The poem is quite simple, written in easy-to-read language that’s suitable for all poetry lovers. The poet also chose to use interesting examples of onomatopoeias in order to describe certain experiences and feelings, something that’s also very common in children’s poetry. Readers may also find that despite the poem’s length, it moves quite quickly. This is due in part to the poet’s use of short, to-the-point lines in ‘Chocolate Cake.’
Explore Chocolate Cake
‘Chocolate Cake’ by Michael Rosen is a long children’s poem that describes how much a young boy loved chocolate cake.
The poem starts with a general description of what eating chocolate cake was like when the speaker was a child. He still loves it today, but not as much as he did as a boy. He remembers one time when he was young, sneaking downstairs to have a bite of chocolate cake in the middle of the night. He couldn’t control himself and ended up eating the entire thing. His mother found out the next morning and scolded him for it.
Structure and Form
‘Chocolate Cake’ by Michael Rosen is a thirty-six-line poem that is divided into very uneven stanzas. Some are as short as one line or a few words, and others are ten or more lines long. There is no recognizable pattern to the long and short stanzas, but it’s also important to note that the poet was likely hoping readers would be added emphasis on the single-line stanzas that stand out from the rest. By isolating a single line, it usually has more importance than those around it.
Throughout this poem, the poet uses a few literary devices. They include:
- Imagery: a description like: “is all shiny and it cracks as you / bite into it, / and there’s that other kind of icing in / the middle.”
- Alliteration: the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “licking my lips.”
- Rhetorical Question: for example, “there’s always a creaky floorboard, isn’t there?”
- Epistrophe: the use of the same word or phrase at the end of multiple lines. For example, “I’ve eaten the lot. / The whole lot.”
Stanzas One and Two
I love chocolate cake.
And when I was a boy
and lick your lips
oh it’s lovely.
The first and second stanzas of this Rosen poem are three and twenty lines each, respectively. The first tells the reader a few things. When the speaker was a boy, he loved chocolate cake. This is especially important considering the title and the fact that these lines are isolated in the first stanza.
Readers also learn that the speaker is no longer a boy; he’s grown up and is likely writing/narrating this poem as an adult.
The speaker remembers what it was like growing up and having his mother make a chocolate cake. He loved to eat it, and she always told him that they could save it for the next day. She wrapped it in foil, and he took it to school, no doubt looking forward to eating it all day long.
He would sit by himself, he said, at recess and enjoy his piece of chocolate cake. The last lines of the second are entirely devoted to a description of the experience of eating cake. These lines are rich with imagery and repetition. It’s very clear that the speaker, even as a child was very aware of how wonderful the experience was. This is something that readers can infer has continued into adulthood.
Stanzas Three – Six
once we had this chocolate cake for tea
and later I went to bed
crept out of the door
there’s always a creaky floorboard, isn’t there?
The speaker moves away from describing himself at recess, enjoying a piece of cake, and back to his home where, after dinner and dessert, he finds himself still thinking about the leftover chocolate cake that he wants to enjoy.
This lasted until he was in bed trying to go to sleep and still smiling and licking his lips, thinking about the delicious cake. It was something that entirely consumed him as a child, and because of his youth, he didn’t have the ability to resist sneaking out of bed, going downstairs while everyone else was asleep, and trying to get another bite of cake.
The sixth stanza is an example of a rhetorical question. The speaker uses it for emphasis rather than with the intention of actually getting an answer. It emphasizes the fact that when one is trying to be quiet, there always seems to be a creaky part of the floor that gives them away.
Stanzas Seven – Eleven
Past Mum and Dad’s room,
careful not to tread on bits of broken toys
and put them into my mouth.
The narrative follows the speaker through the house, as he tries and fails to avoid stepping on a Lego piece, and downstairs into the kitchen where the cake is “all shining.” This is a repetitive symbol in this poem. It connects the cake to something valuable and beautiful and, therefore, desirable.
