When a colleague of mine was agonizing over what to get her partner for her anniversary this weekend, I offered to help her celebrate the occasion with a batch of homemade cupcakes. I did it partially so I would have the chance to try out my lovely little heart-shaped icing plungers, but mainly because I think homemade cakes are a wonderful way to show your love for someone close to you.
When my phone flashed up with a text saying ‘She loved them! Thanks so much x‘, I got that warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing you’ve made someone else happy. And that got me thinking about why I bake.
I’m the first one to admit that I’m not the world’s greatest baker. I’ve only been cooking and eating actual food – as opposed to frozen chicken burgers/chicken nuggets/pizzas and chips (horrifying I know) – since I was dumped at university 5 years ago, 300 miles from home with a a few pots and pans and a 2kg bag of pasta. My love affair with baking started about 18 months ago, and I’m slowly improving all the time as my confidence improves and I learn from various cake-xperiments that go woefully wrong.
Part of the reason I bake is to show a little love for myself. To prove to myself that the girl who hadn’t eaten a pepper until the age of 18 can turn it around. To give myself a space to be creative outside of work hours, and a space to escape when stress hits.
But I don’t bake for perfection. I bake for that warm and fuzzy feeling. You know the one I mean – the one that comes with handing over a slice, a cupcake, a brownie, macaron or cookie to someone you love; the beaming face of the recipient of your handcrafted birthday cake.
The wonderful thing about cake that keeps me baking, keeps me covering my kitchen (and invetably myself) in explosions of icing sugar, and keeps me trotting home with another cookbook I don’t have space for under my arm, is that sharing cake with others is essentially like saying ‘let’s celebrate how much I care about you’. It’s like giving them a giant, chocolatey, buttercreamy, hug that lasts for two days – depending on how many people you’re hugging and how much they like cake!
It’s not hard to see, then, why cake is so popular. Where there’s love, friendship, family and celebration, there’s cake. Anniversaries, birthdays, baptisms, Christmas, new beginnings, or reuniting with old friends – those days we love to remember. They’re all marked with a slice of something sweet, made with love and remembered fondly through grainy, candlelit photographs.
That’s why, whether it’s a special day or just a Tuesday with my best friends, there’s a reason I always save a little room for cake. Why do you bake?