By Abe Villarreal

I forgot to tell people that I wanted a real birthday cake on my birthday. An honest-to-goodness real birthday cake. I had carrot cake and other kinds of cake. They were good, but they didn't feel like birthday cakes. There is a difference.

I'm talking about the kind that is white. It might have a filling, and it's decorated with white frosting and maybe sprinkles. Yes, definitely sprinkles.

Everyone tries to be fancy these days. They want to impress with macarons and tiramisu. Those are good for fancy occasions but not birthdays. On birthdays, I like a good old-fashioned birthday cake.

The kind that looks like it was made for a five-year-old. It has holes on top from where the candles were removed. The slices are served on paper plates with a scoop of Neapolitan ice cream. The sugar is almost too much to handle, but you tell yourself it's a once-a-year kind of indulgence.

When you see it, you feel like a kid. It doesn't have to have Disney characters on top or frosting that turns into different colors on the outer edges. There's no need for candy to slide out of the middle when you slice into it. All that stuff is O.K., but it's not for me.

I didn't get a simple, traditional birthday cake this year, but I'm determined to have it next year. I think as I get older, I want it more. When we are kids, we like simple things. When we get older, people think we like fancy things. A lot of times we don't. Life is too complicated during most of our adult ages. Simplicity is welcome when we can get it.

I want a birthday cake sitting at the center of a table. The table covered with one of those plastic covers you can only use once. The table filled with colorful paper cups. I want someone to count out the number of candles that match my age.

There doesn't have to be balloons or backdrops. No props with mustaches on sticks or oversized glasses. Those are fun but I don't need them. Just a white birthday cake with white frosting and sprinkles is enough.

We want everything to be "bigger" and "better" all the time. I don't know what these phrases mean. We feel like we have to be over-the-top, that experiences have to be lavish, expensive Hollywood productions. Maybe it's an American thing. Maybe we have something to prove to each other. We want to send a message about who we are as people.

I met a mom who stressed about finding the perfect cake. She searched online to find a baker who could make her a cake just the way she wanted it for her kid. It had to be a certain height, specific flavor, decorated with cartoon characters. I'm sure she paid a good amount to have it made just for her boy. A perfect cake for a perfect kid.

I'm not perfect, so I'm sticking to the kind of cake that a friend makes. No perfect edges. No fondant or writing that looks like it was written by a machine. Just a white cake with white frosting and sprinkles. On the side, a scoop of melting Neapolitan ice cream.

To me, that sounds like perfection.

Abe Villarreal writes about the traditions, people, and culture of America. He can be reached at


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