Lemon-Champagne Cake for a Sourpuss

When I was first introduced to Grumpy Cat via the magical powers of the internet, I knew I had found my animal soulmate. That tiny frowny face expressed so much of my life philosophy with one look; as my friend Kristen said recently, I have a policy against many things. On the “NO” list of my life? Spas and massages, bachelorette parties and shower-type celebrations, children, driving at night, wearing flip-flops on airplanes, surprises of any kind. That last one goes double on my birthday.

grumpy cat hates your birthday
Friends and family misconstrue the reasons I don’t like to acknowledge my birthday. I’m not sad about getting older; I’m actually pretty proud of everything I’ve accomplished so far. I just don’t want everyone in the world looking at me for no reason at all. Being the center of attention turns me into a sullen teenager. I want to throw on a huge pair of sunglasses, hide behind my hair, do anything to turn the harsh spotlight of eyes on me in another direction. Compound that with the awkwardness of being forced to open presents in front of a crowd and I become a snappish, embarrassed mess. I would rather strip to a towel in front of a stranger and have them touch my naked back with oily hands.

Don’t get me wrong; I do love living high on the hog, and I have no problem finding excuses to spend money on myself. I just don’t feel others should reward me for the simple fact of my existence. So every year on my birthday I end up grumpy, exhausted, and disappointed after a day of forced smiles and recognition. The greatest gift anyone could give me (apart from cold, hard cash, which I can use to buy the perfect present, because I alone know what I want) is to let me sleep in, watch TV, eat junk food, and ignore the constant stream of emails and deadlines for a day. Kind of like Kevin in Home Alone, only without the need to burn Joe Pesci’s head with a blowtorch.

lemon champagne cake
But this year’s birthday is kind of a big one, and I thought it was high time to come to terms with my ambivalence about the whole “it’s your special day” thing. So I did what any food-loving misanthrope would do: I made a cake for myself, by myself, in the exact flavors I wanted, and ate it myself. (This may be culinary payback for the year that a well-meaning but inept co-worker staged a birthday coup with a strawberry-chocolate ice cream cake, two great tastes that do not taste great together in my book, and a conference room full of co-workers yelling “SURPRISE!” As Grumpy Cat would say, NO.)

Though you really can’t taste the Champagne flavor in the cake below, I like knowing it’s there—and the bubbles help create a delicate, moist crumb. If you’re serving this to kids and are concerned about the teensiest, tiniest potential for them to consume alcohol, just substitute seltzer. But don’t skimp on the intensely tart lemon curd, since it cuts the sugary richness of the frosting. I’d rather have sour and tart than full-on sweet anyway, and it’s my damn cake.

lemon champagne cake
I’m going to eat a cold slice of lemon cake for breakfast now. Not because it’s my birthday, but because I think it tastes better that way.

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  1. says

    My birthday is the ides of March and for the first 25 of them, I had epic catastrophes happen (from illness to ER trips, rejection letters to car accidents). The one “surprise” birthday party I had (my sweet 16), no one showed up [surprise!]. So, I’ve taken to skipping on parties and dinners and just taking the day off from work to do whatever it is I want [this year may very well involve mimosas for breakfast and this cake–I love lemon curd]. I give you major kudos for baking your own cake; the one time I tried that, it nearly fell apart. I hope you enjoy your day of whatever it is you feel like doing.

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Wowzers, you have actual legitimate reasons to avoid your birthday! I salute your decision to take the day off and do your thing for the day; as soon as I meet all my looming assignment deadlines, I plan on doing just that too.

  2. says

    Why, I actually have half a bottle of Prosecco in the fridge from the weekend (and am trying not to drink during the week because of my insomnia). Dessert during the week, however, is NOT off-limits. Regardless of whether there isn’t a birthday to be celebrated in our house for another 6 months! (P.S. LOVE the Grumpy Cat!)

  3. says

    So, I have a present for you, and I’ll be completely honest: It’s not a birthday present. James and I found it and got it weeks ago just as a “Yo, friend, we’re really proud of your book and everything you accomplished!” sorta thing, plus it’s very funny. We planned to give it to you at your book party, but it took weeks to ship. I just wanted to put that out there, because honestly? You’ve done well hiding your birthday from me. I had no idea it was today. So I will simply say, gorgeous cake, exactly my kind of thing, and I love you. Not just today, but every day. :)

  4. says

    Happy Birthday, Casey! I’m with Amber, I had no idea either. Kudos on making your own cake – it’s a beauty.

    All the best for the year ahead. I hope you get that down day soon.

  5. says

    Happy birthday! My husband is the same exact way about his birthday, which was last week. Love your take and that you made what you wanted for you! And I love grumpy cat!

  6. says

    Happy Birthday! I was a serious grump on my birthday last year. I didn’t even make myself a cake. I think this year I will make this cake and that ought to improve what is often a bleak day in April. Here’s to a wonderful year ahead of you!! So happy to have found your corner of the web here and get to “know” you.

  7. Barbara Kolesar says


    Very interesting reading about your feelings about “things” especially recognizing birthdays. Maybe that’s in the Statler DNA or at least mine because I’m exactly the same way especially at work (family is okay). Knowing this and knowing me, my co-workers catch themselves when they begin to utter the words “Happy Birth —–” then correct themselves by saying Happy Unday! So after reading your article, I was going to remember you today, although today is almost over, but respectfully I won’t.

    Aunt Barbara

  8. says

    Ha! You are certainly sneaky; I didn’t even know I missed your birthday until I came here to catch up on your posts. Happy belated birthday anyway! I’m glad you enjoyed your cake; it looks perfect and I hope you got your lazy day off. :-)