This month Stephanie Davies explores ‘ambush by cake’ and why birthday cake is so important to us all!
Let them eat cake. Or maybe don’t, especially if there are loads of them and they’re boozing, while you’re supposed to be keeping a low profile.
In the past month cake has been on everyone’s lips, apart from the poor souls whose New Year’s resolution was to lose weight.
We have been introduced to a new concept. Ambush by cake, which sounds like a much nicer option than being ambushed by the SAS. Indeed, the world would be a much happier place if cakes were the primary form of surprise attack and ambushes were conducted via the medium of a Battenberg cake, as opposed to drone strike.
Not all cakes are surprises and not all parties are work events
The debate about whether Boris Johnson was ambushed by cake at his alleged lockdown infringing birthday bash is almost as contentious as the jam-cream/cream-jam scone debate. The logic for the party deniers is thus: cake signifies surprise because no one brings cake to their own party, thereby the existence of the cake proves that Boris was unaware that the bash was a party. Sounds like solid logic, right?
Unfortunately for Boris, however, there’s a flaw in the argument. Believe it or not, there are some people who will arrange their own cake for their own birthday parties, or who make sure that they cajole those close to them who might be arranging a surprise party for them that if the party does go ahead, it MUST have a cake. If there is no cake, it is not a birthday party.
Who are these Victoria Sponge self-aggrandisers? I have a confession. Last week was my birthday. I had a gathering. And before the gathering, which was not work related and did not break any rules, I made sure that my husband fully understood that there had to be a cake. Then, at the party in front of all my guests the cake (decorated with candles and sparklers) was presented to me while everyone sang happy birthday and I acted surprised, just like I do every year, because this is a habit of mine. Rather than run the risk of being left without cake and a rendition of Happy Birthday at my own party, I ensure that those closest to me are fully briefed prior to the event.
I can understand how this appears. What kind of egotistical monster brow-beats her own husband into buying her birthday cake? Allow me to defend myself. You see as a kid, cake was a big part of birthday celebrations, not just for me, but for everyone. For me, the cake was the highlight. More so than the presents, not because I was a cake-addict, but because there was something magical about the candles and the singing and family and friends sharing cake. Birthday cake epitomises childhood, which is why my husband, a self-confessed grumpy old cynic, raises his eyebrows every year when I issue the cake edict and he asks: “What are you, eight years old?”
What’s wrong with wanting to retain some of the happiness of childhood? As we get older and embark on jobs and careers and families and all the responsibilities of adulthood, it’s healthy to hold on to some of the playfulness we had as children. Playfulness should not be out of place in workplaces either. It promotes happiness and creativity. Obviously, there are boundaries. Sometimes playfulness can be inappropriate, and too much playfulness can tip a work culture over into anarchy. Which brings us neatly back to Downing Street birthday parties.
So sorry Boris, the cake ambush excuse doesn’t wash with me. Not all cakes are surprises and not all parties are work events.
Stephanie Davies is the founder of Laughology