On our 15th anniversary, a look back at the most important cake I never made.
We’d insisted on a November wedding – autumn, crisp and comfortable – but now, standing in satin heels before a seated crowd at the Knickerbocker Hotel, I thought, what the hell does it matter what month it is, except that I’m wearing long sleeves? We are inside.
That was my view in 1993, but this long day had actually begun in 1985, when my parents drove away from the dorm and I carefully stood my mixtapes in a red plastic crate. Greg and I became friends that day, and found push me-pull you love after that, fueled by talk and turntables and parties, sunrises and vodka and dancing – sloppy dancing, no thoughts of time, money, or aching feet.
Even now – mortgage, silverware, thank-you notes – we still floated on a hazy and curious feeling of promise, still carried the remnants of a beer-soaked dance floor, and they would remain our guide on this day, when one “I do” minute might make the world briefly irony-free.
Or “I will,” or whatever – seconds later I thought, isn’t dinner going to be in this room? Thirty rows of family down there would be whisked away into cocktails, and return here for dinner. Would the room be ready? Would there be enough ice? Could I get a snack?
The staff would in fact transform the space – currently holding one bride, one groom, a rose-covered chuppah, a photographer, a video guy, a Rabbi and two hundred guests – back to a regular ballroom in time for soup. The grand old 1920’s girl, with her gilded ceilings and lighted dance floor, had seen both Al Capone and my parent’s prom night.
They knew what they were doing. By the first toast, draped tables and clinking china hugged the smoky mirrored walls. In the center, the dance floor built for Capone was lit for our newly married entrance, and at the other end of the ballroom, calling me, was our cake.
As an overeager apprentice pastry chef, I’d planned to make my own wedding cake. I fought everyone’s warnings, including chatty taxi drivers – don’t even think about it, baby – up to the last minute. Consumed by important tasks like hot-gluing 400 tiny peach satin roses to 200 place cards, I finally admitted defeat, and though it killed me to do it, I reluctantly turned the job over to a well-known European bakery.
And now the haughty not-my-cake taunted me from across the ballroom. During the reception I’d sneak peeks at it, and hug guests on that side of the room to get closer, edging across the floor; finally, my train rustled against the table’s skirting, and there it was.
We eyed each other. That cake was wearing nothing but an ivory buttercream robe and a wholly indecent – no, completely insane – shower of white chocolate curls.
I pursed my over-lipsticked lips. Really, it’s over the top. Kinda gauche, a bit much. Surely it could have used a more restrained hand, you know, say, mine, and then…the damn thing winked at me. Winked like Alexis Carrington in four tiers and frosted shoulder pads. Dark chocolate perfume and white ruffled lashes. I kid you not, the sly thing smiled.
I stifled the impulse to laugh – I’m nuts, I thought, I’m married and freaking nuts – but out came a giggle, then a chuckle, and a full-on, doubled-over, can’t-talk guffaw. Aunt Ruth, Aunt Margaret, Aunt Rose – all the aunts watching the bride clutching her princess-waist, teary and gasping, likely whispered “dear batty little thing…she’s overcome.” And I was.
Overcome with all this more, all this larger-than-life more that was suddenly now. I stared at the cake thinking this is it. This is me and I’ll be cranking out many happy endings like this one – big, moussed, and circa ‘85 – and each time I do I’ll think of us, sharing endless runs for cheap, hot doughnuts in the dark.
Now we fed each other chocolate cake from forks in the air, white chocolate curls falling off our lips like rose petals, laughing and laughing at this hilarious circus, laughs you belt out once or twice in life and never see again – all the while cameras clicking and crumbs dropping. Our private delicious laughter, and one sound moment for a sweet life ahead.