When cake means more than flour, sugar, eggs and butter

If I knew you were comin’,
I’d have baked a cake,
baked a cake, baked a cake.

~ Lyrics by Al Hoffman, Albert J. Trace & Bob Merrill

Not long ago, we met a couple for dinner. We were in Dallas, and my Beloved wanted to show his appreciation for a colleague by buying dinner. Which he did, and it was delicious, and our guests were great company.

But before the evening was over, the wife of the couple insisted on inviting us back to their house for dessert. She’d made a cake.

It struck me as a distinctly Southern gesture — to bake a cake for company. An elaborate, over-the-top expression of hospitality.

We northerners, we put the coffee pot on for guests. We make cake for birthdays and holidays, but plain ol’, run-of-the-mill visitors? Fresh coffee, for sure. Cookies, maybe. But not cake. Too much trouble. Only impeccable Southerners who iron the sheets for the guest bed and decorate their coffee tables would make a cake on a Tuesday.

But the sentiment stuck with me. The woman in Dallas made me feel special by baking a cake. Just for us. So I privately pledged to put my baking skills to the test more often as a way of expressing my appreciation for someone I love. And I’ve had the opportunity twice in as many weeks.

When my dear mother turned 75 in April, I made her a chocolate peanut butter bundt cake. I was nervous as I prepared the batter because one gets only one chance to make a 75th birthday cake for one’s mother. But not to worry — it looked as beautiful as it turned out to be delicious. And she felt special.

Bundt cake

And yesterday, to celebrate Mother’s Day, I served my mother-in-law a slice of perfect pound cake, topped with macerated strawberries and real whipped cream, also known as strawberry shortcake.

strawberry shortcake

I was particularly proud of my pound cake because remembered the disaster of Crusty Cream Cheese Pound Cake I had attempted to make seven years ago for my Beloved. Yesterday’s pound cake was a success, thank goodness (and Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook with the traditional red gingham cover).

To be fair, one opportunity to make cake was for a birthday and one was for a holiday so I still haven’t mastered the hospitality act of the plain-ol’-Tuesday cake, but I did accomplish my goal of making special people — in this case, two of the most special people in my life — feel special.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear Mother and mother-in-law. You deserve far more than cake, but the cakes I made were mixed not only with flour and sugar, but good intentions and great appreciation.

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