I didn’t realize that Sunday would be a “3-cake day” until my daughter pointed it out when we returned from church. We had just been served cake designed in the shape of our church to mark the parish’s 85th birthday, kicking off a series of anniversary events. She was anticipating the reception following their vocal recital that afternoon, where three different kinds would be offered, all of them impressively over-size round two-layer cakes decorated in blue and green icing. The evening would bring a cake of my own making for dessert, to belatedly celebrate my niece’s second birthday.
Should I really eat cake three times in one day? This seemed inherently sinful (and caloric), so I hesitated briefly beside the buffet table at the recital. But then I confidently reached for a piece of lemon cake, suddenly sure that I must savor a bit of cake at each event. This wasn’t a bingeing kind of impulse but rather a gut feeling that life’s joyful moments deserve celebration. If it had been some other treat, I might have skipped it, but cakes are sacred to me somehow. Perhaps the need to cut and share them evokes a Eucharistic awareness. Unlike cookies, which can easily be nibbled one after another, a piece of cake invites me to greater mindfulness.
Cake making became a spiritual practice for me almost ten years ago when a dear friend introduced me to The Cake Mix Doctor cookbooks. The recipes are just enough effort to create satisfaction but not dauntingly difficult or time-consuming. I’ve learned to make a Yule log for Christmas, and I make the Bride’s Cake for our anniversary in March. For birthdays, I was happy to experiment with many kinds and combinations for a while, but lately I’ve settled into a few favorites. Last night’s birthday cake was actually just a straight mix, Pillsbury’s “Funfetti” that we had on hand and seemed festive for a small child, but I followed author Ann Byrn’s number one tip and made the icing myself. Delicious!