It takes love to bake a cake. Cakes cannot be baked indifferently or in a hurry. When you look at a triple-layer German chocolate cake with its caramel chock-full of pecans, or a moist carrot cake with creamy icing swirled in soft peaks, you say to yourself, "Someone spent a lot of time and effort on this. This is special." Maybe that's why cakes are the centerpieces of occasions such as birthdays, graduations, and weddings?
Cakes are not just baked. Their flavor is carefully chosen to match the occasion. Then they are measured and beaten and stirred. They are tipped out of their pans with breath held in check until the pan safely releases them. They have to be cooled. Iced. Decorated perhaps. Refrigerated. Then transported safely to festivities.
Cakes take lots of eggs-an egg is a symbol of new life, a new beginning. And they take a lot of butter or oil, symbols of blessing and richness. Their frosting is an extra bonus, "like icing on the cake," a favorite figure of speech in the English language.
Therefore, cakes are not particularly ferial (everyday) cuisine. They are festal! To do them honor, both the cake and the occasion they grace, eat one piece. Not two, and not zero. And be the baker of a cake once in a while. It does indeed feel like giving a gift, like being the baker of bread for a Communion service.
I HAVE MOSTLY BEEN a spectator in the cake-baking arena, relying on three tried-and-true family recipes: a chocolate cake, a lemon cake, and a nutmeg sherry cake. I admit freely that two of the recipes are based on box mixes. But I would like to expand my horizons.