The poet uses an example of onomatopoeia in this part of the poem when he writes, “yowwww / shhhhhhh.” The “yowwww” refers to the sound he would make when he stepped on a piece of lego, and the “shhhh” to his own impulsive shushing of himself to avoid waking his family. The same thing happens in stanza eleven with “oooooooommmmmmmmm.”
This phrase represents the young boy’s enjoyment of the chocolate cake. He scoops up the crumbs on the plate, using his finger to put them into his mouth and enjoying every moment.
Stanzas Twelve – Twenty
I look again
and on one side where it’s been cut,
into the mouth.
Stanza twelve is another interesting one in this poem; the poet writes, “nice.” This is another response to the chocolate cake. It’s so satisfying that all he can say is, “nice.” As readers might’ve assumed, the young boy’s enjoyment of the cake doesn’t stop at cleaning up the crumbs. He notices the edge of the cake looks crumbly, so he uses the knife to clean that up. This is something that many readers are likely going to relate to. It’s easy to pick and pick at a dessert until the entire thing is gone.
Finally, the young boy loses control over his impulses and puts an entire piece of cake into his mouth.
Stanzas Twenty-one – Thirty
Oh the icing on top
I know. I’ll wash the plate up,
and the knife
and put them away and maybe no one
will notice, eh?
‘And don’t forget to take some chocolate cake with you.’
I stopped breathing.
The young boy can’t stop himself now. He takes bite after bite and slice after slice. He crams it all into his mouth, knowing that he shouldn’t, but it’s “so nice.” There was no way that he could stop himself now. The use of “pig” and later “stealing” is meant to emphasize how the young boy gave over to his base desires and put all thought of self-control behind him.
The young boy eats the entire cake and is suddenly faced with a major issue— what to do about the lost chocolate cake. He decides to wash the plate and all the utensils, hoping that in the morning, no one will notice that the cake is ever even there.
His mother tells him, as he leaves for school, that he should take some cake with him. This makes the child freeze up, with guilt and fear of getting in trouble, and surprises his mom. This isn’t a reaction that she was expecting from him.
Stanzas Thirty-one – Thirty-five
‘What’s the matter,’ she says,
When? When did you eat it?’
So I told her,
The young boy is scared of what’s going to happen if his mother finds out that he ate the entire cake in the middle of the night. He’s not breathing. He’s so scared, and suddenly, his worst fear comes true. His mother sees the bit of chocolate on his face and infers what happened. It’s clear from these lines that had eaten the chocolate cake is not something that his mother is going to be happy to hear. She’s not exactly going to approve of this nighttime snacking.
He confesses, indicated by the poet’s use of the phrase “So I told her,” which is isolated in stanza thirty-five.
and she said
well what could she say?
Maybe she’ll forget about it by next week.
The final stanza of this children’s poem is one of the longest. It concludes the text quite simply. The speaker knows that after hearing what her son did, there was nothing really that the mother could say. She told him that she wasn’t going to give him any more cake to take with him to school and to go wash his “dirty sticky face” before he left.
The last lines include the young boy’s hope that his mother is going to forget about what he did in a week or so, and perhaps she’ll make him some more cake.
The main themes of this poem are self-control and childhood. The young boy has no self-control when it comes to dessert, particularly chocolate cake.
‘Chocolate Cake’ is a narrative children’s poem. The text is quite simple and focused on the actions of a young boy who indulges his love of chocolate cake in the middle of the night.
The Michael Rosen children’s poem ‘Chocolate Cake’ is about how much a young boy loved chocolate cake and how one time he ate an entire cake in the middle of the night.
The meaning is that when it comes to things you love, it can be hard or impossible to control one’s impulses. Sometimes, the poem suggests, it’s not worth controlling oneself at all.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘The Pig’ by Ogden Nash – is a short four-line poem that humorously talks about the pig.
- ‘Dirty Face’ by Shel Silverstein – contains numerous amusing explanations, from a child speaker, as to the source of their dirty face.
- ‘Television’ by Roald Dahl – describes in outrageous detail the dangers of television and what a parent can do to save their child.