I absolutely love surprises. Whenever a holiday or friend’s birthday is approaching, my self-proclaimed title of event planner makes a grand appearance. So, with Christmas nearing quickly, I’m already in my element. See, in my world, a gift is not entirely valid unless it is preceded by some sort of elaborate puzzle, scavenger hunt, or secret get together. I enjoy the dramatic build up to someone receiving a present just as thoroughly as the actual unveiling. This weekend, my friend and coworker Jen had a baby, and in addition to being unbelievably giddy for the past two days because NEWBORN BABIES, I was reminded of a time my love of surprises was fully revealed (ok pun a little bit intended).
Jen found out she was pregnant with her first child this summer. When the time came for her to know the sex of the baby, she decided to have a gender reveal party, an increasingly popular way of announcing the news of whether someone is having a girl or boy. We were at work one night when she nonchalantly asked ”I was wondering if you could do the cake for my party?.” Unknown to her, my party planner persona nearly jumped out of my seat with glee: “I would LOVE to.” Jen clearly didn’t know that her question was in no way a burden to me, that this cake would be just as much a gift for me as it would be to her. I did my best to listen and reign in my wandering brain as she ran through the details:
My mind imagined a pastel explosion of high school gym proportions.
“It’s just going to be a small party.”
Daydreams formed of pink and blue: seeping, popping, tumbling, out of vibrant cake layers.
“I think I just want a simple cake with the reveal color in the frosting.”
I could see towers of cakes, filled with rich meringue buttercream or some kind of jam because jam’s fun or oooo maybe chocolate gana–
“Can you do a little marble cake, with regular frosting? I don’t like buttercream.”
I’ll admit I was a little disappointed with the simplicity of her idea: she wanted an off-white cake with forget-me-nots on it. I let go of my magical fairytale rainbow-filled visions with selfish reluctance and made an ingredients list for her request.
The night I attempted to make fondant leaves was the first time I questioned the “simplicity” of her design. Day four of finishing up the forget-me-nots was the second time. Stacking and putting crumb coat of frosting on the two lopsided cakes–I have my wonderful tiny oven to thank for that–was the third. By the time I was adhering the flowers to the cake and piping a yellow “He or She?” on top, I had entirely abandoned the word simple as it related to this project.
The evening before the party, I finished and assessed the final product. There was something beautiful about the delicate floral decorations, something that would have undoubtedly been lost with a dramatic, unnaturally colorful dessert of my cake fantasies. Jen’s design evoked the joyful, pure nature of a baby; it was perfect.
It’s not uncommon for my personal ideas to drive my actions…and trample anyone else’s in their wake. I can’t count how many times my hardheadedness has resulted in disaster– I suppose that’s what it’s taken for me to learn when I need to take a backseat (but not drive from there 😛 ). I’m primarily a home baker, totally in control of every aspect of my recipes and creations. Baking to satisfy the personal requests of a friend or customer, then, took some adjusting on my part. While it’s not nearly as dramatic an act as I portray, submitting to someone else’s direction can be tough. But the moments I learn most are those when I’m logical enough to remember that I can’t discover anything new from my own knowledge.
I hope you’ll forgive the lack of a recipe–in the spirit of the start of this Advent season, I thought it was appropriate to spend my weekend appreciating (and holding and cuddling) the beautiful gift of life instead of hurriedly throwing together a seasonal bake. I promise I’ll be back at it for next week. For now, all I can think about is that precious, chubby-cheeked, squinty newborn face peeking up at me, and how holding her was worth more than four hundred days of making fondant forget-me-nots. As I touched her tiny wrinkly hands and soft head of hair, Jen’s choice of flower seemed more fitting than ever: I won’t ever forget this moment.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others
In honor of Julia Grace Allen, born December 1, 2018 ❤