It has finally come time for me to write about Harlow’s birthday party. BUT. Before, I write about Harlow’s birthday party, I must tell you the story behind Harlow’s birthday cake. Because it a SAGA, as far as cake stories go. Now, Harlow did not want just any cake. Oh no. Harlow wanted a panda cake. Now. You might be thinking that it sounds harder to pull off a panda cake than a normal birthday cake. And you would be right, it’s much harder. Luckily, Harlow knew exactly the right person to make her dream cake into a reality.

Let me to take a moment to give you a bit of background… A few years ago, Cara Braude (member of the Mommy Shorts Team) posted a rather elaborate cake on her Instagram feed that she made for her nephew. Cara is not a professional baker and I was impressed. I was also in the midst of planning Harlow’s Evie from Descendants themed birthday party and was in the market for a custom cake. I asked Cara if she would want to make Harlow’s cake, thinking that I was paying her baking abilities a compliment and not realizing how big of an “ask” this actually was. Fourteen phone calls and Instagram story meltdowns later, the cake was finished and ready for Mike to pick it up. Although, that was a little complicated, because not being a professional baker also meant that Cara did not possess a bakery box. The cake looked and tasted AMAZING, but I promised Cara that I would never ask her to make a cake for me again.

I kept my promise for three years. But then, this year, Harlow took matters into her own hands. While over Cara’s apartment for a completely different reason, Harlow personally asked Cara to make her a Panda cake for her birthday party. Cara looked unsure but then Harlow said she wanted to bake it together, which ultimately won Cara over. A joint project seemed a lot more fun than a weekend alone dedicated to someone else’s kid’s cake.

“Are you sure it’s okay?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Cara said, adding that she was excited to teach Harlow some skills and already had some ideas for how to make the panda.

As the party approached, Cara and I tried to figure out our schedules so that the two of them could bake together. Unfortunately, with after school activities and Cara living in Brooklyn and early bedtime, we just could not make it work. Cara was left to bake the cake on her own.

“Are you sure you still want to do it?” I asked. “There’s still time for me to just buy one.”

“No,” Cara insisted. “Harlow is expecting a panda cake from me and a panda cake is what she will get.”

(I just want to remind you again here that while Cara is weirdly good at baking, she is not a professional).

The day before Harlow’s party, Cara got to work. She sent me a few pics of all her supplies and I saw some prep happening on Instagram. Everything seemed to be going smoothly. Later that day, Mike and I went out for the night. At around 10:00pm, Cara texted us a picture of the finished product:

I texted Cara back to thank her and tell her that she did an amazing job. Now, anyone else would have just breathed a sigh of relief and called it a night. Told us how and when to pick it up and that would have been that. But instead, Cara called us on the phone to ask if we were sure we liked it and if there was anything we wanted to change.

Big mistake Cara. BIG.

This is the part of the story where Mike and I are going to sound like total assholes. We apologize in advance.

I ask Cara what exactly can be changed at this point. Then Mike says something in the background about the cake looking more like a panda dog than a panda bear. “What was that?” Cara asked. “Ummm… we are just trying to figure out if there is an easy fix to make the cake look more panda, less dog.” There is a bit of back and forth about what is and isn’t possible at this point. It was late, for one thing. Cara was working out of her apartment kitchen and did not have professional bakery resources at 10pm. Also, there’s a limit to what one should expect when you ask a favor of a hobby-baker.

Meanwhile, Mike (who is not listening to any of this) thinks he figured out the two main issues— the snout is too large and the blacks around the eyes need to droop downward. I draw on Cara’s picture with the pen tool on my phone and text her back this:

Cara says that unfortunately, there is nothing she can do about the size of the snout at this point. She also says she wants to punch us both, but she says that part silently in her head.

Mike is still not listening and has started to google pictures of pandas to prove to Cara what he is talking about. He determines that it’s not just the snout that’s a problem, but the whites of the eyes also need tweaking.

After several minutes where I am sure Cara is plotting ways to kill us, she texts us back the photo below:

As you can see, she has drooped the blacks of the eyes and covered more of the white. But the snout remains it’s original size. I wish I could say that we stopped here, but Mike and I are determined to get this panda cake at a National Geographic level of accuracy. So….

Thankfully, there is no sound on texts so I cannot hear Cara silently cursing us in her apartment. She is the most professional non-professional baker ever, makes a few adjustments and texts us back this:

We say, “Brilliant! Thank you! We will bring our own box and pick it up tomorrow!” Everyone can rest easy knowing that even if this panda is slightly dog-esque, he is looking his best.

Everyone, that is, except Cara.

It seems that panda dog reference did not sit well with Cara and woke her up the next morning at 5am. Once again she poured over panda photo galleries and had to agree— THE SNOUT NEEDED TO GO.

She gave that panda some much needed rhinoplasty so that he was a panda dog no more.

Ta-da! Here is Harlow’s perfectly snouted panda cake!

If there’s ever a remake of Nip/Tuck for bakers, Cara needs an episode story arch. Seriously, thank you, Cara. I promise, I will never ask you to bake a cake again. And if I do, I promise to not let Mike give his opinion.

I cannot speak for Harlow.

More to come on Harlow’s birthday party tomorrow!