Why do most birthcake cakes suck?

I'd really like to know. While everybody else is singing "Happy Birthday," I'm thinking about how that first forkful of cake is going to be dry, virtually tasteless, and inedibly sweet, with grainy icing. Birthday cakes are often so bad I welcome the taste of the melted wax from the candles. I know I'm going to be seen as a killjoy and a curmudgeon, but I'm willing to take one for the team (of passionate eaters) here.

But on Saturday night, at a friend's 50th birthday, we had a killer chocolate mocha cake that could have been served as a dessert at a great New American restaurant like Craft or the Union Square Cafe. That the cake was great was no surprise to me. I told my friends to get the cake from Two Little Red Hens. I've had at least ten different kinds of cake from TLRH, everything from yellow to white to chocolate cake, with every kind of frosting and filling imaginable, and I've never been disappointed.

There are a few other neighborhood bakeries that make very good birthday cakes: Soutine, and Amy's Bread.

I used to love Cupcake Cafe cakes, and while they are indeed beautiful, I have found that over the years they have gotten so buttery that's all they taste of. The Cupcake Cafe cakes prove that in fact food can suffer from butter overload, and I didn't think that was possible.

So maybe birthday cakes don't have to suck. We just have such low expectations for them that we accept bad birthday cakes as a given, and we convince ourselves that they're not all that bad (my very polite wife's solution).

As a result we suffer in silence. Not any more. Join me in my "Birthday cakes don't have to suck" crusade.

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