I was discussing with a client recently how after the birthday candles are blown out, the cake would be eaten and the elaborately handmade decorations most likely binned quite soon after.
Even with the most treasured of edible creations, there is the sure certainty that it will soon be demolished from a tower of sugared perfection to a pile of crumbs and a few smears of buttercream.
Although not something I like to dwell on - knowing the products you've made from scratch are so short-lived - it's a valid point. How can it be justified to even make, let alone buy and sell luxury cake?
We all know that feeling of opening a present and finding it's something that we need rather than want. Of course, sometimes we really were hoping for that new kitchen gadget in the wrapping paper, but more often than not we like our presents to be 'extras'. Whether it be a gorgeous afternoon tea, trip to the theatre or a piece of clothing we had our eye on, the very essence of gifts is to be the cherry on top of life's cake.
Cake is a symbol: of celebration, joy, something special, something unnecessary. Something extravagant that reminds us about the little flashes of sheer exuberance in life.
When we send shoeboxes to needy people at Christmas time, we never just put in the essentials. After the soap and woolly hats have been packed, there's usually something like a toy or packet of sweets on the list. It's part of being human that life isn't just composed of the day-to-day necessities. Sometimes life is lit up by the events, experiences and things that are purely existent to bring us delight.
Of course, there's a huge scale of relativity here. In the UK, we're privileged with a lot more resources than many across the globe. But that doesn't mean that splashes of excess should be frowned upon for us (unless we are being uncharitable with what we do have, perhaps!). Simply having a higher income doesn't mean we only spend it on the bare necessities.
In religious terms, this is called grace. Extravagantly giving to someone more than they need or perhaps even deserve.
There is importance in this, and deep value. I remember when I started uni, a couple I knew presented me with a ridiculously large hamper from Thornton's, crammed full of chocolate bars. I don't even have much of a sweet tooth, but their gesture was so touching. Long after those chocolates have gone, I look back on that moment with immense happiness. I felt so loved and supported. It almost meant more that it was something so stupidly unnecessary, given for the sheer abundance of it. It made me feel I was worth a lot in their eyes. It was a communication of love.
The value of a beautifully handmade, bespoke and delicious wedding or birthday cake is in so much more than the number of portions it serves. It's in that first flush of delight when the couple or birthday girl sees it. It's in the faces of the guests as they marvel over it. And it's in the lifelong memories that come from being the recipient of something so special it could never be a necessity.
I remember nearly every single cake that my mum made for my birthdays. And clients have said to me that they still think about their cakes a long time after they were given them. In the case of a big birthday, it's the double whammy of knowing that your nearest and dearest were thoughtful and caring enough to go to the trouble of ordering you a completely personalised creation. It's a communication from your friends and family that they know you and they wanted that symbol of joy to reflect who you are. In the case of a wedding, it's celebration your love for each other with the most luxurious of edibles. Really, cake is about love. And that is always worth it.
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