The Gap Theory

After gingerly putting the finishing touches on the cake I baked for baby Smiley’s baptism, I stepped back and took a good, long look at my creation.

I swiveled the cake stand from side to side. I crouched down to look at it at bench level and then stood on my tiptoes to get a view from above.

It didn’t matter what angle I looked at it from though, it was a Disaster with a capital D.

I let out a massive sigh, closed my eyes, and then inhaled deeply as I attempted to calm myself down. Surely when I opened my eyes the cake would somehow not appear that bad. It would somehow resemble the gorgeous creation in the Women’s Weekly cake book I was trying to replicate.

It didn’t.

All I saw when I opened my eyes was a huge, lopsided, blobby mess with wonky, coloured chocolate buttons all over it.

It looked nothing, I repeat, nothing like the picture in the cake book.

It had been one hell of a busy day full of baking, swimming lessons, washing, ironing, cleaning, and kid wrangling. I was exhausted. It was fair to say I was on the edge.

I had used over half a kilo of white chocolate on this bad boy. I’d baked two cakes. My hands were stained with food colouring, and the kitchen was a warzone. I’d given this cake my all.

I looked down to find myself clenching the sides of the cake stand. I used all of my strength to refrain from throwing it in the bin.

I texted my mum, my sister, and sister-in-law for backup.

This is when I learned about the Gap Theory.

‘Don’t stress,’ said my sister-in-law.

‘It’s the Gap Theory.

‘It’s the gap between expectations and reality.’

I stopped in my tracks. She was completely right. How had I never heard of this theory before?

When I chose the beautiful polka dot cake with white chocolate ganache out of the Women’s Weekly cake book, it didn’t cross my mind that I may not be able to recreate it.

I expected my version to look as good as the one in the book. I forgot that I am no Masterchef, I rarely bake, and have a bad track record with cakes. (With Curly-locks’ first birthday, Women’s Weekly told me I could easily make a beautiful number one cake. Instead, I made a cake which critics claimed resembled a giant penis). After hours of mixing, melting, colouring, piping and baking, I realised no amount of ganache could fix my monstrosity. I admitted defeat and was left devastated with the end product.

DSCF0262

The gap between expectation and reality was huge.

As I thought more about the Gap Theory, I realised it could be applied to so many areas of my life.

When I read Save Our Sleep and follow Tizzie Hall’s instructions to the tea, for example, I expect the end result to be a baby that will sleep from 7pm to 7am and never cry.

In reality, things could not be further from the truth and I am once again left disappointed and frustrated.

In another instance, I took a picture of Lauren Conrad to my hairdresser recently and asked her to make me look like LC.

When I came out looking like the same old me and nothing like LC at all, I was disappointed.

And here we are again, folks, that gap between expectation and reality.

In a couple of weeks, when I attempt to make Curly-locks a Snow White cake for her third birthday, I will firmly keep in mind the Gap Theory and try to be realistic with my expectations.

I’m no stranger to placing unrealistic expectations and unnecessary pressure on myself. When I don’t meet these expectations, I always feel as though I have failed. I need to remind myself that there is no such thing as failure though, it’s just a different method of learning.

(Plus, I’m sure those cakes in the cook books aren’t even real and are photoshopped beyond belief. Tizzie Hall has got to be kidding herself, and as for LC, she probably had 10 people working on her to make her look that good!) πŸ™‚

Can you apply the Gap Theory to events in your life? Do you also place unrealistic expectations on yourself?

66 comments on The Gap Theory

  1. Deb @ home life simplified
    July 9, 2013 at 7:08 am (4 years ago)

    I think your cake looks great btw. Also the versions you are trying to recreate are the perfect end results not the first attempts or fresh out of bed etc.xx

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 9:46 am (4 years ago)

      Thanks Deb πŸ™‚ Yes, I’d like to know how many times it took them to make their cakes look so good!

