Earlier this month was my middle kid’s seventh birthday, which is odd because I’m 100 percent certain he’s still a tiny little baby and how can a tiny little baby be seven?

For years our family tradition has been that the birthday kid chooses a birthday cake that I make for them.  This year the (alleged) seven year old spent the first five weeks of the new year planning out his entire birthday meal. Cake, yes, but he also wanted roasted chicken, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes “that are NOT cooked in the oven, just the microwave.” He was very specific about the foods. For drinks, I guess, we were on our own.

He and I found a great recipe for dessert, too: a chocolate raspberry birthday cake  with fresh raspberries in the three chocolate layers, plus layers of raspberry preserves along with the layers of chocolate frosting. It was just my kind of cake to make: lots of flavors, a pretty straightforward recipe, and, most importantly, minimal amounts of decorating.

A sky blue sheet cake with a smiling yellow sun in the upper left corner and a large rainbow made of frosting.

I can follow a recipe pretty well, but I am no decorator. Not that I haven’t tried: when this choose-your-own-cake adventure got started, the little ones were dreaming up cakes that belong on somebody’s baking TikTok, not in my incapable hands. One year two kids wanted rainbow designs on their cakes. That means making frosting or decorations in every color of the rainbow. It took like a weekend just to do the frosting and then everybody ate it in like a day. Which is probably good because the frosting was kind of drippy and it would’ve gotten all over everything if we’d let it linger.

One year my oldest said he wanted chocolate cupcakes “with cats on them,” so I used some candy melts to make three kinds of cats.

Chocolate cupcakes with black, orange and white cats on top, make of candy melts.

And then there was the time that my youngest turned four and asked for like seven different kinds of cakes before settling on one design. “I want a Christmas tree cake,” she said. “And I will be mad at you if it is ugly.”

Four year old looks at her sheet cake, which is shaped like and decorated like a Christmas tree.

It was actually a lot of fun to put together! Almost like decorating an actual Christmas tree. And, best of all, she did not get mad at me.