Ice Cream Cake: A Birthday Tradition

February 10, 2022

I haven’t tasted or purchased an ice cream cake since my mother passed. Dairy Queen ice cream cake to be exact. It was our tradition. ‘Was’ and ‘our’ being the key words. Since she is no longer here (in the traditional sense) to buy this cake and continue the tradition, I don’t purchase or consume this special kind of cake anymore. 

It wouldn’t be the same without her. It just wouldn’t. 

Each year on my birthday she’d order me an ice cream cake from our local Dairy Queen, and not just any ice cream cake, one with extra icing. Extra-extra icing to be exact. She’d special order it for me, just the way I liked it. There is just something delicious about the unique flavor of ice cream cake icing. It’s different from regular icing. (Don’t disagree, this is a hill I’m willing to die on.) One year she special ordered the cake with icing roses covering the entire thing, a request that they’d never had before. A request made by a mother that wanted her daughter to have something traditional with an extra dose of love and intentionality. My mother loved me beautifully like that. 

So now, on birthdays, I find myself missing those cakes. Not because they are insanely tasty, which they are, but because it was from her. A constant. A tradition. An act of love. A birthday present I looked forward to each year. A piece of the past that fizzled when she died. A tradition of hers that evaporated the second she took her last breath. A piece of her, a responsibility of hers, that no one picked up. 

Those pieces of her are the ones I miss the most. The ones that are irreplaceable. The ones made special only by her. 

So now, birthdays look different, because everything looks different. And this year, this year is a big birthday, a milestone birthday, one people plan for and celebrate. One she won’t be here for and I desperately want her to be. I want to know how she’d mark this occasion. I want to know how she’d have made it special and unforgettable. 

I wouldn’t even need an ice cream cake if she’d just be here to say my name and tell me she loved me. Each year, as I grow older, I’m further from life when she was here. I transform further into a woman and mother and adult she never knew. How do you celebrate a milestone like that? I’m just not sure. 

Maybe it’s ice cream cake. 

Maybe this will be the year I’ll continue the tradition. Maybe I’m the one that’s supposed to carry her legacy and her customs, even if they’re meant for me. 

Maybe it’s no cake at all. 

Maybe it’s something that simply went with her. Something I’ll never do again. Something I want to keep ours, forever. 

It’s my decision to make and with the date on the calendar closing in, I’ll need to decide soon. 

Stay tuned, friends. Maybe this year they’ll be ice cream cake. 

xox, Chels 

***Pictured is my mother and grandmother on my mom’s 10th birthday. I found this picture and loved it so much I knew I had to use it.

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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