      Reply
  2. JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter)
    July 9, 2013 at 7:56 am (4 years ago)

    The gap theory – it makes perfect sense. Thank you, I’m gonna use this one a lot! And for the record, I don’t think your cake looks bad at all.

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 9:47 am (4 years ago)

      Thanks Jodi πŸ™‚ Yes, it’s an awesome theory isn’t it?! I just love it.

      Reply
  3. Alison @ The Thrifty Issue
    July 9, 2013 at 8:34 am (4 years ago)

    I love your GAP Theory! We often talk about “expectations”. It plays a huge part in our lives. If hubby is going to be late, it’s never a problem … unless he didn’t warn me early enough! It’s all about expectation! I find today’s world of reality tv shows (masterchef, the block etc) all raise our expectations to unrealistic levels. It’s a balance – raising expectations in the right area, and lowering them in others. Loved your blog, thanks Alison #IBOT

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 9:49 am (4 years ago)

      Thank you so much, Alison! It really is a balance and a hard one to master. I love how you mentioned your husband arriving home late. I totally understand that one and am exactly the same if I don’t get prior warning!

      Reply
  4. Jodi
    July 9, 2013 at 8:39 am (4 years ago)

    Your cake looks pefectly fine to me!! Mine would surely be more of a disaster! πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 9:50 am (4 years ago)

      Lol, thanks Jodi. If only you saw what it should have looked like then you would understand my despair πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. Claire
    July 9, 2013 at 9:16 am (4 years ago)

    Firstly – the cake looks great! Secondly, the writing in this article is brilliant and the topic – genius! It’s 9:15am & I can think of 3 examples of the Gap Theory I’ve experienced this morning!! So how to fix it?
    Ps – re Snow White cake – take a picture of Snow White to (its either Cold Rock or Baskins & Robbins) and get them to put it on an edible transfer. Plop said transfer into your iced cake – voila Snow White cake.
    Pps – we really need to see a photo if the number 1 cake now πŸ˜‰

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 9:52 am (4 years ago)

      Lol. Sounds like a great plan, Claire, but I stupidly showed my daughter a dolly varden style Snow White cake complete with fondant skirt that looks like it has proper folds in it and everything. Why, why, why do I do it to myself?! I’m so glad you liked the story. The gap theory is awesome isn’t it? I can apply it to almost everything. As for the original cake, I was going to include a pic but copyright makes it a little difficult πŸ™

      Reply
  6. Josefa @always Josefa
    July 9, 2013 at 9:40 am (4 years ago)

    The gap theory can also be called real life – what we see in books, pinterest, magazines and other forms we choose to torture our expectations with are made over and over and over again till perfected, then photographed over and over and over again till the perfect photo is achieved and then photoshopped over and over and over again because even that reality isn’t good enough. You made your daughter her baptism cake – that in itself speaks volumes to me, I think it is more important that you took time out of your crazy day to make her cake – it looks great and I’m sure tasted amazing – go easy on yourself when it comes to the third birthday – just remember, even Snow White has an entourage πŸ˜‰

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 9:54 am (4 years ago)

      Lol, Josefa! That is so true. I may need to employ some helpers for my next creation and remember that IRL we aren’t all brilliant bakers!

      Reply
  7. Yvette @ Little Bento Blog
    July 9, 2013 at 9:41 am (4 years ago)

    It looks like a great cake!! I am no good at ganache or polka dots!! I leave it up to my husband to take over.. even though I really want to perfect it.. its his department not mine πŸ™‚

    My son is now 2 and we have tried everything to get him to sleep from 7-7 we now have 6-5 with about a gazzillion wakeups in the night.. nothing we can change πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 9:56 am (4 years ago)

      Gosh, Yvette. That does not sound like fun at all. I really sympathise with you. As my Dad has told me a million times, kids aren’t robots and it doesn’t matter how many times you read ‘the book’ it won’t necessarily make a difference. I really hope that your son will outgrow it soon enough. Good luck πŸ™‚

      Reply
  8. Mel
    July 9, 2013 at 9:50 am (4 years ago)

    lol so true, after baby number 5 I lowered my expectations…and became a lot happy. The cake looks fine by the way

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 10:22 am (4 years ago)

      Thanks Mel. Whoa five kids. Yep, I don’t know if I could keep up this level of cake creating madness with five kids!

