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Connie Vandermay/FOCUS This year's traditional Vandermay "mystery" birthday cake.

Column: The tradition of the mystery cake

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"So the cones are the nails? And the cupcakes must be... fingers?"

That was the comment from my nine-year-old son last weekend as he checked out his brother and sister's birthday cake for the first time.

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He was thinking too hard, of course. The cones were in fact just cones and the cupcakes represented scoops of ice cream.

In my nine-year-old's defense, though, I've had more than one birthday cake that the observer had to think creatively about in order to understand.

Take last year's birthday cake of the 'red snake.'

I now realize that even after using an entire bottle of red food coloring in the frosting it still looked a little on the pink side. Which I mistakenly thought would look less pink once I smeared it on the snake-shaped cake.

I was wrong.

My 'red snake' looked like a pink 'S.' This turn of events forced me to spend the next couple hours convincing the birthday boy that his cake looked cool. Seven is a big deal in a boy's life, and the last thing he wanted to do was start out his new year blowing out candles on a pink cake. So of course I told him it didn't look pink at all--it looked like a very boy-looking light red.

It turned out that all my creative convincing was for naught, as one curious guest walked in the door and asked, "What's with the pink 'S?'"

This year, though, I was pumped when the cake looked surprisingly similar to the photo I found on the Internet.

But after my nine-year-old's comment, I realized I probably took some fun out of the Vandermay birthday tradition. Perhaps the kids and guests have always looked forward to guessing what my cake was supposed be.

Have no fear, kids. We will probably go back to those mystery cakes when the next birthday comes around.

Unless, of course, my older, much craftier sister decides to come up and decorate the cake for the next birthday, too.

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