69: The Cake

69: The Cake

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

The Cake

In all of the wedding cake, hope is the sweetest of plums.

~Douglas Jerrold

Some women dream of the fairy-tale wedding: a future gem sparkling in silver and crystal wrapped in satin that shudders with quickened breath. I dreamed instead of a prince, and when I found him, I wanted to marry him with unseemly haste. He had a tux, I bought a dress off the rack two days before the wedding, and we ordered a small bouquet with a few corsages thrown in to assuage our conflicted families. I elected to make the cake myself.

The cake was to be the pièce de résistance, an outward channeling of the joy I felt. I pored over recipes, dog-earing candidates, and mulling combinations. I filed recipes in neat rows upon the small countertops in the even smaller Boston apartment — possibilities that were scented with vanilla and dusted with cake flour, casualties of incessant testing. I finally settled on an ethereal white cake, filled with thin layers of vibrant lemon curd and tangy raspberry, topped with rich butter cream frosting and adorned with a crown of edible purple pansies.

In the days before the wedding, I channeled my nervous anticipation in the kitchen. One day, it was stirring the gentle figure eights, cutting ribbons through seas of thickening curd. Another day, it was the earthy sourness of warming raspberry sauce that took me back to the sun-dappled tangle of my mother’s patch. On the day before the wedding, I made the butter cream, drizzling hot sugar into golden eggs and pretending I didn’t know about the pound of butter that followed. I filled and iced my cake, secure in my knowledge that we could feast on a little slice of heaven to celebrate our day in the clouds. I capped my confection with the lid that accompanied the cake stand and placed it in the refrigerator to await the morning.

I awoke on the day of my wedding with a mental list of things to do. The apartment buzzed with voices and sounds, and I buzzed with nervous energy. My mother, sister and I visited as we did our make-up and hair. Having made myself pretty, I went to the kitchen to do the same to my cake.

The wail brought my sister to the kitchen, and together we surveyed the disaster that had once been my joy. Overnight, the delicious butter cream had hardened to mortar and permanently sealed my masterpiece to the glass dome of the cake stand. Short of a chisel, I could not think of a single way to extricate my cake. With head bowed and tears threatening, my sister — ever the pragmatist — announced with cheery confidence, “Let’s get the blow dryer. We can get it out.” The cake received more primping that morning than I did. We fussed, blew, and slowly spun the cake stand until that pound of butter loosened its resolve and started to slide away.

Eschewing tradition, the groom (who was our ride to the wedding) peeked into the kitchen. I looked up from my protective hunch over the cake, dressed only in a ratty robe with a death grip on a blow dryer, and tried to smile. He tried not to. “Looks like you have everything under control,” he pronounced with nodding solemnity. “I’ll wait on the couch.”

A hot spatula and the flowers disguised any lingering after-effects of the cake’s near-death experience as it stood, coverless, on the now infamous cake stand. A few minutes in front of the mirror restored my spirits, and I emerged from my room gowned and ready for the day’s festivities.

As we walked to the car, my mother snapped my favorite picture of the wedding. To the unknowing eye, it shows a happy couple holding hands with a family member trailing behind, smiling a serene smile and carrying the wedding cake. I know the difference. The groom isn’t just smiling; he’s laughing. The joy on my face reads more like relief. And my sister’s Mona Lisa smile? It looks like pure triumph to me.

It was delicious.

~Jill Fisher

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