The Lousy Cook Makes Three Anniversary Cakes


The Man I Married and I met on a street corner in Waikiki 30 years ago and married 51 weeks later. Although I have another year of practice for our 30th wedding anniversary cake, this seemed a good opportunity for a trial run of my cake baking and decorating skills. Visions of sugar roses danced in my head.

Lumpy heart

First, the 29th wedding anniversary cake. I stumbled across a heart-shaped baking pan at the thrift store. I already owned individual-sized heart-shaped pans. My design ideas solidified. Our wedding cake had been heart-shaped, and, after all these years, this practical gal still loves hearts. Much as I love fine literary tomes, I’m still a sucker for a Gothic bodice ripper, and despite all of my no-nonsense, sensible traits, my romantic leanings still have not crashed to earth and smashed.

The bigger cake came out of the pan cracked. Oh, well, that’s what frosting’s for.

Next, I found a YouTube video for Easy Fondant Roses Which Required No Tools. Pffttt. As if. Nothing else in my almost year-long journey to decorate cakes has been easy nor anything remotely resembling what the final product was supposed to look like.

Cobbling a heart together for the foundation

Unlike the Beaver Cake last August, however, I got smart and bought premade fondant. And what to my wondering eyes should appear were two roses that stunned me with their beauty. Wow, I made those? When MIM and I were first dating (before his second head injury, when all of his social skills went out the window), he used to bring me a dozen red and a dozen yellow roses (they were ridiculously cheap at the Navy commissary), so I dyed the fondant for the flowers red and yellow. I left the fondant white for the top layer heart, which turned out lumpy, but a lot about long-term marriage is learning to take one’s lumps, and I’m pretty lumpy, too.

Completely cracked heart
Patched together heart

With that success under my belt, I got a swollen head and came up with the ridiculous idea of a three-layer heart cake for an informal celebration we “planned” last minute for our 30th anniversary of meeting each other. One layer for each decade. Back on YouTube, I learned how to make a large heart for the bottom layer and used my heart-shaped pan for the middle layer: which again broke apart, worse than the first time. We’ve definitely had days like that in our relationship.

Like we’ve done so often in our three decades together, though, I patched it together. I didn’t mess with fondant this time round, and I wound up with a fairly passable three-layer cake. The crumbs were clearly visible in the frosting, but MIM and I are all about letting our freak flags fly and letting it all hang out rather than caving much to any standard of style, beauty, or status.

Crumbs for all to see

The problem with a three-layer cake that was bigger than my bread board, I soon realized, was transportation. Our low-key party would be held at a local beer establishment a mile away. How to get my cake there? I wasted a day visiting a variety of stores, trying to find a cake-carrying device that was both wide and high, and cheap, enough. I carried with me a newspaper cutout of the cake’s bottom layer. I visited the craft store, several department stores, thrift and consignment stores, the office store. Finally I visited the restaurant supply store, and found the perfect container:

Fancy cake carrier

A box.

Good thing MIM and I had little desire for fancy things in life (except for my inexplicable obsession with making a fancy cake).

Now I was set for the real deal. A three-layer fondant cake.

Unfortunately, my bottom layer, which I had decided should be a giant brownie (for guests who don’t care much for cake or fondant, which, oddly enough, includes me), turned out not much higher on one side than a ballpoint pen. (See Reality photo above.) Grandiose ideals often lead to disappointment.

Before I could try, try again, I lost my last baking weekend to another one of my “mystery episodes,” which turns me into a Linda Blair-Greta Garbo combo of pea soup hurling and wanting to be alone in a dark and quiet room for two days.

Time to scale back expectation: again, as with so much in a successful long-term relationship. Back to two layers. I’d save the box for next year. Nobody needed to know I used $1.00 boxed cake mix and premade fondant. The roses were all mine.

Happy Anniversary, Baby

Like so much in married life, there can be a vast difference between the fantasy marriage we enter and the mundane truth of marriage when reality hits: broken sewer lines, broken dreams, broken hips. Survival can be about persistence, creativity, humor, and willingness to accept imperfection.

Many days aren’t ideal, neither of us is perfect, and our relationship isn’t the stuff of Danielle Steele, but we return to the drawing board, bread board, and cake-carrying board. We try new things, accept the failures, and at least one of us returns to the oven for yet another try—as long as it isn’t the gas oven, we’ll call it a success.

The First Heart-Shaped Cake:

*** Photo Credits***

Fantasy Cake:

Cake Maker and Cake: Peggy Sturdivant

Cake Couple: Wendy Staley Colbert

Wedding Cake Photos: I have no idea

All other photos: Jennifer D. Munro

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