I love cake. Okay, I love all baked goods, but cake is the best. It was my favorite part of all my parents’ weddings. It’s STILL my favorite part of every wedding. I do enjoy the dancing now that I bring my own partner, but while I’m dancing with Andy, I’m totally eyeing that four-tiered, fabulous, elaborate, fondant-covered wedding cake in the corner.
I was certainly cake scoping when we went to the wedding of Andy’s Chronically Late Cousin and her man Bubba. The wedding cake was several tiers high. I could see it on the corner of the dance floor. I used it to spot on multiple turns.
I saw it again as we chasséd by. Oh, beautiful cake, I thought. What hides under your creamy exterior? Lemon? Chocolate? Mocha with french cream filling? Perhaps each tier is different. As Andy led me away, I gave the cake a smoldering last glance over my shoulder. Soon, my hungry eyes promised. Soon you will be mine.
“Honey, stop looking at the cake,” Andy complained. “You’re drooling on my tie.”
“Sorry. Can we get closer? I’m trying to figure out if the frosting is buttercream or fondant.”
“Which is more expensive?”
Andy snorted and steered me further away from the seductive call of the cake. “It’s my cousin and they just bought a house. What do you think?”
“Do you think the tiers are different flavors?” I asked, as Andy dipped me.
“Huh. Depends on whether my cousin or Bubba was in charge of the cake.”
“I hope it was Bubba.” Bubba is from Oklahoma. At family dinners, Bubba and I commiserated over the lame oranges that the Chinese try and pass off as dessert.
The music changed to a slow song, and I caught another glimpse of the wedding cake as Andy pulled me close. Be chocolate, Mr. Wedding Cake. Please be chocolate.
I nestled against Andy’s shoulder and whisper, “Love you.”
“Nice try. I know you’re just wiping your face on my suit again.”
After an eternity, Bubba and Andy’s Chronically Late Cousin cut the cake. It was boring yellow, but still good. I devoured my piece and pulled Andy back on the dance floor. Halfway through the song, I noticed that other guests had chocolate cake.
“Look!” I hissed at Andy, nodding my head at the lucky guests.
“Huh,” he shrugged. “Two flavors. Not too shabby.”
“But we got stuck with yellow!”
“Maybe they’ll be some extra.”
“I can’t get a second piece!”
“If I get extra cake, all your relatives will shake their heads and whisper in Cantonese about how I’m fat or pregnant.”
When we took a break, Andy disappeared. He reappeared later, carrying a plate with a big piece of chocolate cake. He offered to “share” it with me, and then let me eat the whole thing. As I savored my cake (yes! french cream filling!), I pondered two of life’s mysteries:
- Why can men get second helpings without fear of censure?
- Why does chocolate taste so much better than vanilla?
I decided that the answer to #1 was “A double-standard based in an outdated patriarchal system where a woman’s worth is equal to her attractiveness.” The answer #2 didn’t really matter. It was just a sweet fact of life.
When the time came to pick out our own wedding cake, Andy balked. “It costs HOW MUCH?!”
“Okay,” I amended hastily, “so maybe we don’t go with the adorable seasonal cake that looks like three pumpkins stacked on top of each other.” There’s only one big wedding cake place in New Hampshire. The cakes are delicious, gorgeous, and thousands of dollars. “It’s really cute, though.”
“Honey, that cake would cost almost thirty dollars per slice!”
I couldn’t argue with that. I could only grumble, “Curse your quick mental math.” I presented him with another webpage. “This three-tiered cake with cascading fall leaves is only half that much.”
“ONLY? Can’t you make a cake?”
Andy’s question wasn’t as crazy as it sounds. I made a tiered Chocolate Oblivion Torte for Chronically Late Cousin’s wedding shower. I did a tiered cheesecake for a friend’s baby shower, a heart-shaped engagement cake, and every year on Andy’s birthday, I make him a three-layer Devil’s Food cake covered in poured ganache frosting.
Like I said, I love cake.
But there was no way I would even attempt my own wedding cake, in the wilds of New Hampshire without all my equipment, and the week of my wedding. I needed a pro, and there was only one game in town.
Until Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister found another game. The Christmas before the wedding, Baby Sister produced Andy’s best present of all.
She found, through word of mouth, a little old lady who supplemented her retirement income by making wedding cakes. We went to see the New Hampshire Cake Lady. NH Cake Lady had no samples ready, no big shiny showroom, just a little scrapbook with some pictures in her own kitchen.
Although there were no big showcase cakes, there were very attractive tiered cakes, decorated with ribbons and flowers.
I asked, “Are all your frostings buttercream?”
She nodded. “Absolutely. Fondant is pretty, but it’s hard to work with. And it tastes like shit.” (NH Cake Lady was as right as she was blunt. You can do amazing decorations with fondant, but it tastes like sweet clay.)
Andy asked, “Our, uh, wedding reception isn’t huge, so, uh, maybe we could just do a small, two-tiered chocolate cake?”
Before she could answer, I interjected, “But just out of curiosity, how much would a three-tired cake be? If the middle layer were lemon? My dad really likes lemon.”
She hesitated. “I could do it, but it would be twice as expensive.”
I could see Andy holding his breath. “How much would that cost?”
“A three-tiered cake would be one-fifty.”
“One hundred and fifty dollars?” I clarified. To this day, I don’t know how I didn’t shout, “That’s it? Only $150.00?!!”
Andy couldn’t match my restraint. “Well, hell, yeah!” he yelled. “Let’s get the big one! With TWO different kinds of cake!”
Sometimes, you get to have your cake and eat it, too.