My baby girl, my only girl, my second baby, turned one a week ago.

smiley elena

First birthdays, someone told me, are about wine and cake. Sounds good to me. But no one wanted wine. Still water was popular and everyone liked the peach/tomato/mozzarella combo on toasted baguette. The giraffe cake was a hit.

A First Birthday Giraffe Cake

I used Marian Keyes’ Victoria Sandwich recipe for the sponge cake, then cut out the sides/corner to get the shape. A cake-maker friend once told me her secret for icing cut cake: freeze it. So, I iced the frozen cake with lemon butter icing then did spots/mane with chocolate icing.

I wanted a furry-look so added chocolate hail (or the Dutch version: hagel slag) and grated white chocolate. The nostril is a reese’s piece. The eye is two pieces of candied fruit, cut to shape, and a reese’s piece atop… The horns are the wafer/cookie tube things you get commonly with ice cream here. In the packet they’re called ‘cigarettes’. The ears are orange creams.


I’ve never had much luck with fondant icing and much prefer the taste of the messy butter/sugar stuff. So there it is. A rival to the ganache-coated monkey cake Louis got for his first birthday.

We probably had as many guests as we did for Louis’ first birthday too, which is a nice testament to how well we’ve settled here. We’ve lived in France for less than 18 months and are blessed with lots of friends. The ratio of kids to adults is, however, steadily increasing. It was chaos. I didn’t organise a single game or activity but pass the parcel with kids under three is a bit of a farce, especially outside of a solid pass-the-parcel-playing culture.

We (over)ate, (under)drank, Elena slowly but surely unwrapped her presents (party dresses, a magna doodle and an aqua doodle – brilliant), we sang and coaxed her to blow out her candle (till the breeze did the job) and then we ate some more.

slowly but surely unwrappingthe slow ripper

magna-doodle yum

a pen that’s safe to eat…

cake and song

Elena enjoying her cake…
while Louis sings her endless refrains of ‘Happy Birthday to you.’

Her actual birthday was a week ago. We had cake then too, of the regular round (lemon-yoghurt) variety.

regular cake (lemon yoghurt)

Louis and I baked that in the morning and in the afternoon, we dropped Louis at halte garderie, then Mum and I took the birthday girl to Paris.

IMG_4112En route to halte garderie.

Elena dozed while we walked around Ile de Cité, through the old flower markets, and when she woke up we had lemonade and smoothies at a very Parisian cafe before completing our tour of the island.

flower markets, ile de citeThe flower markets

elena and me in parisWaiting for our long and cool drinks.

She got a few special presents from Gran (fantastic knitted clown, difficult elephant puzzle, excellent bedtime story book) on the actual day, and our online purchase arrived on time (whew) – a trolley for pushing about.

trolley to push (and build)

She’s turned eager-walker in the last ten days-ish, so that’s good timing. She’s still very wobbly, but keen and in fact wants me to take her for a lap around the house right now, so I’ll leave this here.