Rumor has it that wedding cakes are on their way out. While I love cupcake towers and dessert tables and other sugary alternatives as much as the next sweet-toothed girl, I have an even softer spot for the traditional confection. In a totally unpredictable way, it has changed my life.
For our 2008 wedding, my husband John and I picked a cake-from-a-catalog without incredible thought. We trusted the caterer and pointed with blind fingers as we chose color, flavor, style, and size. A cake is just a cake is just a cake, we thought, so who cares? Besides, we were so busy preparing to shoot an episode of "Rock the Reception," a now-cancelled (though I like to think we didn't play a role in that) wedding-themed reality show, that we didn't have time to get caught up in the details.
All of our finger-pointing led to a three-tiered vanilla treat with Tiffany blue fondant and a decorative chocolate lattice frosting. We agreed that it would sit on a small table at the edge of the dance floor until the cutting ceremony near the end of the evening.
What we didn't take into account was this: "Rock the Reception" producers would bring a lot of large, hot lights. And these lights would melt our cake.
Like any wound-up, type-A bride, I panicked. I took a butter knife off the sweetheart table and tried to fix it myself. When that didn't work, I hoped to angle the table to minimize how guests would see the disaster. Once that also proved fruitless, I gave up. (Okay, I contemplated throwing a hissy fit and stomping my feet until someone, somehow, brought the dessert back from the dead, but then, miserable, I gave up.)
"On the bright side," John said, "it'll be funny in five years."
He meant to lighten the mood, I knew that. And it was a generous gesture, especially considering I had been downright devilish while wedding planning. A lot of yelling and crying and fighting and it had gotten me -- what? A melted cake? But, I realized, my behavior wasn't limited to the wedding. I had spent my whole life wound up, a ticking time bomb ready to explode over missed movies or late trains. I had to relax, and this cake would be my springboard.
"Challenge accepted," I told him. "Let's put a piece in the freezer and revisit the humor level in 2013. I will make it my job to find it funny."
Though I didn't view marriage as a life-changer (John and I had already been dating and living together for years by the time we made it official), I did see it as an opportunity to re-evaluate what I wanted and where I was going. I knew that meant entering married life in the most healthy, positive, brilliant way. The cake -- and all it stood for -- would help me evaluate my actions and make choices that let me keep calm and carry on. High hopes for a lump of flour and sugar.
The first year was the hardest. The cake was there as I learned to take more deep breaths and light more aromatherapy candles, to sleep more and eat better, and to explore yoga and Pilates, it was also there as John and I disagreed -- sometimes for good reasons (where we should go on vacation), and sometimes for less good (who put the plastic spatula in the oven) -- and when we've been downright mad at each other. It saw me freak out about overcooked pasta and cry when I thought the world would end because I'd run out of nail polish remover. Uprooting the negative in my life was a journey, and, as silly as it sounds, it comforted me to have an anchor as I worked to take the world in stride.
It was a hair unsettling, then, when John wanted to eat the slice on our one-year anniversary. I almost relented because, let's face it, it's not like clinging to a piece of melted cake would itself make me a less-rattled woman. I could still imagine its influence even if it no longer sat there, working on its freezer burn. But as we unwrapped the foil, a flash of panic hit. I wasn't ready to give it up that physical comfort yet. Fortunately, John lost interest by the time a "Gossip Girl" rerun came on and I was able to return it to its rightful place unmarred.
That piece of cake has sat in the freezer for four years now, having weathered one move and two power outages like a champ. I have absolutely, positively, undeniably become more calm along the way. Maybe part of that is getting older and more comfortable with myself. But I also know that a bigger part is remembering John on our wedding day, handsome in his tux, worried about keeping me happy. And remembering that I knew he deserved better.
The true test will come, of course, next summer when John and I hit the five-year mark. But I'm not worried. I've already started laughing.