When you hear hoofbeats, think zebra cake

Last week was LOD’s birthday, which was a little weird because he was traveling for work almost the entire week, including his actual birthday, and was only in town the night before his birthday. So I had the kids all week, except for the night before his birthday, when they were having a special birthday dinner.

The boys talked about making him something, but then the older one said there was something he wanted to give his dad, and the younger signed on to that, so we got it: a crock pot. (Apparently my crock pot efforts over the last year have been good enough for them to think their dad needed one, too.) It was a biggish kind of box, so they decided not to wrap it, but just to give it to him as is. We wrote some of our favorite recipes on file cards to give to him with the crock pot. I was feeling good that the kids were going to be able to give their dad what they wanted to give him and see him the next night when he was home for the birthday dinner.

And then my older son walked out from his room after he’d gone to bed and asked me, “Mom, will you make a birthday cake for Dad tomorrow since I can’t ’cause I’ll be at school all day?”
Hmm. I was not expecting that. And I didn’t want to make my ex-husband a birthday cake.

I would have been completely ok with going to Kroger and buying LOD a cake. But there’s something personal about making a cake. And LOD and I aren’t personal.

But my son wanted me to.

It just didn’t feel right. It seemed a little creepy, even, to make a birthday cake for an ex. Like something I wouldn’t tell anyone else about, because how could I explain it?

But what kind of jerk doesn’t let their kid give their father a birthday cake? So I said I would.

And then I remembered: LOD’s favorite cake is not a baked cake at all, but a Zebra Cake, which is concocted of Famous Chocolate Wafers, whipped cream, and time in the refrigerator to set. So I didn’t have to bake anything, and I only needed two ingredients, and as long I got it done first thing in the morning it would be done and ready by afternoon.

I’m not sure why putting together an icebox cake seemed ok where baking a cake seemed too far over a border. But the Zebra Cake resolved my internal conflict, and I put it together and even put it on my favorite platter (pristine turquoise melmac obtained at a garage sale, which somehow seems perfect for an icebox cake).

The kids were thrilled with the Zebra Cake. LOD was shocked, by the cake and the gift. I still think it was probably too a little too much closeness, but I’m glad the kids got to give their dad a cake and I decided not to be a jerk just because I was uncomfortable.