      Reply
  9. x Sarah Kate x (@SKK25)
    July 9, 2013 at 10:08 am (4 years ago)

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your cake! it look completely amazing an you are very talented! pffft womens day!!! Embrace the gap and be proud of that cake!!!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 10:28 am (4 years ago)

      Lol, Sarah! I am definitely going to embrace the cake hahaha!

      Reply
  10. Jodie@FreshHomeCook
    July 9, 2013 at 10:21 am (4 years ago)

    Your cake looks great Renee! I seen & made a lot worse!! I too am a huge proponent of Gap Theory – always critical of myself when I don’t get ‘text book’ results!! You’d be astounded at the tricks they use when food styling things – I know I was – so I always try to remember it’s not the look it’s the taste the counts & more often than not, if it’s made with love it’ll be pretty darn tasty!! πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 10:28 am (4 years ago)

      Very true, Jodie. This one was definitely made with oodles of love. People said it tasted good too, so I guess that’s the main thing πŸ™‚

      Reply
  11. Liz @ Clover Feet
    July 9, 2013 at 10:36 am (4 years ago)

    I think your cake looks awesome!

    And yes the gap theory… I blame Pinterest!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm (4 years ago)

      Ahh Liz. I really try to stay away from Pinterest!

      Reply
  12. Lisa@RandomActsOfZen
    July 9, 2013 at 10:39 am (4 years ago)

    Renee, you’ve just put a name to what I do to myself all the time…..the Gap Theory! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does this πŸ™‚
    Also, if I made a cake and it looked like yours, I would be super proud!!! xx

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm (4 years ago)

      Aw thanks, Lisa. Yes, I think we’re in good company. I’m sure almost everyone does this! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  13. Lisa@Circle of Toast
    July 9, 2013 at 11:44 am (4 years ago)

    Are you kidding, that cake looks great! At least it’s upright, mine are usually pancake-flat, sloped affairs that even the dog doesn’t get excited about.

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm (4 years ago)

      Lol, Lisa. Thanks πŸ™‚ It should be interesting to see what my next one looks like πŸ™‚

      Reply
  14. Becc
    July 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm (4 years ago)

    The gap theory is perfect. We all put way too much pressure on ourselves and when things don’t turn out the way they expected, then we are disappointed. Seriously, who can replicate something that an expert has taken years to perfect?
    I also thought the cake looked pretty good. I would never have guessed it was your first attempt.
    Becc @ Take Charge Now

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm (4 years ago)

      Thanks Becc πŸ™‚ Yes, I know pressure is a real killer and so unhealthy. I need to be a little easier on myself I think πŸ™‚

      Reply
  15. Sam Stone
    July 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm (4 years ago)

    I like your cake. I don’t even attempt to make them!
    Definitely can apply the Gap Theory to my life. Every day of my life in fact. Especially with kids!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm (4 years ago)

      That’s for sure, Sam! Thanks for dropping in πŸ™‚

      Reply
  16. Mrs Holsby
    July 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm (4 years ago)

    Dude, that cake looks delish!! I bet nobody gave cared about the slightly lopsided, quirky nature of it…..
    The Gap theory is exactly something I’ve been talking about with a friend recently….. the difference between the recipe in the picture and what you get especially.
    Great post.

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 7:43 pm (4 years ago)

      Thanks Mrs H. Yes, everyone said they loved it. They would want to with the amount of chocolate I put into it! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  17. Pip
    July 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm (4 years ago)

    OH MY LORD my whole life is the Gap Theory! thanks for naming it. Have to say your freaking cake looks phenomenal – I’d be happy with that tiny gap in my eyes!. Well done on that masterpiece. Bet it tasted sensational too πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm (4 years ago)

      Lol. Thanks Pip πŸ™‚ I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks their whole life is the gap theory haha!

