It is a well documented fact that while The Queen has two birthdays a year and dogs have 7 birthdays a year (or however that works), I don’t have any birthdays at all. I gave them up in a bid to remain forever young and free of birthday remorse (a bit like buyer’s remorse but with more wrinkles) so it’s been a while since I had all the trappings of a birthday party foisted upon me, but I see it happen to others and that is why I am all too familiar and repulsed by the atrocity that is ‘the birthday cake’.
There’s an old joke which theorises that birthday cake causes wrinkles; the more birthday cakes you eat, the older and wrinklier you become. You may laugh, but it’s solid logic and something the face cream purveyors would like to keep out of the public consciousness. You can scoff, or you can add “birthday cake” to your list of allergies like a pathetic narcissist and have a ridiculous medic alert bracelet made up. I’m having my bracelet gold plated. Anyway, an aversion to the aging process is not my only reason for bearing more than a disliking for the edible candle-topped treat, the reasons are many.
Most cakes are simply delicious, that is, they are simple and they are delicious. When I make a cake at home – HAHAHA oh god, I almost choked on my own kidneys from laughing then – when you buy a cake from the shop, you select one that has clearly been crafted to contain at least 80% cake, with a 20% allowance for filling, frosting, icing, kittens, whatever. This is the ideal ratio for a cake of such deliciousness that you want to buy it dinner and take it to the cinema to try getting its crumbs on your crotch in the back row. The birthday cake flouts this basic cakey ratio and instead, goes for outright style over substance abuse.
The average birthday cake now bears little resemblance to a real cake. It is a grotesque beast of moist fondant sugar, containing more artificial colouring and sparkles than a chorus line, with a tiny dried out heart of crumbs. Once your knife slices through the novelty outer caterpillar/wardrobe/naked man, you can hear the sorry “pfffft” of the cake’s dead soul escaping like the dying fart of a pensioner stranded in the Sahara. Statuesque it may be, cake it is not.
Leaving aside the vile tasting replica fondant Ford Model T with life size sugared chauffeur, my birthday cake issue comes in an audible form and that is the singing. Ever since I was a child I have loved singing and making a complete tit out of myself, whether in the musicals of my school days or more recently on the streets of London at 3am, but when it comes to singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in a bar or the office, I suddenly find I’m as eager as a first time offender soaping up in the prison showers.
No matter how dulcet your singing voice, no matter how perfect your pitch, as soon as you amble across an open plan office behind a flaming slab of E-numbers, with 8-10 other reluctant choristers, you suddenly find that upon opening your mouth, all that falls out is a sound not dissimilar to the noise a car wreck makes when being dragged across all the broken glass in Hell. Coupled with the fact that not a single one in your a capella birthday band has managed to find a note previously known to mankind (or each other) and your heart felt tribute sounds more like a Satanic curse of eternal drudgery upon the embarrassed birthday boy or girl, inflicted at faux enthusiastically full volume.
And so we come to the part of the birthday cake ritual I despise the most. Above the ageing, above the sugar craft vulgarity, above the tuneless caterwauling, it’s the candles. What, you ask, could be so offensive about having a little miniature fire atop this block of wet sugar, one for each year you wish to humiliate the recipient? Well, I have nothing so much against the candles, after all, every girl knows that candlelight is the most flattering glow there is, other than the post-coital variety. No, what it is about the blazing cake toppers is the method with which they are extinguished.
“Here you are, have a nice tasty cake to share with your chums, but before you give them all a big slice, why not cover it with an even misting of spittle.”
Think I’m being daft? It’s science. Every time you blow from your mouth, lots of particles of spit and whatever else you keep in there (lunch, fag butts, loose change) comes spraying out to encase everything that lies in its path, in this case, the tasty treat you’re about to invite your nearest and dearest to share with you. This is worse tenfold for children’s birthday parties, where sloppy-chopped ankle biters all want to get a piece of the spittle spraying action and aim great gobbits of saliva and half chewed sausage roll, via the medium of a noisy raspberry, directly at the fire risk en mass. Seconds, anyone? Even porn films display a greater respect for hygiene and bodily fluids than the average birthday cake receives.
Given the fact the average birthday cake carries a high risk of disappointment, diabetes, public humiliation and herpes (not to mention the ageing effect), it’s a wonder this atrocious tradition has continued to exist for so long unchallenged. I think I’ll stick to the safe and healthy option and celebrate people’s birthdays by drinking my way through them, in silence and far from mists of spittle.