Cake for Breakfast

Every family has interesting and unique traditions that make them special, and ours is no different. Or, I should say, it is a bit different. Even wacky, some would claim. I know I’m always preaching about good nutrition and keeping a tight rein on the junk food, but here’s a time when rules are made to be broken, or at least gently bent.

When one of our gang celebrates a birthday we always serve cake for breakfast. No matter what other plans are laid for the rest of the day, cake for breakfast is an absolute must. I can’t say for sure how this ritual got started, but I believe it went something like this.

It was somebody’s birthday. Maybe it was Younger Son, who’s July date means it’s always the middle of summer vacation when school friends aren’t around. Or maybe it was Husband, who could have been leaving that day on a business trip, and wouldn’t be around to celebrate after the kids got home from school.

In any case, we decided by necessity that first time to plan our party for early in the morning, before we all scattered off to whatever we had going on. So at 7 AM or thereabouts everyone was roused from their beds, candles were lit, Happy Birthday was sung, gifts were opened, and cake was served. The rest is history, and somehow over the years the cake became the centerpiece of it all. The act of eating Mom-sanctioned cake for breakfast was, and is, the most looked-forward-to part of getting another year older.

Each of us has somewhat specific cake requirements. Some of us want ice cream cake (further divided into Carvel fans vs. Baskin-Robbins fans). Some prefer chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. Sometimes, an unusual cake request is made in the days leading up to the birthday, and sometimes we mix it up and serve something different for a special birthday (risky, but usually appreciated). Because they know my limitations, no one has ever requested a Mom-baked cake from scratch.

The funny thing is we’re still doing it — even in absentia. With two in college and beyond, there are some birthdays when the honored one isn’t here. And yet we eat cake. When time zones permit we call the birthday kid and announce that we’re eating cake for breakfast, and we hope they are, too. Often I have a cake delivered to them from a local bakery the day before, inscribed with “cake for breakfast”.

I picture Husband and I alone here down the road, the kids having birthday cake for breakfast with their own families. We’ll look at our little cake, feel a bit nauseated (to be honest, cake at the crack of dawn is kind of gross), and take a bite. It’s the circle of life.

So if you have some fun family rituals of your own, keep ’em going. And you might want to give cake for breakfast (birthdays ONLY!) a try. Before I forget, I strongly recommend those trick candles that don’t blow out easily. The early morning time frame makes them way funnier.

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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