Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Cavalcade of Cakes

The woman on the right is on the verge of turning 36. That's the Colliseum behind her. The woman on the left will turn 62 on Friday. The years go by! Behind the woman on the left, the window of Montmartre restaurant on Capitol Hill.

Right around my birthday, I get in a mood for cake. It's odd on many levels, also makes sense - at least metaphorically.

I don't get along with cake. I'm very picky. Even when it's a great cake, I often have trouble digesting it. Bread, cake, cookies - I'm not allergic to the combination of wheat and leavening exactly, but it isn't good for me. Cake does not sit well with me.

Most of the year I don't even think about it, let alone decide to have a slice for desert in a restaurant. My many cake pans, for most of the year, collect dust at the back of a remote kitchen cabinet.

Come January, for reasons I can not explain, suddenly I find myself flipping through cookbooks, thinking about cake. And then it begins.

  1. a formal procession of people walking, on horseback, or riding in vehicles.
    "bystanders cheered as the cavalcade passed by"

I bake cakes, I buy cakes, I order cakes. And I eat cakes, never the whole thing, mind you. Even with the best cakes I will only eat a slice or two, because I know it won't make me feel good, and also because of my picky attitude; I get quickly bored by cake. I give most of my cakes away, to clients, neighbors and friends. The people who work in the dentist's office upstairs at some point asked me to stop bringing cake up there. They are all careful about what they eat. But most people are happy recipients, especially of home baked cake. It is rather special.

When the cake is really bad, I throw it out. I threw out a couple of cakes this time around, prompting a friend to call me the Cake Executioner. Oh man, I love that title.

Sour cream, pear, almond and cardamom coffee cake. Yum.

What is it about cake? It's kind of retro especially right now when gluten is seen as the devil incarnate. I like flying in the face of popular culture. I'm such a contrarian.

Cake is special, a luxurious confection. It's a celebration of richness, sweetness and texture, which is why it's traditional at birthdays, weddings, graduations, retirement parties and such. Every kind of cake goes with champagne.

Every kind of cake also goes well with tea and coffee, hence is an excellent breakfast. A celebration at breakfast. I like it.

This one was way too sweet. A gold cake with lemon buttercream.
I tossed this one in the trash without regret.

Grand Marnier chocolate chip buttermilk coffee cake. It was good.

A friend suggested that my annual affair with cake has something to do with yearning for the lushness of spring and summer during the gray, dreary, bitter dregs of winter. That's interesting.

It's also traditional to celebrate the Feast of Bridgid (Groundhog Day) by eating foods that include grains and eggs, i.e. cake! At this time of year in Northern Europe, the first sprouts of wheat appear, and the birds begin to build their nests. A wonderful idea, that I'm inadvertently celebrating the feast day of one of my very most dear goddesses, by eating cake in February. I am happy to oblige the goddess! Of course.

This was so good! Buttermilk layer cake, not too sweet. The filling was cream, whipped until stiff, with raspberries and whisper of cinnamon, a whisper of sugar. The ganache is bittersweet chocolate. For me this was the perfect metaphor cake as well as being the most delicious so far. The filling represents the promise of spring while the bittersweet topping represents the pall of the remaining weeks of winter. I'm proud of this one.

Friday is my birthday. I've ordered a cake for the day. Friends will stop by for a slice and a cup of coffee or tea during the afternoon. After that, I will put away the cake pans and recipes. After Friday, I will no longer be interested in cake. After my birthday I turn towards spring. Cake is my springboard into spring.

Let there be cake and then please, let spring begin to show itself. May it be so!

This is the triple chocolate cake that will arrive Thursday from Red Truck Bakery. 


  1. This has been a cavalcade of cakes for sure! I love that you do this. "Cooking for one?" Phooey on that. All of these cakes are gorgeous, but if I had to choose one slice I would take it from the buttermilk layer cake. And if I were upstairs from you I might have been open to secretly digging that lemon buttercream out of your trash because it sounds divine.

    1. Phooey on that indeed. You can't cook for one except at breakfast. I eat leftovers, or invite people over.

      Throwing the cake in the trash was satisfying. I've been known to throw disastrous attempt to cook or bake in the trash along with whatever I was using to prepare them. Once I also threw away the cookbook I was using. Supremely satisfying at the time, but now I miss the cookbook.

  2. The layer cake was really great - the second layer cake, should say. I have high hopes for the Red Truck Bakery triple chocolate cake that will be baked tomorrow and delivered on Thursday.

  3. Happy birthday, Reya! I thought your birthday was already past, having kept up with some of your cake adventures on Facebook. :) I am always intrigued by how complicated this interaction with cake becomes for you.