There comes a time in every parent’s life when love must be expressed through buttercream, food dye, and sprinkles; I just didn’t know it would be so soon this time. For my daughter’s second birthday, I planned, as I had as had on her first and her brother’s 7 birthdays to date,* to do my best to heed the siren call of sugar and red dye 40 and then, you know, translate that into something that’s both tasty but not fully plastic. (This is all of parenting, by the way.) My plan had been to make a party-sized Swedish Princess Cake because have you had this buttery cake with custard, jam, whipped cream and a marzipan dome with a single pink rose in the middle? Nothing could be more fitting for our curly-haired wildling. But then Elmo happened.
A little sidebar: If you’ve thus spent most of your time free of toddlers, can I tell you something? It doesn’t matter whether you allow screen time, it doesn’t matter whether your precious clean slate of a human being has ever seen Sesame Street, whether you’ve bought the books or sung the songs, when children turn 18 months old, they all wake up one day obsessed with Elmo. It seems to come out of thin air. My daughter spotted this game of her brother’s out of the corner of her eye and cried EHLMA! EHMLA! until we let her walk around hugging and kissing the box. She sees a red splat of paint on the sidewalk and says “Ehlma?” My mother, witnessing this behavior in the wild, told me my daughter didn’t know or care the first thing about Swedish Princesses, but if I really wanted to put my efforts somewhere heroic, I’d make her an Elmo cake.