This was far from my maiden cake voyage, having sailed the Philadelphia wedding cake delivery waters for easily a decade. It is critical to be cautious yet unafraid. It also helps to have a most capable co-pilot in the passenger seat. Lara, aka Speedy Icer proved to be all that and more.
Directions to the venue had been written out in excruciating detail by co-caker and woman-in-the-know, Rita. Speedy Icer announced each bend in the road with the calmness yet firmness of a real life Siri. Co-caker promised the route she had mapped out was not hilly, more of a gentle, winding ascent. Co-caker lied. The first intersection was emblazoned with orange road signs announcing, CAUTION-ROAD WORK AHEAD- RAISED MANHOLE COVERS/UNEVEN GRADE. We inched our way uphill, dodging the deepest crevices in the road, infuriating the motorcyclist in my rearview mirror. The directions were peppered with landmarks and the interpretive reader didn’t miss a beat.
SI: “There will be a shopping center and a Whole Foods. And a traffic light. You want to take a left up here. On your left, right here. See where that car is turning? HERE.”
NMMNP: Trying not to hit the brake, “A hard left or a soft left?”
SI: “A left-left. Right here. See- it says country club?”
The entrance welcomed with flowering terra cotta planters and stalwart pillars. We were directed beyond the Valet Parking to the loading dock next to the (this is a quote) “garbage can.” Seeing the steps leading up to the loading dock, I began to damn my fate. Dear God, how was one to transfer cake from car to kitchen? We were sent George, a man I can only describe as one part Angel one part Super Hero. George scooped up the cake, navigated the cement steps leading to the service entrance and set it down in the middle of the kitchen, without breaking a sweat. By my calculations, the air temperature was easily 80 degrees. Always on my math game, I counted backwards from when the cake would be served to the current time and arrived with the answer of melted. Yes, the cake could rest in the massive walk-in refrigerator, co-mingling with the salmon filets and the mesh bags of yellow onions. Few things say ‘Mazel Tov’ the way buttercream does, redolent with the aroma and taste of a country club walk-in. Speedy Icer and I had no alternative but to schlep/wheel the cake into the Ballroom, a far-from-intimate space complete with sweeping views of the golf course. For the most part, the cake had survived the journey. Except for one gum paste embellishment.
I’ve never met Jack, but it was clear he had an affinity for sports. The bottom and middle tiers were decorated with a basketball, a baseball and a baseball bat. At the cake’s summit, a snowboard perched on a hilltop of vanilla buttercream. The sporting equipment was painstakingly crafted out of gum paste, realistic down to the red stitching on the baseball and the wood grain of the bat. The bat had suffered a blow between bakery and ballroom and was refusing to cooperate. Speedy Icer secured a cup of water from the kitchen and we began our cake triage. George and his crew were in the thick of reconfiguring the room to accommodate Jack’s guest list of 120 of his closest friends and relations. There were several mentions of the party planner who was responsible for orchestrating the whole black tie shebang; from DJ and dancers right down to the star cookie party favors. In the midst of all the merry-making, it seemed reasonable to believe that our repair work would suffice. Leaving the cake in relatively good form, we wheeled it once again out of the melee into a safe corner. With thanks to George, we bid our retreat through the kitchen where worker bees were wrapping up one party, preparing for the next. The glamour of event planning was reinforced as I watched a waitress emptying a refrigerator of suspicious looking foodstuffs into a trash bin. Don’t mind us- we can find our way out of the fluorescent lighting into the April sunshine.
Spring is shyly making its presence known and this week resonates with celebrations. Yes, let’s not forget Jack who by now is being reminded ad nauseam to start writing thank you notes. Also making wishes over cakes and pies are sweet Suzie of Chicago, dear Cousin Phyllis (also of the Windy City) and Lattice-Pie Guy of Seattle. Closer to home, Blondilocks will acknowledge a decade since her very own Bat Mitzvah, (blissfully sans party planner and tiered cake) blowing out the candles on a surprise birthday pie. Whoops. So much for the surprise. And lastly to the patriarch of the family, Pa who tells me he celebrated his 13th birthday/Bar Mitzvah in April of 1940. The party was held in the finished basement of his parents home on Beach 140th Street in Belle Harbor, NY. Refreshing in its simplicity, my grandmother did all of the party planning. A buffet lunch followed by a homemade chocolate layer cake washed down with bottles of Dr. Brown’s Cream and Cel-Ray soda. Playing on the Victrola was Pennsylvania 6-5000 and Tuxedo Junction. My father assures me there was nary a DJ nor a black tie nor a single cookie emblazoned with his name in attendance.
Happy Birthday to all. Or as Kool & The Gang no doubt suggested to Jack and his guests last Saturday night, Celebrate good times, come on!