      Reply
  18. EssentiallyJess
    July 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm (4 years ago)

    Never heard of the gap theory, but I like it! I also love your cake, and the best things about ‘dodgy’ homemade cakes is all the love that has gone into them

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm (4 years ago)

      That is so true. It was definitely made with love … and lots of chocolate πŸ™‚

      Reply
  19. Lisa
    July 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm (4 years ago)

    I’ve never heard it called The Gap Theory but it is ever present in my world. My lofty aspirations very rarely turn out to be recognisable in their reality. Sometimes I am embarrassed by how very far off mark I land but mostly, wherever I land is just fine too, as long as I can let go of the “But it should be this way…”mentality.

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 7:46 pm (4 years ago)

      Yes, it is so hard to let go of that mentality. Very hard. I was very embarrassed by this cake, but everyone laughed at how silly I was being. I’m glad I didn’t bin it!

      Reply
  20. Annaleis from Teapots and Tractors
    July 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm (4 years ago)

    The gap theory is what keeps me trying again…at least with birthday cakes. Though you should probably try the same cake over and over again like the professionals probably do. I make one never to be made again!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 7:47 pm (4 years ago)

      Yes, me too Annaleis. Although, with my daughter’s second birthday, after the penis cake debacle, I decided to do a trial run on her Peppa Pig cake and it was a winner. The answer may very well be keep trying!

      Reply
  21. Toni
    July 9, 2013 at 7:21 pm (4 years ago)

    Oh I love this gap theory! Im so guilty of putting too much pressure on myself. I always think if I dont do something perfect the first time then im a failure.

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 7:48 pm (4 years ago)

      Yes, it seems to be a problem that resonates with so many people. I think we all need to chill out a bit πŸ™‚

      Reply
  22. Emily @ Have a laugh on me
    July 9, 2013 at 8:20 pm (4 years ago)

    I used to place MAJOR expectations on myself, in fact tomorrow I’m going to do a WW blog with photos of birthday cakes I made, and can’t believe back then I didn’t appreciate how AWESOME they were.
    We need to cut ourselves some slack as mothers, otherwise life is way harder than it needs to be xx

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 10:01 pm (4 years ago)

      You’re exactly right. I can’t wait to see your past birthday cakes tomorrow!

      Reply
  23. Janet @ Redland City Living
    July 9, 2013 at 8:25 pm (4 years ago)

    I love the Gap Theory! Thank you for sharing! But … I wanted to see a picture of the cake that didn’t live up to the cookbook photos!!!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm (4 years ago)

      Lol. You are too kind, Janet πŸ™‚

      Reply
  24. Martine@themodernparent
    July 9, 2013 at 10:45 pm (4 years ago)

    I love this post and love the idea of the gap theory. I am sure we could all think of many examples…..although yours are pretty funny. I am quite certain LC has 10 people working on her do! I think Pinterest has a lot to answer for in creating lots of gaps between the pictures and the reality!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 10, 2013 at 9:49 am (4 years ago)

      Oh for sure, Martine! I try to stay away from Pinterest πŸ™‚

      Reply
  25. Me
    July 9, 2013 at 11:04 pm (4 years ago)

    I think we all are guilty of falling into the trap of The Gap !!! I have had attempts at cakes for K’s birthdays that never looked anything like the picture ! In the end I used to just get them made – it was less stressful for everyone !
    I also had that happen with hair cuts – I never realised that cutting my hair in the same style didn’t turn my face into that of a super model – I didn’t understand why but clearly it was The Gap Theory at work !!!
    BTW – I think that your cake looks absolutely delicious !!!
    Have the best day !
    Me

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 10, 2013 at 9:50 am (4 years ago)

      Lol. Thank you. Yes, that good ol Gap Theory. It gets you every time πŸ™‚

      Reply
  26. Naturally Carol
    July 13, 2013 at 11:59 am (4 years ago)

    I’m going to remember ‘the gap theory’… it fits my life too…however your cake looks pretty and good enough to eat!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm (4 years ago)

      Thank you, Carol πŸ™‚ And thanks for dropping in!

