Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kicking off our "Bake Off"

Lianne Best wrote about her chocolate pound cake gone lopsided in a “Mom on the Run” column.  Now there’s a “Bake Off” challenge on the Write by the Rails website to see how many cake stories we can raise.  Have you got a cake story?  Email it to  

Cindy Brookshire's Cake Story

My cake story involves kiwis and strawberries, an old girlfriend turned chef, a trip getting out of a car and a drunk, all on the night before my wedding.

No, this isn’t about my wedding cake. That was a three-layer spice cake with cream cheese frosting, chosen by Martin and I and baked by Manassas Bakery. We’d met at a party he threw to celebrate his tax return, but all his UVA friends knew he threw it to meet women. He was 25, practicing law in Manassas. I was visiting Northern Virginia for my nephew’s baptism, and was invited, since he and my brother-in-law were Assistant Scoutmasters for a Fairfax troop. I lived in Winston-Salem and worked at a TV station. Martin had not only gotten his law degree from Wake Forest, he’d also once saved Bunny Hipps, a camera operator at the TV station, from a tubing incident on the Yadkin River. With these North Carolina connections, and one really great kiss, love bloomed. We dated a year long distance, then he and his friend “Beetle” Bailey moved all my furniture to my sister’s. I found a corporate job in McLean, and we were engaged shortly after that.

Now, the cake in my story was in a small white box, handed to me by the mother of Martin’s former girlfriend the night before our wedding. His ex was a chef, and this was her present to us. As much as I told myself not to be jealous of the past or let it affect me, it did. After all, she came from a wealthy family with connections that could have assured his future. I had neither. She was part of the UVA alumni who had bonded with their shared memories. I was an outsider. This cake, for me, represented what could have been, instead of what was.

My sister and I lifted the lid to take a peek. Inside was a delicate round confection enveloped in white frosting and ringed with alternating slices of kiwi and strawberries. A fresh-baked sugary scent wafted up.  I closed the lid and carried the box out to my sister’s car. It felt heavier than its actual weight; as if I beheld the warm heart of a slaughtered deer and was about to pass it off to the Queen as the heart of Snow White.

He’s never going to see this cake, was my fleeting thought. Whatever her true intentions, I didn’t want to be the messenger.

Luckily, fate intervened. As I exited the car, the box really did slip, and landed with a dull thwump upside down on the pavement. We stood there paralyzed, first by horror and then by laughter. Finally I bent over and flipped it. We went inside my sister’s kitchen and opened the box. Since the thwump and the flip were two solid motions, it hadn’t fared badly. My sister got a knife and carefully shifted any fruit that went askew, touched up the frosting and put the box in the refrigerator.

The next morning, my sister called from the kitchen, “Who ate the cake?” I went to see, and clearly, half was gone. My brother-in-law later confessed that after drinking at the bachelor party, he got the munchies and helped himself, sorry. Fate intervened again.

I can’t remember if Martin ever had any of the cake, so lovingly prepared. Our wedding day was full of other matters to attend to, including my cousin in her orange bathrobe, modeling the long wedding veil I had sewn by hand. As she turned, she revealed my mother’s fatal error; in trying to press it, she had burned the pattern of the iron into the netting. We laughed, spread it on the dining room table, cut a shorter veil, and called it the desired imperfection to a perfect day. But that’s another story!

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