First Birthday

It’s a holiday in Germany today.  Lucky for me, I got a heads up.  Otherwise, I’m pretty sure we would’ve been standing alone in the kindergarten yard scratching our heads and wondering if we’d somehow mixed up Sunday and Monday (entirely possible). I think the official name of the holiday is All Saints Day, but I’m calling it Recover From Your Child’s First Birthday Party day. Screech turned one last week.  Since cake mixes are expensive, I decided to try my hand again at baking a cake from scratch.  I bought, baked with, and consumed more butter this weekend than I ever have.  Three quarters of a kilo.  Of butter.  If I think too much about it, I get a little grossed out.

Things I learned from being in the kitchen 6,742 hours this weekend…

1. European cake pans are bigger than US cake pans.  As such, you will bake what you think is a two-layer cake but really comes out to be a sad, thin, one-layer cake.  And then you will feel bad that it looks so pathetic and bake another one. Which is proves to be somewhat of an ordeal because…

2. An electric mixer is worth it.  Totally worth it.  Unless you favor icing your forearm while everyone else ices their cake.  A whisk is not an acceptable substitute.  Two cakes, two different frostings, and one batch of peanut butter cookies later, my forearm looks like A-Rod’s.

3. Set a timer.  Peanut butter cookies will burn if you leave them in the oven too long.

4. German ovens don’t approve of sharing.  One baking sheet in the oven at a time.  Period.  Which means for that wonderful “yields 60 cookies” recipe you’re using, you’ll be conducting oven air traffic control for hours.  And don’t even get me started on where in the world you are supposed to put the hot baking sheets when you’ve got approximately 14.7″ of counter space.

Miraculously, my Aussie friend liked the burnt peanut butter cookies, and everyone else was totally impressed by the cake.  But even more impressive?  The traditional toddler-vs-cake smackdown.

We had German, Australian, and South African friends present.  These people have lived in other cultures and have friends of other nationalities, including American.  None of them had even seen a one year-old face his first sugar high before.  And Screech?  He totally delivered.  I love that kid.

I was aghast that this tradition was so exclusively American.  “And what do Germans do for the first birthday cake?”  I innocently asked.  “Oh, you give them a rice cake, maybe with a little powdered sugar,” my German friend replied.  Hilarious!  The all-natural, tree-hugging, müsli mamas (aka granola or crunchy in US terms) definitely do NOT give their children sugar.  At all.  No cake for you, come back, five years. I decided to see what this would look like.  Yep, I totally busted the rice cake trying to get the candle in.  I don’t think that tradition is going to hold.  Bring on the cake!  And the butter!

What kind of first birthday traditions do you have?  Leave a comment.  I’m always up for hearing and adapting new traditions.

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