      Reply
  27. Maxabella
    July 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm (4 years ago)

    That Gap Theory has a lot of explaining to do if you think that cake doesn’t look great!!! x

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm (4 years ago)

      Lol πŸ™‚ Thanks Maxabella!

      Reply
  28. Jo@ Countrylifeexperiment
    July 13, 2013 at 9:03 pm (4 years ago)

    I’m sure your kids will love the cake no matter what. One year I did the most pathetic cake ever – and my kids still rave about how good it was.

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 14, 2013 at 9:45 am (4 years ago)

      Lol, Jo. It’s always the way isn’t it? πŸ™‚

      Reply
  29. Valerie
    July 14, 2013 at 6:08 am (4 years ago)

    The Gap Theory – love it!
    I think your cake is actually super cute (but I would’ve gotten a kick out of seeing your penis cake! lol).
    There used to be a large gap between the kind of homeschooling mom I wanted to be (unrealistic expections to the extreme) and the kind I was. We enjoyed life, but I was always feeling pressured to measure up! I definitely have relaxed over the years and don’t compare myself NEARLY as much to other homeschooling mamas…we all do things differently. Just like your cake. πŸ˜€

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 14, 2013 at 9:46 am (4 years ago)

      Very true, Valerie. I can imagine the pressure you must have placed on yourself as a homeschooling mum. I’ll glad you’ve lightened up on yourself now πŸ™‚

      Reply
  30. Tara@glutenfreehart
    July 15, 2013 at 11:49 am (4 years ago)

    Hi. I found myself chuckling along nodding in agreeance and basically embracing the gap theory – LOVE IT. It was a little bit of therapy reading that. Might share on my page if you don’t mind? It might help a few people with high expectations EXHALE. Have a great day

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 15, 2013 at 1:13 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Tara
      Sure, I’d love it if you shared it. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m off to check out your blog now πŸ™‚

      Reply
  31. Emily
    July 17, 2013 at 10:34 pm (4 years ago)

    Great post – I certainly was forced to apply the Gap Theory to my own Pumpkin’s first birthday cake… but still, I keep consoling myself with the Practice Makes Perfect mantra. And as long as I keep getting cakes wrong, I know I will always have a lovely supply of odd-looking yet delicious scraps to feast on – silver lining!!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 18, 2013 at 1:22 pm (4 years ago)

      Lol, Emily. That is definitely a silver lining!

      Reply
  32. Emily
    July 17, 2013 at 10:36 pm (4 years ago)

    I certainly was forced to apply the Gap Theory to my own Pumpkin’s first birthday cake… but still, I keep consoling myself with the Practice Makes Perfect mantra. And as long as I keep getting cakes wrong, I know I will always have a lovely supply of odd-looking yet delicious scraps to feast on – silver lining!! Great post.

    Reply
  33. JackieK
    July 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm (4 years ago)

    As someone who has found making these women’s weekly cakes quite difficult, I hear you! But you should know that the pictures in the books are of cakes that have been made by professionals and then the photos have been styled. Also, the cakes have got harder over the years; if you look at the original women’s weekly birthday cake book the cakes were all much simpler and homemade looking – no ganache, no rolled icing, etc.
    My daughters are turning 8 this year and I’ve told them no more of these cakes!

    Reply
    • mummywifeme
      mummywifeme
      July 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm (4 years ago)

      You know what, Jackie, that is so true! All of the cakes in the new book are elaborate looking cakes covered in fondant and delicate flowers etc. For the next event, I’m borrowing mum’s original women’s weekly πŸ™‚

      Reply
      • Jackie K
        July 23, 2013 at 11:46 pm (4 years ago)

        Definitely – the original ones are pretty easy! The latest book has cakes that are ridiculously hard if one is not a pastry chef!

        Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *