Baking My Own Birthday Cake

Birthday party (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

One of my greatest fears in life has always been that no one will come to my birthday party. I’ll invite everyone I know. I’ll send out pretty invitations on cardstock with glitter ink. I’ll promise party favors and food and fun beverages loaded with crushed ice. I’ll promise home-baked cake. But on the day of my party, people will just trickle in and out, if they come at all, and stare sadly at the limp, swaying streamers.

There’s generally very little anyone can say to allay these fears. My boyfriend said, “Don’t be ridiculous.” My brother said the same thing. I’m just always afraid that something else will come up – an apocalypse, a Backstreet Boys reunion tour – and I’ll be left tearing through the sugared crumbs of cake and piles of party food like a lonely Godzilla.

Birthday guest (Eat me. Drink Me.) Grilling in Tempelhof (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I celebrated my birthday last Saturday with a grill in Tempelhof, a shut-down airport featuring a runway-turned-park where Berlin’s citizens gather on sunny days to rollerblade and bike down the long runways, lie in the sun, and cook on small, portable grills that send up a haze of smoke.

That morning, I’d picked up one of my best and oldest friends from the airport, and like a tyrant, pushed her through her jet-lag by making her go to the market to buy fresh strawberries and herbs, cheeses, vegetables, dirt-crusted potatoes and stalks of bright red rhubarb. Then I made her help me cook. We made my family’s German potato salad, tabbouleh chock full of bright, sweet tomatoes and parsley, and a rhubarb frangipani tart baked on puff pastry.

Picnic potluck (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Sun in Tempelhof (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We were gathering together the ingredients for mojitos, packing paper plates and picnic blankets, when David asked me, “When did you tell people to meet us?”

“Three PM,” I said.

“So around four?” he said.

“Around three,” I said, chiding his Colombian sense of time.

At four o’clock we were in Tempelhof, spreading out the blankets, setting up the little portable grill and laying out the food. In quick succession, people arrived saying, “Sorry I’m late!”

Brother (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Limes for mojitos (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Afternoon sun (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Apparently, Berlin and Colombia share a few things. And apparently, it’s good to come late to your own party when you’re worried about people showing up at all.

In no time, our picnic blanket island had tripled in size. Salads and sides, potluck-style, piled up in the center of the blanket as did the stack of steaks and sausages, halloumi and marinated vegetables waiting to be thrown on the grill.

Grill food (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Picnic in Tempelhof (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Laughing in the sun (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We set up a mojito station in one corner of the blanket, and I muddled mint, sugar, and lime while a friend to the left poured the rum and a friend to the right poured seltzer and ice.

The sun shone down on Tempelhof, dispelling any doubts of rain that had been promised in the weather report earlier in the week.

Directing the picnic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Grilling in the sun (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Sunny day in Berlin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We passed around plates of freshly grilled meats to newcomers as more food piled up in the center of the circle. When we finally got around to the cake, tamped down in aluminum foil and slightly mashed, no one minded that it wasn’t very pretty. We shared it, and it tasted good.

Last piece of watermelon (Eat Me.  Drink Me.)Photo credit for this post: Ellen Kaufman



  1. Kathleen says:

    I’m immediately saving the recipe for the potato salad. That was glorious.

    Happy Birthday!

  2. Grandma xo says:

    Looks like great food, but best of all I loved the pictures to make me feel like I was there. What a nice way to introduce the other Liz to Berlin. But sadly, no pictures of the squashed cake! You look so cute – like you’re 8 years old!

  3. Lisa says:

    I have the same fear every year! Glad your fear didn’t come true :)

  4. Everything looked so colorful and festive, especially all those succulent meats grilling on the BBQ. The cake sounded like the perfect topper to the event. Great pics!

  5. Bernie says:

    You and your friends certainly knew how to throw a party. Probably still do.

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