Adventures in baking: Birthday edition

Allyson Barkan  //  May 16, 2019

Adventures in baking: Birthday edition

Today, May 17, is not just any ol’ ordinary day. First of all, it’s my birthday. Now, I’ve never been one to make a huge splash about birthdays, but this year is different. Why, you ask? Well, I’m not sure what rock I’ve been sleeping under for the past [mumble inaudible] years, but just last week I learned that my birthday, of all the days in the year, is also World Baking Day. And THAT, my friends, is cause for celebration.

It’s no secret that I like to bake. And if you happened to read about my Harry Potter-themed baking adventures, you know that “like to bake” is a bit of an understatement. I love discovering new recipes, getting adventurous in the kitchen, and creating delicious treats for friends and family to enjoy. More than anything, I love a good challenge. So when it was brought to my attention in a meeting last week that World Baking Day was coming up, AND that it was on my birthday, I thought…challenge accepted.

The wheels inside my head immediately began spinning. I honestly couldn’t tell you what was discussed for the remainder of that meeting (sorry coworkers!)—I was too busy trying to think of the perfect baked good to commemorate such an occasion. I obviously couldn’t make just any old cake or batch of cookies. I work at Scholastic, so whatever I chose to make, it had to somehow be connected to…you guessed it…books.

With my Hogwarts adventures in mind, I started by thinking about what books I could pay homage to through baking. But after racking my brain for story-themed treats, nothing jumped to mind like the golden cake ball snitches, pretzel elder wands, and calzone Naginis of my past.

So I switched gears and started thinking about Scholastic. What embodies Scholastic? What is iconic and classically Scholastic? Clifford, of course! I seriously toyed with building a Clifford out of sugar, butter, flour and lots of frosting. I even watched a few online tutorials about how to construct a dog cake. But who was I kidding? Clifford is iconic for a reason, and I can barely draw a stick figure. I decided to respect Clifford and his legacy by not completely butchering an edible version of him. I also decided to respect my colleagues’ bellies by not force feeding them an unsightly blob of red frosting and then making them pretend to like it.

I went back to the drawing board. And then I thought, what is book-themed AND birthday-themed? This got me thinking about famous scenes in books where a character has a birthday. I thought and thought and thought, and literally the only reference I could come up with was the scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary when she accidentally makes blue soup. It’s safe to assume that this was not a viable idea. I was 0 for 3, and May 17 was getting closer and closer. What’s a book-loving soon-to-be birthday-having baker to do?

And then it hit me. What books speak to me? What books have informed the person I’ve become? After all, a birthday is a celebration of everything you’ve been through, all that you’ve accomplished, all the struggles you’ve endured and challenges you’ve overcome to get you to where you are today. On my World Baking Day birthday, I should be celebrating the books that mean the most to me, and the characters who’ve helped me travel along my many trips around the sun.

I’ve written before about my affection for Judy Blume. I love all of Blume’s characters, but for a young woman getting older and gaining more perspective, there’s no better companion than Margaret Simon. I may be just a tad bit older than Margaret, but regardless of whether we’re turning twelve or, well…older than twelve, her feelings of excitement, fear, anxiety, relief and hope about getting older ring true.


And so I baked a book. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, to be exact. Flipped open to the beginning of Chapter 18, at the moment when Margaret wakes up on her twelfth birthday. I’ve never felt more accomplished in the kitchen than I did putting the finishing touches on this cake. After all, it was the perfect culmination of the past 365 days and everything I love wrapped into one: books, baking, Blume, and birthdays.  


I wasn’t lying when I said today wasn’t just any ol’ ordinary day.