The Power of the Wedding Cake

by Cynthia Ellingsen 

I have a true confession to share with you: When I cry at weddings, it’s not about the romance - it’s because I’m excited about the wedding cake. I think it's the frosting that gets me. The granulated sugar, the buttery texture of the floral accents and oh! The way the fondant just seems so unnaturally snow-white. The cake itself, though, can also be a delightful journey. A light and frisky vanilla interior won’t distract from the frosting. In fact, it’s a great way to cleanse the palate after each and every sugary bite.

In Marriage Matters, my latest novel from Penguin-Berkley, the cake tasting scene is one of my favorites. The three women sit down to an elegant tasting and as the grandmother and granddaughter decide to compete to see who can eat the most cake, the event descends into a raucous, sugar consumption frenzy. And I have to admit, it’s difficult to read that scene without eating a cupcake.

Brides, please know this: As you walk down the aisle in your resplendent beauty, tears of joy streaming down your face, I’ll be right there with you. Rooting for you. But in another part of my brain, I’m definitely clocking the seconds until that piece of fluffy, sugary joy gets passed around the reception.

Excerpt from Marriage Matters

Eagerly, Chloe took a seat at the table, followed by June, then her mother. The pastry chef set out a glass of water for each of them, along with a napkin and a full place setting. To the side of each plate was a small silver bucket. It looked just like a spittoon at a wine tasting but Chloe had no idea what it was for.

“The bucket,” the pastry chef explained, noticing her confusion, “serves as a receptacle. Many brides choose to take a tiny bite of cake and discard the remainder.” She handed them each a piece of paper with a small pencil. “Use this to keep track as you go. If there’s a flavor combination you like, just give it a tiny star.”

In the chocolate column, there was a lengthy list: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, German chocolate, black forest and hazelnut. Below that, the options were angel food cake, butter cake, pound cake, tres leches and (oddly) wedding cake. The specialty flavors included carrot, tiramisu and red velvet.

Many of the cupcakes were frosted with buttercream, whipped cream or raspberry chocolate. The carrot and red velvet cake were, of course, frosted with cream cheese.

Chloe’s eyes scanned the options eagerly. She hadn’t eaten any breakfast, in preparation for this little extravaganza. Suddenly, an idea struck her.

“Hey, Grandma,” she said, kicking June under the table. “Want to see who can eat the most without spitting?”

June already had a cupcake halfway to her mouth. Her face lit up. “I’ll most certainly win.”

“Chloe, we are not at the county fair,” her mother said. “We are selecting cake for your weddings.”

Chloe waved her fork. “Mom, you can either sign on as a judge or vacate the premises.”

June’s eyes surveyed the assortment of cupcakes. “I say we battle for the right to plan the bachelorette party. If I win, Bernice is doing it.”

Even though Chloe’s grandmother was cooler than most, it didn’t mean her friends knew how to throw a good party. What would they do, knit?

“No way,” Chloe said. “My friends are in charge of that. Your friends do not know the first thing about throwing a bachelorette party.”

“Then you better win,” June cried.

 “Done.” Dramatically, she reached for a square of dark chocolate cake. The cake was slightly spongy, with an earthy richness. The whipped cream frosting melted like a roasted marshmallow in her mouth. “Yum . . .”

June’s sharp eyes considered the cupcake in her hand, and she consulted with Kristine. “Should I stay away from the rich ones? Until she’s full?”

Chloe sank her teeth into the piece of tiramisu, sighing happily. “Doesn’t matter what you do, Grandma. I can eat cake for days.” The powdered cocoa on the tiramisu melded with her tongue like a kiss. It suddenly struck her that Ben would have enjoyed this tasting, since he liked tiramisu so much. Too bad they still weren’t really talking or she might have just brought him a cupcake.

“Pace yourself,” Kristine warned. “Old age and treachery beats youth and enthusiasm every time.”

June nodded. “That’s a fact.”

Chloe scoffed. “Keep telling yourself that.” She surveyed the cakes, trying to decide which to try next.


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