Mom was an excellent dessert maker. In our fridge, there might be pies, cakes, brownies or fudge. You name it, she might throw it. I blame my continued voracious sweet tooth on mom.
Like most moms, she baked my four siblings and I cakes for our birthdays. There were no Blizzard Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cakes back then. I’m grateful.
As children, we could choose the flavor and frosting of our cake. We would witness the creation of our cake during the day.
Once baked, Mom would chase us out of the kitchen, slip several washed coins into the cake, and quickly frost it — usually followed by someone licking the frosting-covered beaters.
Of course, lapping cake mix beaters is off limits due to possible salmonella, so don’t try this at home. Luckily, I survived beater, bowl, and spatula licks throughout my childhood.
I just celebrated; wait, that’s the wrong word – I just had another birthday. At this point in my life, no gifts are allowed – except for chocolate or coffee.
Well, I guess I’d also take golf balls and beer. Like many baby boomers, my wife and I try to get things out the door, not the door.
Back to mom – when she was about to cut the cake, I would look over her shoulder, and if I spotted any money, I would grab that piece. You might make your move too quickly and get the nickel. The quarter was the ultimate prize – the most important denomination.
You’d think money and cake would be a “win-win,” but if I had that nickel and a brother had a quarter, well, that took some joy out of the birthday bliss. I take it mom made sure the birthday kid always had money.
I never knew where this weird custom of coins in birthday cakes came from, so I searched – well, I Googled it. Apparently it was or may still be a Canadian tradition.
It’s pennies, I mean sense (pun intended), because my grandmother was born and raised in Canada.
My mom was born in Canada, so I guess when my mom was growing up, my grandma put coins in her cake. Mom continued the tradition for her five children.
I checked in with my four siblings. My younger brother mentioned that I was mom’s favorite. I did not discuss. You’d think he’d drop that at some point.
My big brother Ron reminded me that he wasn’t always treated well. He was a Christmas baby, born on Christmas Eve in 1946 in a hospital in Ottawa, Kansas.
While we were talking on the phone, Ron found his standard live birth certificate. He told me question number 8 asked if Ron was legit. It was answered in the affirmative.
The live birth certificate is an unofficial document. According to Internet Facts, it “simply verifies that you are medically alive and a new human has now entered the world.” The official birth certificate is the real deal that you will need for all sorts of things for the rest of your life.
I wonder what this Christmas Eve was like for my mother and the rest of the family. My dad had come back from the war in 1945, so I guess it was a Christmas they always remembered.
Ron thought he was lucky if he got to open a birthday present before the whole family opened Christmas Eve presents. He always had his cake, so I don’t know what the problem is.
Birthdays follow one another. Each year feels a little more pensive, where I reflect on the life I’ve lived and ride into the sunset.
I could have used a big piece of chocolate cake with a quarter on the outside, with my mom saying, “Here, sweetie.” I missed her this year.
Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at