The first cake was pretty much a disaster – I had not given myself enough time to prepare it before they arrived, so only the layers were complete when we began to cook dinner. So it sat, two lofty fawn-colored unfrosted layers swirled with tart jam and smelling of cardamom waiting for us to fill it with swaths of silky buttercream and devour it.
Only that cake’s fate took a bit of a turn. I had vastly underestimated the potency that the combination of a good bottle of red wine, the warm Swedish mulled wine glögg and a cocktail called the snö cöne would have on our ability to frost a cake, let alone walk. Needless to say, when we woke up in the morning we found a cake covered in a frosting that dripped down in some places like candle wax and clumped into round bulbous formations in other places as burls do on a tree trunk.
This was the first night I spent with my two closest friends in my old apartment in Chagrin Falls. It was on a cold January evening nearly two years ago and I was still in the midst of cocooning myself after the ending of my engagement. As part of the nesting process, I had wholeheartedly embraced the Danish concept of hygge, and had molded my life around some of its tenets, trying desperately to bring about the peace it promised through surrounding yourself in coziness.
So in order to further conjure this protective comfort, I had invited over two of the people I loved most in the world and prepared a (semi-)veritable Nordic feast for them. Kelly, actually being Swedish, supplied us liberally with her family’s warming glögg, while Brittney brought really lovely wine to supplement our meal and I cooked as many vegetarian Nordic recipes as I could find (there really aren’t many – these countries are surrounded by sea and quite northerly, so vegetarian cuisine is a bit difficult – though not impossible – to find).
It was, in many ways, a perfect night. The three of us gathered around my table surrounded by candlelight and the silence of a winter night, stuffing our faces with way too much food, then moving to my living room and dancing so loudly that my neighbor called me (yes, I was the one jumping up and down, only slightly drunkenly at this point).
Then came those snö cönes. It seemed an innocuous enough cocktail. It was made only with vodka, simple syrup, lemon juice and this deliciously dark and sweet crème de cassis I had found a few months ago while travelling through Île d’Orléans in Quebec. Unfortunately, they went down like water in a desert, the alcohol being almost undetectable underneath all of that sugar. They were pretty to boot – just the right color of magenta that made them look like we were drinking liquid gemstones instead of alcohol. We each had three before we even took notice.
The rest of the evening was a blur. I remember not much of it and I’m sure some things are too embarrassing to even repeat. I spent most of it lying prone on the floor, trying to stop the room from spinning. I could hear Kelly and Brittney in the next room trying to frost the cake, giggling and intermittently asking me for directions. At some point a plate broke. Eventually, we all went to bed, waking up the next morning with the type of hangover that you only get after thirty. We had planned on going to yoga. Ha.
We ate little bites of that cake, along with small slivers of the Swedish waffles I made – our stomachs not strong enough to take any more than a few bites of each. We looked like hell and felt even worse, but it was only of my favorite nights in my apartment. I found a picture on my phone later that the girls had taken of themselves for me. It hung next to my bed for the rest of my stay there.
The second cake was actually three cakes, each spread across the month of October for each of our 31st birthdays – Britt’s on the 6th, Kel’s on the 13th and mine on the 21st. We decided not to mess with the second cakes. Instead of a potentially drunken decorating sessions, these were purchased in advance from a few of our favorite bakeries.
Britt’s birthday was first and we celebrated in her brand new apartment with a housewarming party amongst her family and friends. It was an occasion of a new beginning for her. She had recently ended a long-term relationship that was not making her happy and she had moved back home as she had always wanted to. A recent trip to Ireland had brightened her significantly and she looked like herself once more. Her cake was pink and ruffled and perfectly sweet. It was a bright finish to a night filled with happy reunions and new hopes.
Kel’s was next. After working her ass off every single day as a resident doctor, Kel desired a night out. She deserved it – such dedication to her work came at a cost to the other pieces of her life, so any celebration deserved to be grand. As a testament to this, the cake came first (as we also figured we would collapse at the end of what promised to be quite an extended evening).
This cake was still pink, but with delicate little flowers instead of the swooping pink ruffles. It was also dark chocolate and perfectly rich. It served as a close follow-up to our lovely cheeseboard dinner, filling our stomachs with happiness and acting as a sugary sponge for the alcohol we were soon to imbibe. Dancing into the late hours of the morning followed, and we finished with more of that cake when we returned, a now perfect breakfast that finished a celebration of one of the most hardworking people I know.
My cake was the last and it came at the end of October, just a day before Halloween. We were belatedly celebrating my 31st birthday and Britt and Kel had come over to cook me dinner from one of my favorite cookbooks. I was in a completely different state of mind than I had been when we spent that first night at my house in January, when I was desperately in repair. That October had opened me up like a flower and I felt like I was in full bloom. I had spent the week prior (and my actual birthday) in Italy visiting graduate programs and that short week contained a few moments that I count of as being some of the favorite memories of my life. I had also started to date again earlier that month and had met someone that I really liked. I felt good – truly good and happy, like I hadn’t in a very long time. Having both of them there to surround me with the love I had known for so long only made my contentment stronger.
They insisted on cooking dinner this time, so I sat back and we swapped stories of the last month. The journeys, the dates (the good and the bad), the birthdays and everything else going on in our lives. We discussed the possibilities of the future and how strange – and wonderful – change can be. It was another lovely night with yet another bright pink cake, which was delightfully devoured in the joy of the evening.
There were two final cakes, one from me to them and another from them to me, both to celebrate my acceptance into graduate school. The first was a surprise. I had them both over for dinner as we had all been busy within our day to day business and hadn’t been able to get together for quite some time. That morning, I had received the news that I had been accepted into graduate school and would be moving to Italy, news that I planned on sharing with them that evening. My life had changed again in the course of those short months. I was now single again, but happily so, grateful for the home I had there in Chagrin Falls, but also excited about the new path my life was about to take. It was, I decided, another occasion for cake.
I quickly threw together a favorite cake, called the Cake of Three (or Dolce del Tre in Italian) both as a dessert and as a symbol of sharing a meal between the three of us. There was again a lot of food that night, some happy tears and a lot of Prosecco, which was my ideal way to celebrate some very welcome news.
The second and final cake was another delicious disaster. Britt and Kel and a few of my other good friends took me out for a lovely dinner just before I left. When we arrived at Kel’s apartment after the meal, they presented me with another cake. This was the ugliest one yet. Something had happen in transit and the cake arrived broken down the middle as if it had been struck by lightening after being thrown on the floor. They apologized profusely and I laughed profusely – and then we ate every delicious bite.
No matter if theses cakes were perfect and delicious or broken into pieces and nearly inedible, I loved every single one. They were a part of some of the best moments I shared with my two closest friends, a symbol of our unconditional love and support for each other and proof that sometimes the best things come in threes.
If you’d like to try the Cake of Three, I’ve adapted it to my new home and you can find the recipe here: The Cake of Three.