Birthday Cake

Missy O'Neal
Salt Flats
Published in
4 min readDec 1, 2021


A birthday cake that is homemade and a bit rough around the edges.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Birthday Cake

I take a deep breath and read the back of the cake mix box. My legs feel steady for the moment. A good thing for baking, I think as I reach above me for the vegetable oil. Staying balanced, I sort through the shelf on the tips of my toes. My right leg shakes a bit, but I find what I need. A sigh of relief escapes me as I plant my heels back on the ground.

Ella is going to love this cake when I’m done. I limp towards the fridge. I pull out the carton of eggs and turn to the counter too quickly, but I catch myself. Damn it, leg! Keep going, you can do it. Just breathe through this. Steady now.

I open the egg carton. Whew, none broke. Okay how many eggs do I need? Three? Yeah I need three. Cracking two against each other, the insides spill into the mixing bowl. Okay, good. No shells in the bowl. The third egg slips, and yellow yolk spreads across the floor. Ugh. I don’t need this today. Grabbing some paper towels, I sit down to wipe up the egg. The slimy texture sends a creeping shiver of revulsion down my spine as I move my fingers in a wave to dispel it. Time to get up and finish the rest before Ella gets home, which should be in an hour. I grab the counter and focus my weight on my left leg. One, two, three, and up. I crack the last egg against the bowl without incident. I’m getting closer.

I move across the kitchen to the far cabinet for the glass measuring cups. I hold the counter as I move to the sink. The image of my nephew using the couch to walk without falling popped into my mind. Shame I don’t have his energy. My lower back locks and screams as I bend to make sure the water measurement is right. Close enough, even as a voice in my head screams. I know better than this.The bakery would have never let you get away with imprecise measurements. Do you want to screw up the whole cake?

It’s okay, I remind myself. The cake will still turn out fine. It will be fine. I move on before my inner voices can keep arguing. I can do this.

I need scissors for the powdered cake mix. There is no way I can open this bag without them. I take it slow this time. I don’t need a repeat of the eggs. Leaning against the counter, I make sure I have all the ingredients. Time to mix. Shoot, the oven isn’t preheating. Beep, beep, beep to 350 degrees, right? My eyes lose focus as I check for the baking temperature on the box.

Ella’s going to be home before the cake is done. Ugh, just keep going. Staring at the clock won’t get it done any faster. My legs feel like lead as I haul out the mixer. My right foot begins a little jig, making balancing difficult. Sweat stings my eyes before I pull up my shirt to wipe it away. My breath is ragged but I’m so close. Mix, pour, bake. Mix, pour, bake. Mix, pour, bake. The list continues in my mind like a motivational chant.

I put the beaters in the mixer, then plug it in. I set a timer and brace the mixer against the bows as it beats for a whole minute. Gotta add air to the batter. Can’t skimp on the mixing time. Don’t forget. Salty sweat stings my eyes again. Come on, I’m almost done. The timer dings — time to stop. A smooth batter sits in front of me. My heart feels lighter, seeing a good silky batter. Almost done. I bend down to grab a glass pan, clutching the counter to support me. Just need to get out the cake pan without breaking it. I close my eyes. Deep breaths, wait for the weight behind them to pass. Hold it together brain. Just think of Ella’s smile, and it will all be worth it.

The oven beeps. That gets me moving. My limbs fight each movement as I pour the batter in the pan. Damn it, I forgot to spray the pan. Too late now. The batter smooths under the force of the spatula. Thank you arms for cooperating. I open the oven and put the pan in. Set the timer for 32 minutes. My kid should be home any minute. Guess who gets to lick the bowl now?

Finally, it’s time to sit down. I find the avocado plush keychain that carries my pills.The tremors are strong and constant. The mixing bowl has to wait. My leg has to stay straight out shaking in front of me as I swallow my medicine. I close my eyes, will my world stop spinning.

I’ve only just started to treat myself to the bowl when my kid comes home. “Can I have some?”

“Sure kiddo. Happy Birthday!”

“Thanks Mom! Did you have a good day?”

“Yeah, Ella.” I plaster a smile on my face, hoping to hide my exhaustion. “Your cake is in the oven.”

Ella’s face brightened as she sat in the chair next to me. She wrapped her arms around me and said, “Thanks Mom, I love you.” Ella grabs the spoon and scrapes it against the bowl. Her eyes close as she licks the spoon clean. “Mmmm, can’t wait to taste the cake with sprinkles. We got chocolate frosting right?”

I can feel my medicine kicking in, the world feeling less harsh. “Yep. Chocolate frosting with rainbow sprinkles.”



Missy O'Neal
Salt Flats

Disabled writer using her skills to make life better for disabled people.