Admittedly, my years spent toiling in the sugar mines have brought me painfully close to all manner of dessert highs and lows. The 1980s found me as accomplice to chocolate overkill, preparing Death By Chocolate and Molten Chocolate lava cakes. In the late 90s, I was a tiramisu-enabler; drowning savoirdi ladyfingers in rivers of espresso and simple syrup, layering them between mascarpone mousse. Tipsy with rum (the mousse, not the baker) the rich dessert was then heavily dusted with dark cocoa and served alongside macadamia biscotti.
There were days when my fingers were singed on architecturally precarious spun sugar garnishes, tucking them into ganache and gold leaf. With knife skills of a surgeon, kiwis and strawberries were sliced then fanned over fruit tarts à la June Taylor dancers. I bid fond farewells to pâte à choux swans swimming on puddles of chocolate sauce. The only surprise hidden inside a dessert might have been a circle of parchment paper inadvertently left on the bottom of a cake layer. Or in the case of a Mardi Gras King Cake, a tiny plastic baby tucked deep beneath the blinding purple, green and yellow sugar crystals. As every mother knows, this could pose a choking hazard, but who am I to question tradition.
Somewhere between the introduction of Nouvelle and Cajun and Comfort food, was the personal ushering in of Master/Master and Blondilocks. At the time, it never occurred to me to participate in a Gender Reveal. I was all about the surprise.
Fast forward to our contemporary dessert culture. Today, new parents-to-be host parties where the centerpiece on the dessert table announces the baby’s sex. This idea was totally unfamiliar to me until I arrived at my current place of employ. In the beginning, a breathlessly excited mom-to-be dropped off a sealed envelope which was turned over to Team Cake. Direct from the lab tech performing the ultrasound was a handwritten note. We amused ourselves by guessing what was written on the tiny slip of paper, the simple word, “Boy” or “Girl.” The cake was assembled with either pink or blue buttercream between the layers and a neutral, yet festive exterior. When sliced, the assembled party-goers would hopefully rejoice. If not, I’m assuming there was plenty of champagne to go around.
Times they are a changin.’ The last two gender identifying documents required not only pink and blue buttercream, but a copy of the scientific hardcover Gray’s Anatomy. One lab tech enclosed a report written in excruciatingly detailed medical-speak, way above our baker’s heads. The other offered a series of ultrasound photographs identified with explicit language we were ill-equipped to handle first thing in the morning.
Generally I steer clear of these life altering desserts, head lowered, caught up in an intricate fruit vs. sweetener vs. thickener pie equation. Until last week, when potential pre-med college student/barista Harrison ventured back to ask the dreaded question, “Can someone order a Gender Reveal pie?”
Buried in the back of my closet is a slender book, what my mother always referred to as the Baby Book. She kept one for each of her four children. How she juggled the four of us and found any spare time in her life is beyond my comprehension. Tucked between the pages for safekeeping were pertinent papers; a birth announcement heralding my arrival, faded black and white photos of my brothers and I outfitted for Halloween. A small envelope lined in pink holds a tiny hospital wrist bracelet identifying yours truly. My mother kept copious notes, detailed dates of vaccinations, childhood diseases and tonsillectomy. There are photos of the first day of school, “Class Picture Day” and parties framed in crepe paper garlands. In several birthday pictures, I am wearing a ribbon corsage decorated with candy; one with Tootsie Rolls, another with lollipops. Birthday photos always culminated with candles ablaze on a layer cake swirly with frosting, baked by Jessie.
By the time Master/Master and Blondilocks arrived on the scene, I had all good intentions of preserving their milestone moments in similar books. The truth is I faltered miserably, being neither crafty nor indulged with time. When I think back, some of it is a blur, no doubt induced by sleep deprivation. Sorry kids.
Agreeing to the Gender Reveal pie, I awaited word to determine the fruit filling. Not wanting to prematurely divulge the secret, a lattice-woven top crust disguised the berry filled buttermilk pie. After chatting with the lovely mother-to-be, I’ll admit her excitement was just the slightest bit contagious. Steadfastly remaining a Gender Reveal cynic, perhaps now I’m just the slightest bit kinder, gentler. This particular mom-and-dad-to-be will soon be the proud parents of a bouncing baby Blueberry. Congratulations.
In response, I feel compelled to applaud this joyful news with the uncorking of a bottle of bubbly. I will raise a glass to the happy family and then utilize the remainder to poach some local peaches who have a due date with a non-reveal pie.