It’s after 5 am on Saturday, the day before Easter. I have to be at my mom’s house by noon for lunch to celebrate with her side of our family. And I am still awake, baking a cake. This cake has been a tradition in our family for years. We love it. It’s freaking amazing. It’s a freaking labor of love. And I’m freaking ready to throw it in the trash!
But I won’t. I’ve been baking this cake for the past 12 years. Before that, the honor of baking this cake went to my grandmother Margaret. And she was AWESOME at baking this freaking cake. Just, freaking, amaze-balls cake baking, I’m not even kidding. It was literally the perfect Easter cake, year after year. And I’m not really sure how she did it. Because she not only baked this ridiculously delicious cake, she also cooked Easter lunch, hosted it in her home, and still made it to church on time.
So here’s the thing with this cake…the recipe is garbage! Ok, not really, but it was written by my great grandmother and published in a cookbook, only it wasn’t intended to be a triple layer, tricolor Easter cake baked in round pans. It was intended to be baked in a loaf pan and covered in caramel icing. So, I have no dang idea how long to bake each layer, nor do I know at what temperature to set the oven.
My grandmother passed away one week before Easter 12 years ago, and like a moron, I decided I needed to keep the freakin Easter cake tradition alive. Ok, I’m not really a moron, I’m actually a sentimental cry baby, and that’s why I do this…I need my kids to know her. This is one way I keep her memory alive. For all of us. But, she never actually taught me to make this freakin cake, she only taught me to devour its deliciousness…so for 12 years I’ve sat in front of my oven, watching each layer bake. Adjusting temps and bake times. Doubling the recipe, making a recipe and a half, changing the size of the round pans…I’ve trashed layers that wouldn’t budge from the pan, I’ve laughed at lopsided cakes, I’ve even cried. I can’t get Margaret’s cake right. I just can’t. So, I give up! I’ve decided. I’m not making it anymore.
Instead, I’m making Erica’s freaking ridiculous, late night, wonky, never perfect Easter cake. Because I’m pretty sure, Margaret wouldn’t want me to make HER cake anyway. She’d want me to do it my way, and embrace it. Embrace every imperfection. So that’s what I’ll do.
And I’ll add a crumb layer of icing because my sister says I should. And also because that dang icing is freaking DELICIOUS. And I’m probably going to be skipping the green coconut grass when I take this to my cousin, because she doesn’t like coconut and neither do I. And I’m no longer going to apologize for uneven layers or lopsided cakes or whatever mess happens in a given year. I’m just not going to.
Because I know that this memory is not really about Margaret’s amaze-balls Easter cake. It’s about something more. It’s about her love for her family. It’s about all she did for each of us. About the legacy and the memories she left behind. And I was visiting her the other day, and she reminded me of something….if things are still well with her soul, I should probably just stop worrying about a perfect cake, and let things be well with mine also.