THE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

            April is my birth month, so my birthday often falls near the Easter holiday.  I’ve always enjoyed the connection, because I love springtime, egg hunts, soft fuzzy rabbits, and jellybeans.

            When I was a child, my mother often made her special strawberry cake for my birthday.  It was a wondrous confection of pink, moist layers slathered with sweet melt-in-your mouth straw-berry icing.  Sometimes, Mother topped the cake with a white-chocolate bunny surrounded by little patches of coconut dyed green and embellished with jelly beans to resemble tiny bird’s nests.  I thought it was the neat-est thing I had ever seen, and I absolutely loved the taste.

Even after I grew up and got married, I asked Mother to make the strawberry cake for my birth-day. One year, after my husband Ben and I had enjoyed the cake during a visit with my parents, Mother packed up the leftovers for me to take home in her ancient metal cake carrier. 

            The carrier wasn’t an antique when she bought it, but acquired senior status after years of heavy use.  Regrettably, the carrier’s closure device was not completely reliable.  Everyone in the family knew better than to hold the carrier by its wooden handle.  The latch could easily disengage, sending the bottom plate and its contents crashing to the floor.

But that year, Ben was new to the family, and we hadn’t indoctrinated him on the idio-syncrasies of the carrier. 

The following day, Ben and I took the cake with us to dinner at a restaurant.  He drove our car, but I went separately with two older ladies we had invited to join us.   They weren’t sure of the establishment’s location and asked me to ride with them to help with directions.

            Ben arrived ahead of us and met us at the door.  “Something awful has happened,” he said.  I couldn’t imagine what it might be, but it sounded serious.  Then I noticed that he didn’t have the cake.

            “I dropped the cake,” he said.  “The carrier fell apart!”

            I told him it was okay and apologized for failing to warn him about the carrier’s hair-trigger latch.  But I was really disappointed.  Ben had picked up the cake as best he could, but didn’t think it could be salvaged.

            After we finished our meal and went home, I hesitated to unveil what was left of the cake.  Ben had attempted to fit the two pieces of the carrier together, but the bottom plate was upside-down.  Steeling myself, I removed the cover and looked at the pitiful remains.

            Remarkably, the cake was intact, but pine straw was stuck all over its icing. I began to re-move it, piece by piece.  When I finished, I hesitated for only a moment, and then cut myself a sizeable slice   

It was a tad gritty, but  delicious!

Mary Bridgman (Aug. ’11) adds, “I tried to make the straw-berry cake for a church dinner last year.  It was a disaster!  The center of the cake collapsed.  I cut the bad part out, applied icing to what was left, and cut it in squares. Apparently, the taste was okay, because I didn’t have any left over to take home.”

Mary Bridgmans’s family cake-carrier.

Mary Bridgmans’s family cake-carrier.

 

 

Mary Bridgmans’s family cake-carrier.

 

IT HAPPENED TO ME

I love books. Recently I told about my interest in Elegy for Iris, a true story about Iris Murdoch and her husband, John Bay.  I wrote, “Because my mo-ther and all four of her sisters had Alzheimers, I used to worry a lot about getting it.  Then I decided that because I had gotten straight hair and allergies from my father, I might also have his sharp mind with no Alzheimers’ Syndrome.”

  Not long afterward, I began having some big memory losses. I was very irritable

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