Birthday Traditions: Make A Cake And Eat It, Too.

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated J’s 17th birthday. SEVENTEEN.

As in, “My younger–and last born–son is seventeen.”

It would be really hard for me to believe if there weren’t a trail of rainbow-colored crumbs all over our family photo albums*.

You see, around here birthdays mean one thing: beautifully decorated rainbow cakes (the insides are tinted in various colors). It’s a tradition my mom started, and what I love about it is the thought that goes into it, resulting in the birthday honoree feeling extra special.

I remember how creative my mom was with birthday cakes when we were kids. Over the years, she made me a Holly Hobbie cake, a Miss Piggy cake, a stand-up doll cake, a cake that looked like a pair of jeans, and many more. When I turned fifteen she made me a telephone cake because, you know, that’s what I was into that year (Typical teen):

Melisa phone

When I started a family of my own, I picked up the rainbow cake tradition and ran with it, making special cakes for everyone in the family**. At first it was pretty easy to decide what cake design to tackle as each birthday came around because it was really just a matter of what the boys liked that year, and what they liked fell right in line with most other kids their age. All of those popular characters were licensed and accessible. At first, like with D’s Pokemon and Mickey Mouse cakes shown below on the right, I just stuck to the molded cake pans I could purchase and made the cakes as prescribed in the instructions. As the years went by, I got more creative either because the cake pan I wanted just didn’t exist (like with the LEGO and the Magic School Bus–and see? D is sitting in the front seat!) or because I just wanted to have fun with it.

D cakes

J had a tremendous Blue’s Clues party when he turned three and the cake was beautiful, but the other cakes shown are closer to my heart because of how I customized them. I stuck a picture of him on the train cake so it looked like he was conducting. The football cake was from the year his birthday coincided with Super Bowl Sunday, and the one on the lower left was from the year that Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was THE BIG THING around here. There wasn’t a Jimmy Neutron pan so I just made a rectangular cake with a customized logo.

Jay cakes

As the boys got older, I got more and more creative. It has been a blast, except for the times I developed a terrible case of Baker’s Block. On J’s birthday in 2008 I couldn’t think of a special cake design to save my life. I finally just baked a rectangle and figured an idea would come to me.

It didn’t. So I improvised.

ugly cake

The following year, I had Baker’s Block on D’s birthday and went with the same strategy. I baked that rectangular rainbow cake and crossed every one of my body parts as it cooled that i would come up with something fantastic. That time, brilliance arrived in the nick of time. Our family watched the crazy obstacle course show “Wipeout” each and every week, and D was especially fond of the hilarity that ensued with one particular obstacle. I brought it to life on his birthday cake.


wipeout cake

Fast forward to earlier this month, when I made the latest birthday cake for J:

Jay car cake 17

He loved it, of course, and as I watched him blow out the candles–again and again, since trick candles are also part of our tradition–I thought about how much these rainbow cakes have meant to me and my loved ones over the years, and I smiled because I have a distinct feeling that the tradition has an excellent chance of carrying on once my boys have their own families.

J tie cake

*Ha. Did I say photo albums? Those are imaginary. In reality my photos are in chronologically-labeled storage boxes (pre-digital era) and on DVDs and my hard drive.
**Including my sister and with the exception of Jim. Though he usually likes rainbow cake, he prefers pie on his birthday.

I bet you already knew that you could get personalized cards and invitations from Hallmark, but did you know that you can get personalized PLATES, too?? I am definitely adding to our tradition this year. And by the way, if you’d like to sign up for the Hallmark e-newsletter which will bring discounts and special offers directly to your inbox, click here.


I am BEYOND thrilled to be partnering with Hallmark on their “Life Is A Special Occasion” campaign for 2012. I am being compensated to write about every day moments of all sizes, family traditions, the relationships I cherish the most, and much more. All words, opinions, and photos are mine. Thanks so much to the folks at Hallmark for selecting me for this campaign: it’s an honor for me to be a part of it.