A Cake-centric Celebration

In Search of the Perfect Kosher Birthday Cake

Do you remember your first birthday? I don’t. My parents do have photographic evidence that I attended, and they’ve repeatedly reminisced about the great cake I had. It was chocolate and featured a marzipan mouse, in honor of my baby nickname, Melissa Mouse.

In the intervening years, I have dedicated myself to becoming a dessert connoisseur. I don’t believe in eating just any dessert. I like to eat the best possible dessert. This proclivity even impacted the way we planned our wedding. Our brunch buffet was followed by a dessert buffet, showcasing treats we had the caterer create in addition to the wedding cake. Yes, we rewrote the caterers’ entire dessert menu. Dessert is serious business.

And so, I now turn my dessert-loving eye to our family’s next big cake-centric event, Lila’s first birthday. I’m not yet sure exactly where we will host it, who will attend, or what we will do, but for the last several weeks, I’ve been focused on the central issue: researching where we can buy a beautiful, scrumptious, kosher cake. If we were celebrating in New York, I’d absolutely call Lulu’s, the Julia Child of kosher bakeries. But so far, I haven’t been able to identify any Washington, DC equivalent.

Before you ask, I’ve ruled myself out. If anyone wants to deliver a speech in Lila’s honor, I’ll volunteer to write it, but baking cakes is simply not my strong suit.

Granted, Lila is unlikely to mind one way or another. She’s never eaten cake before, and given her current preferences, I suspect she’d be delighted by an avocado and peanut butter cake, punctuated by a layer of plain Cheerios for crunch. I just don’t think the rest of us would find that appetizing. And I’d like us to have something special for her first birthday. I’ve even sketched a design in my mind with little birds and cherry blossoms.

I tweeted to ask other kashrut-observing Jews for bakery recommendations. That uncovered small baker Eden Cake, but they don’t look like a birthday cakery. I asked other local mothers and was advised to explore Rockville and Silver Spring, or even Baltimore, with their large observant communities. A friend in Baltimore named three choices, but getting out there is a schlep. I contacted an independent local baker, who was recommended on a neighborhood listserv. Her cakes were gorgeous; unfortunately, they’re also not kosher.

Facebook may be coming to the rescue, though. I posted my question, and three friends replied with viable leads: Flour Power Desserts, The Kosher Pastry Oven, Sunflower Bakery, and Sticky Fingers Bakery (which is vegan). We’ll definitely conduct a taste test so we’re sure that any birthday cake candidate meets our standards. But if none of these bakers can make us a masterpiece in sugar, we may google the nearest Carvel.

I always thought of D.C. as the end of the northeastern Torah Belt. But after this cake investigation, we look more like a metro area with many Jews, but not so many gourmet kosher options. A note to any kosher gourmands aspiring to open patisseries: please consider opening your shop in the nation’s capital. Like spring, this market is ready to bloom.

Part of being Jewish is celebrating life and its milestones, and hopefully, we’ll find a delectable, kosher way to mark our special occasion. After all, your first baby turns one only once.

This article appeared in Kveller.

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For those who find themselves in a similar situation, we ended up with a delicious Colossal Cupcake from Crumbs Bake Shop. Crumbs’ DC locations are certified kosher.

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