My Valentine

By Beck

I am planning on making chocolate cake this weekend – a mocha cake with multiple layers of buttercream frosting. I saw the recipe in a magazine for people with gluten-free diets, and The Baby pointed at the picture – glossy and perfect – and said “Make me this.”

Well, it IS Valentine’s Day this weekend. So I guess I will. And meanwhile, she’s been thinking a lot about that cake, flipping to the page in the magazine and circling it. She’s also written her name a few times on the page, in case I forget who I’m supposed to make this cake for.

There’s nothing terribly profound about baking – it’s just messing around with eggs and butter and flour. I like it and so I do it, but I don’t believe that baking brings any great revelations with it. Although I couldn’t figure out how to make bread for years and years and made, instead, yeasty hockey pucks and finally figuring that out was one of the big triumphant successes of my adult life. (KNEADING MATTERS) So maybe that was a revelation of sorts.

Both of my grandmothers were excllent bakers. My now-dead grandmother – dead for nearly two decades, which startles me to realize, gone for my whole adult life – made fudge and cakes and fancy desserts. My grandmother who I very gratefully still have makes pies and cookies, rhubarb pies and gingersnaps. My mother deftly makes biscuits and thumbprint cookies and banana cake with thick chocolate frosting. And she and her sisters talk wistfully about the yeast rolls that their grandmother made, wrapped in a clean tea cloth and carried to their house for Sunday night supper. And though my great-grandmother’s life was good and long and well-lived, you could see that my mother would love to lift the cloth again, to have that sweet warm smell of yeast and the work of hands rise up to her.

And I am going to make my Baby a chocolate cake.

I don’t think of history and love and hands that time wore out while I’m creaming the butter and sugar. I think of flour and vanilla and eggs, I think grease the cakepan and preheat the oven. And then it’s icing sugar and cocoa powder and where’s the narrow spatula and then my kids eat thick slices of chocolate cake with a cup of milk beside them. And so do I because, hey – chocolate cake.

Someday, if everything goes well, my children will be very very old, with children of their own and grandchildren and probably even a few great-granchildren scampering around, given how very long both sides of their family tend to live. And maybe my child, who will have lived, I hope, a good and a long life, will turn the pages of a magazine and see a chocolate cake and remember a long-ago Valentine’s Day, and remember their mom again, and remember that she loved them. Butter and sugar and eggs.

18 Responses to My Valentine
  1. Louise
    February 11, 2010 | 3:18 pm

    Every time my dad tells me I’ve inherited my grandmother’s knack for cooking, I feel a glow of pride and joy. As you say, it wasn’t just food she cooked: it was a way to express her love. Now, even though she’s gone, every time I make a batch of bread and it comes out smelling “just like Grandma’s,” it’s my way of expressing love for her, and passing her legacy down to my children.

  2. Jen
    February 11, 2010 | 4:03 pm

    This is exactly why I love to bake. It’s not just tasty goodies…it’s love.

  3. Stephanie
    February 11, 2010 | 4:17 pm

    I do love baking, and had a revelation with my bread to always sift the flour. What a difference!

    You’re a great Mom.


  4. jennybek
    February 11, 2010 | 4:55 pm

    You just inspired me to bake a cake for valentine’s day. Now you can legitimately say that you are an inspiration.
    Hope your cake makes the baby’s cakey dreams come true!

  5. Omaha Mama
    February 11, 2010 | 7:05 pm

    Well this is just beautiful and now I’ve got to go make a cake. Pronto. I love to bake and hope it makes good memories…and that my children block out the part where I say something like, “Everyone! Out! of! the! Kitchen! Right now!” I’ve been known to do that now and then. :0)
    Happy Valentine’s Day.

  6. carrien (she laughs at the days)
    February 11, 2010 | 7:26 pm

    Food is the most common binding ritual we have, and we remember so long because of all the senses involved in making it. And food is the easiest way to make something mundane seem special, and important, like my grandmother breaking out her good china and the silver spoons to use with tea and the orange cake she always made when I came to visit her.

    Food and ritual, ritual and food, so many bright memories are made of it. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Kimberly
    February 11, 2010 | 9:16 pm

    So many things I remember that my mom baked.
    And my grandmother.
    And NO ONE KNOWS how to make my great-grandmother’s biscuits. We are all pretty convinced that it was the lard in combination with the wood stove that made them great.

    I bake. I would have been a good Italian mother. These days I keep baking “healthy” things and my kids and husband don’t like them. Sigh.

    Perhaps I need to bake a gooey chocolate cake.

  8. magpie
    February 11, 2010 | 10:12 pm

    butter and sugar and eggs. it’s how i remember my grandmother too.

  9. Hannah
    February 11, 2010 | 10:56 pm

    Mmmm. Smiling now. This is why I bake my children’s birthday cakes. There are many things at this stage of our life that we cannot give them, compared to their friends. But this I can do for them. So we bake. Often. Especially on special days.

    Love this post, Beck.

  10. Painted Maypole
    February 12, 2010 | 12:36 am

    the act of doing it for another is the love.

    the butter, sugar and eggs are merely the tools

  11. His Girl Amber
    February 12, 2010 | 11:37 am

    see? a post about a cake and I’m all weepy. that’s what you do best.

    I try every now and again to make memories with my children on purpose. You know, so hopefully they’ll blot out the not so shiny times…. and instead remember things that I did merely because I loved them very, very much.

  12. Marta
    February 12, 2010 | 12:45 pm

    I’m one of those sisters of your mother who remembers the lovely smell of Grandma’s freshly baked buns. I think of them often. Your post was lovely and brought tears to my eyes. Have you ever seen the Spanish movie “Like Water for Chocolate”? It’s not exactly a happy movie, but the cook is wonderful with all her emotions going into her food. If you haven’t seen it, try it sometime. It’s a great movie.

  13. Kelly
    February 12, 2010 | 6:31 pm

    My husband nailed it a few years ago when he said to me, “Cooking is your love language.”

    Truth. I hope my kids sense it with every bite. (At least when they are eating chocolate cake. Somehow, the love doesn’t come through as much when I serve them roasted cauliflower.)

  14. Jennifer
    February 13, 2010 | 12:34 am

    This was fun for me to read tonight because today is Jack’s 8th birthday, and he wanted brownies. He is having just a few friends over to play tomorrow, and he wants chocolate cake – with chocolate frosting – and “happy birthday, Jack” written on it. He said, “But maybe we can’t figure out how to do that.” So he was charmingly, dimply surprised when I told him I found a way to do even that. 🙂

    He helped me make the brownies, and he helped me make the cakes, and I will admit that there is still a part of me that is quietly amazed at how miraculous it is – that flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and cocoa can come together to make something so incredibly delicious, with the smell of sweet childhood memories.

    Oh, and by the way –
    we are still using your brownie recipe and your chocolate frosting recipe. They can’t be beat. 🙂

  15. Mary
    February 13, 2010 | 2:37 am

    *sniff, sniff*

    Oh my heart.


  16. Mary
    February 13, 2010 | 8:38 am

    Cooking is my love language too. My husband knows I’m buttering him up when I make him several days worth of baked goods. “Have I been good?” He asks, “Or have you done something I won’t approve of?”

  17. Nicole
    February 15, 2010 | 11:54 pm

    I love to bake, and I love the feeling of having my kids eating something I baked – JUST FOR THEM. It’s a great feeling.

  18. … [Trackback]…

    […] There you will find 67661 more Infos: […]…

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL