For as long as I can remember, I have baked our son, Blake, his favorite strawberry cake on his birthday. Blake turned 34 last Sunday. When you do the math, that’s a lot of strawberry cakes! This year, I once again gathered all the ingredients and whipped up a “from scratch” strawberry cake.
We usually go to Atlanta, where he lives, to celebrate his birthday. It’s a little challenging to transport the cake and get it there in one piece. The weight of the heavy cream cheese and butter-based icing puts a real strain on the light, moist strawberry-filled layers. Sometimes the pink-colored cake begins to slide, giving in to the pressure of the extra icing Blake always requests.
Since it has to be refrigerated anyway, I usually bake it a day or so early and put it in the freezer until our trip to Atlanta. When packed carefully in a cooler, it normally makes the journey to Atlanta in one piece (with the exception of a few mishaps over the years, which I will not discuss).
Holding my breath as we traveled to Atlanta last weekend, the strawberry cake made the trip safely. Encased in a see-through cake carrier, it joined Blake, his fiancé Diane, Debra and me at the restaurant where we had reservations. Blake carefully sat it between his and Debra’s chairs. Most upscale restaurants frown when you enter their establishments with your own cake. As you can imagine, they want you to order their pricey desserts.
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After our meal was complete, Blake opened the cake carrier lid, which released the divine aroma of the strawberry cake that had been held captive within the plastic container. The waitress must have gotten a whiff of it because she made a beeline to our table.
“Today is our son’s birthday. Can you bring us a knife and some plates so we can serve his cake?” I asked. Hesitantly, she said she would and off she went. It wasn’t long before we noticed the people at the two tables on either side of us coming under the spell of the cake’s aroma. Some tried to take a quick glance without being noticed while others just stared!
We lit the candles, served the cake and basked in the comforting feeling it left in our stomachs. When the waitress returned, I offered her a slice. “Oh, no thanks. I couldn’t,” she replied.
“You’re making a big mistake,” my son said. “It is out of this world delicious!”
She finally agreed and, leaving a sweet smelling trail of strawberries, butter and cream, passed all the other people who were already coveting a bite.
The two men at the table immediately beside us said nothing but continued to stare like a puppies begging for a bone. They were about to leave when I felt a tap on my shoulder. A complete stranger, one who I had not even noticed, said, “Excuse me. I want to apologize for interrupting, but is that a strawberry cake?”
“Yes, it is,” I replied. He eyed what was left of the cake and explained, “My wife has been eyeing it because it reminded her of the one her grandmother used to make.” He then asked where we got the cake.
He seemed shocked when I told him I made it and asked for the recipe. “Would you like a slice?” I asked. “No, I couldn’t possibly ask that,” he said, while his wife drooled behind him at their table. “Could we just get the recipe?”
While Debra jotted down his email address, I cut a slice for them. Blake told the man I had published five cookbooks. The two men at that other table looked horrified that they had not had the guts to ask us about the cake. Missing our entire exchange with the other couple, the waitress returned to our table with the check telling us she had waved the normal $20 fee charged for bringing in our own dessert. She must have really enjoyed her slice!
As we left, the hostess asked, “Is that a strawberry cake?” I once again answered that it was. “It’s my absolute favorite cake!” she exclaimed. When I offered her a piece, she replied, “No, I couldn’t possibly ask that.” But, before we knew it, she had retrieved a plate and another slice was cut.
We left with barely any cake, but with some satisfied new friends. Never underestimate the magical powers of a “from scratch” cake or the power of asking for what you want. I’ll bet those two men are still wishing they had!