Smash Cake

Many years ago at a graduate school Christmas party, I brought a cake with melted frosting. To make the start of the party, I had to frost it before it was fully cooled, and the glops of sweetened butter were swirling around the platter, the cake rising like a castle above a sugary moat. This is a very whimsical and positive description of something that was disastrous to my eyes/heart/expectations.

The host told me, “sometimes you’ve got to let the cake fall on the ground.” I was horrified. I tried to take the good advice in stride. I think this was the same friend who told me during another cooking fiasco, “Never apologize, never explain” (in the kitchen at least, and according to Julia Child).

It’s funny the way we store quotations in our heads, and the way they come bubbling back up to the surface when we need them. As my own birthday cake stuck in its pans last Friday, and the frosting seized (and this, after my mom’s flight to celebrate my birthday with me was cancelled), I had to give up on the (seemingly reasonable dream!) of having a cake that day.

Beloved friends far away showed up for me through the miracle of Doordash and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse cheesecake, in addition to having had the foresight to gift me a gorgeous magnolia-inspired bundt pan, which I put to successful use the next day, but I do continue to learn over and over how much our expectations — however reasonable they seem! — can have such power over our experience.

What ways can we let go of expectations in order to really see and enjoy the world that’s already around us?

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