For all the baking I do, you’d think I would have one, standard, go-to birthday cake.

But I don’t. I have dozens of cookbooks, and I want to explore them. I baked most of the way through Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame (in Feast) and found many excellent cakes to add to the repertoire (Chocolate Guinness cake, anybody?) before losing interest when I arrived at the tropical chocolate cake. Then of course my friends and family members suggest recipes, and magazines arrive with others. Plus, every year brings new  requirements.  Sometimes we want cupcakes for a party:


And sometimes we just want a simple layer cake for family:


Sometimes the birthday boy participates in the baking:


And sometimes he just draws me a diagram:


This year, we haven’t talked about his birthday cake at all, so I am planning for the first time to make a cake with a picture on it: of an airplane (of course) for my aviation-obsessed boy. I’ll make crazy cake (since we’re baking vegan for my niece these days), and plan to use a vegan vanilla frosting (and various food colorings) to create the airplane. As it turned out, Tony did the decorating (our first birthday cake division of labor!), and the birthday boy was well pleased:

note the fab sprinkle jet trails...
note the fab sprinkle jet trails...