Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sometimes a Cake Is Just a Cake (And Sometimes It's Something More)

There are a lot of ways to judge a person without doing so based solely by the cover. People form impressions and assumptions of others based on occupation, children's schools, zip codes (or sometimes, area codes), their vacation destinations - even the kind of milk they drink. (Soy milk drinkers are true believers!)

One Christmas I went to a friend's holiday party. The house was all decorated and I remember thinking how pretty it looked, although it was a tad devoid of personality. What struck me though was another friend saying with a shudder, "It's so Pottery Barn." The reason that has stayed with me is that at the time I thought you had "arrived" when  you could afford to decorate your home from the Pottery Barn catalog!

By the same token, one person's "handmade" is another's version of "homemade." Often it seems, this has a lot to do with whether growing up things were made at home as a cost-saving measure as opposed to because of family tradition or skill. Grandma's homemade jelly is wonderful when it's a sought after family favorite, but it's a far less beloved toast topper when served because it's cheaper than Smuckers.

There's been a resurgence in handmade lately as people have come to recognize how quickly working with your hands becomes a lost art in this day of mass (but efficient) production. I'm all for assembly lines.You won't catch me making my kids' Halloween costumes, and I don't want to spend days churning my own butter. But I also believe in homemade.

At my house, love comes from the oven. I make my family everything from zucchini bread to Thai toast, just as was done for me.

I was raised to believe that homemade baked goods are the gold standard. Growing up, there was none of that faking it by taking grocery store cupcakes out of the box and serving them on your own dishes as if you'd made them. To this day, heaven help the ribbing you'll get if you bring a Costco pie to the holiday meal. Although there is an element of snobbery in turning up your noses at store bought pastries, there is also something to be said for a recipe that has been prepared and passed down for generations.

Recently, my son decided he wanted a Funfetti cake for his fifth birthday. On the one hand I was glad because a box cake is super easy to make. On the other hand, I couldn't help but think about how my Nana used to hand grate the carrots for her carrot cake.

But at the end of the day, my son got the cake he wanted - and we were all the better for it.  Love is still love, even without the labor.


  1. I can see the appeal of a Funfetti cake, however I am bringing carrot cake cupcakes when we come next month. Costco pie, SIGH!

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  4. And you are an excellent baker!