By Katherine Wright

The willpower, patience and strength of a children’s birthday party employee are put to the test during cake time. It is the final battle after surviving games, crafts and dancing — and it is not for the faint of heart. 

Bracing myself as I lead a group of hyped-up, young party guests to a separate room specifically designated for chaos, I go over the rules one more time in my head. 

Step one: help everyone find a seat. Step two: light the candles at a safe distance from the kids. Step three: side-step the party stragglers who jumped out of their seats to take a peek at the cake, carefully place it in front of the birthday kid, sing “Happy Birthday” and prepare to quickly grab the cake before anyone has the opportunity to stick their fingers in it. 

It is a delicate dance and every party presents unique challenges. Sometimes, there are kids who don’t like cake and won’t stop talking about it. Other times, there are kids that love cake and won’t stop talking about it. But then — most difficult of all — there are kids who think it’s hilarious to run around the room and throw goodie bag contents into the air and scream and cry and shout their over-the-top, obsessive, unapologetic love for cake. It’s understandable, but exhausting. 

After the cake has been successfully passed out to every party guest, most likely with sufficient complaints regarding the size of their piece, there are approximately four minutes of guaranteed engagement. Afterwards, 70 percent of the group realize they’re done and we spend the remaining half hour of the party desperately trying to keep everyone in their seat. 

In my experience, I have watched decadent unicorn cakes come and go, seen eight year olds shove elaborate cupcakes carelessly into their mouths and cut cakes where pieces of candy came exploding out the middle. 

In the midst of all the chaos, the most difficult part of this experience is watching unappreciative guests eat their cake, without getting to indulge in my own slice. 

No matter if the cake was made from a store-bought mix or constructed at a five-star bakery, I ached for the slices I couldn’t have, watching painfully as five-year-olds took a few bites of frosting and called it a day. 

Regardless, I now have a newfound appreciation for the rare pieces of cake I get to call my own. It is a luxurious, delightful experience, supplemented by layers of fluffiness and frosting — a fleeting moment to savor until we have to start all over again. 

As I lead the new guests into the food room, I breathe heavily and go over the rules one more time in my head.