The Importance Of Cake By Author Catherine Newman
An Exclusive Piece For Patisserie Valerie Customers
At Patisserie Valerie, cake is at the core of everything we do; delicious cakes that form the perfect centerpieces of family celebrations. Catherine Newman, author of recently published ‘We All Want Impossible Things’ has kindly written an exclusive piece for Patisserie Valerie customers about the importance of cake to her. To find out more about ‘We All Want Impossible Things’, click here.
Cake is at the center of our lives. Flip through your photo albums and tell me I’m wrong! The bright-eyed baby with the one single candle—and that same baby, one second later, spackled with chocolate. The birthday cake with maybe not quite enough icing roses to go around, all jealous eyes on the wish-making candle-blower. Those various configurations of brides and grooms pressing white-iced slabs into each other’s faces with newly vowed commitment. A pregnant belly-shaped cake at the baby shower, held together with buttercream because you baked it in an imperfectly greased bowl and it fell into inauspicious pieces when you unmolded it. Cakes at parties, cakes at picnics, cakes at school and home and the office, cakes at funerals even—although you tastefully did not photograph those.
If you have a box or folder of favorite recipes, I’m guessing at least half of them are cake. Auntie Ida’s Lemon Drizzle. Strawberry Poke Cake (Grandma). Sahar’s Orange Olive Oil Loaf. Even a Battenberg torn from the newspaper, with a note scrawled in your irritable handwriting: “V. difficult. Better to just buy.” I used to bake my kids a “Yay! It’s Wednesday!” cake, just to get them over their midweek blahs. If my grown son comes home for a visit in August, I bake him a plum cake. When my daughter had to stop eating gluten, the very first thing I learned to bake with almond flour was cake.
My best friend died in hospice, and what she most wanted—besides life itself—was cake. A particular cake she’d tasted once, twenty years earlier, and then never again. It imprinted itself so deliciously in her memory that, long before she was ill, the two of us had scoured the library and internet for a recipe that might approximate it. Nothing did, though I have dozens of emails in my saved folder: “Almost,” we wrote each other, or “Not quite.” We finally hunted it down for her, in her last days, and—well. I won’t spoil it. Read We All Want Impossible Things. It’s fiction, yes, but the cake is real. The loss is.
I don’t mean to sound so “Let them eat cake!” about life and its deepest griefs. (“Thank you, Marie Antoinette!” as my kids would say, if they knew who Marie Antoinette was.) But isn’t this comfort at its finest? The way we show up with a still-warm Bundt or an iced loaf or a heavy bakery box. The way we mean I love you to the moon and stars forever and ever but what we say is: “Here—have a bite of something sweet.”