can afford an over-the-top cake to share with our friends, supporting a talented baker, so why shouldn’t I commission this delicious work of art?

John and I often talk about value as opposed to price. An expensive vacation that we love brings us value, but a forgettable lunch that doesn’t taste as good as what we could have made at home doesn’t. We pay attention to our bank account, but we also focus on whether what we buy feels worth it to us, in addition to the actual price.

Commissioning my birthday cake brought me so much value. I celebrated Sally the Divine and I delighted our friends with delicious and beautiful cake.

I’m already mulling what Stacy might create for me next!

Categories: food and drink, lifestyle

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

5 replies

  1. I love the idea of a deity named Sally. “Having tea with Sally” sounds so much better than “praying to God.”

  2. I was quite sad to have missed out on this stunning and delicious creation – but look forward to meeting #2. Glad to have had a chance to celebrate your birthday for a moment before the month closed. Wishing you a magic-filled 48!

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