Let Them Eat Cake!

cake, chocolate cake, dessertAs my mom’s life slowly unravels – her brain forgetting my name, her thoughts floating in a vast ocean of faded blues – I wish I could thank her for her cakes.

Of course, over the past two years I think of a myriad of items I’d like to thank her for, but my mom has never been comfortable with conversation that goes beyond “what should we do now?” She didn’t talk about philosophical issues, or the past, and definitely not the future. She pursued fun and the company of others. Spending time sipping coffee and talking about “life” was not on her list of fun. siblings, brother and sister, a '60s photo

Which is why I realize now what a treat she gave my brother and me. Every Friday night, our mom baked a cake. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. Angel food cake with one or the other. She tried a gingerbread cake in the fall. She made us each a cake for our birthdays (never store-bought) in March and October.

But the amazing part of her baking prowess was that my mom didn’t like to bake and she certainly didn’t care for desserts.

It wasn’t until I went away to college and returned home that first time, two and a half months later, to the smell of just-baked chocolate chip cookies that I realized two things: my mom missed me, and she had never baked cookies before. In fact, my 18-year-old mind suddenly comprehended that I had never seen my mom eat sweets. She considered sugar as palatable as, say, baking soda or corn starch.

Yet, my brother and I enjoyed a freshly baked two-layer cake once a week.

cake, dessert, vanilla cake Easter cakeWhen I raised my own family, I baked a cake every Friday for 18 years before my two kids left for college. Now, I notice that my daughter bakes a cake for her family of three children several times a month.

My son’s wife has probably never baked a day in her life. (I think he married a woman like his grandmother.) So when I send cookies and brownies to their three young boys in San Francisco, I become the best grandmother in the world. chocolate chip bars, cookies, cakes, dessert

Thank you, Mom.

156 thoughts on “Let Them Eat Cake!

  1. Bless her. We never had store-bought baking in our house. Mom was always baking. She made her own bread, cakes, cookies, buns, everything. The best and most favourite was her German Kuchen. She enjoyed it as much as dad and us kids did but left the smallest piece for herself. I still much prefer homemade baking and enjoy creating my own cakes etc. I have thanked her many times.

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  2. How sweet. I like to bake, but I did it much more when my kids were younger. However…this month I’ve baked cookies for a block party, brownies for my son to take to a tailgate party and a birthday cake! As we’ve gotten older, we don’t like sweets as much (even my kids!), but it’s still nice to have something home-made in the house. Your mom did a great thing and look how her tradition has carried on! 🙂

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    • “As we’ve gotten older, we don’t like sweets as much…” Um. I only wish. This ‘older’ woman has not lost her sweet tooth. Whaaa. Actually, that’s not true. I still love sweets, but one bite does it for me. Sugar seems to shoot straight into my head and I get a (too big) rush.
      Lucky for your block party peeps and son’s tailgate party peeps and the birthday person. I think part of the enjoyment of making sweets now is the (happy) reaction from the receiver. xo

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  3. How wonderful to be the best grandmother in the world. You can’t do better than that. My mum made lots of cakes and biscuits (your cookies). I think they were a fairly cheap way of filling up the hoards. She used to make me a marble cake for my birthday. It was very special. She didn’t (as far as I remember) make it for anyone else. I’m not sure why it was just for me, but I was glad.

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  4. What a lovely tradition your mom made for you and your brother! And such a lovely memory, too.
    It’s wonderful that you bake for your grandchildren, but I’m sure you’d be the best grandmother anyway!

    My mom cooked, but she didn’t bake very often, and she always worked outside the home. I became the family baker when I was a teen.
    My mom has quite a sweet tooth now–and we let her eat cake. She’s 97–why not? 🙂

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    • Interesting that you became the baker when a teen, and obviously have continued that tradition (I love your pix on Instagram). 🙂 Our moms are going through similar health problems, and one of the strange things that have occurred as my mom lives in dementia is that she now…. loves sweets. The staff at her memory care facility explained that with great old age (as our moms – 95 and 97), taste goes away except for — sweet.

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  5. My mother loved to bake and expressed her love with her cookies and pies and cakes. She was emotionally reserved, so this was her way. I’m glad you’re carrying on the baking tradition in your family. It’ll be something that your grandkids will remember fondly in years to come.

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  6. I’ve got tears in my eyes, Pam. I understand to a point the heartache you are living right now. I just lost my Mom 2 years ago. But dementia is another story all together. How wonderful that your Mom gave to you a tradition to carry on with your own family. And how wise of you to understand that was her way of showing she loves you.

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    • Thanks for your understanding and empathy, Amy. I must admit, it took me awhile (too long) to understand my mom’s love via baking. But when I was an adult and living across the country and I visited my mom, she’d create the most delicious dinners for me (scallops and scalloped potatoes, fresh salmon and wild rice, etc.) that as I sat at the dining room table with her and watched the sparkle in her eyes, I knew how much she loved me (Yup, okay, I’ve got tears in my eyes.) To our moms and their love, my friend, which even if they’re ‘gone’ never fades. xo

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      • My Mom didn’t know how to show me love, the way I know a Mom can show love towards a child. But, she did show me she loved me by sewing me these beautiful clothes, teaching me how to knit and crochet, sharing her love of reading with me so that I too have that love. Terrible circumstances in an alcoholic marriage where so much violence happened towards the kids which created so much hatred in my heart. Years later, as she was dying, I deliberately put my anger aside and chose to love her, to get to know her, and more importantly for her to get to know me, for who I am. For one year out of my entire life, I knew the love from my Mom that I knew I could have. We ended up learning how much we really have in common! And not only that, she loved me exactly for who I am and I her. Most of my siblings to this day carry anger in their hearts from what transpired in our childhood. My heart on the other hand, holds so much LOVE for my Mom. It’s been a little over 2 years she has been gone and there are times I miss her so much I double over in anguish. Walking from hate to love with my Mom was one of the Greatest Gifts I have ever given myself. Here is to our Moms and their love, the ways they knew how to express. And no that love never does fade, Pam. I have tears on my face …..

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  7. Alzheimer runs in my family, so I know the feeling and frustration of watching a loved one forgetting. But she built a strong foundation, and one day a great grandchild will talk about her friday tradition. I’m a baker, the kind that likes to try everything – cakes, pastries, cookies – and my children love to sit beside me and help me cut the cookies, or play with a piece of dough. I don’t bake every week, but I do at least once a month.

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    • Yummm, I wonder what’re your favorite cake/cookies to bake? I think I might want your recipes.:-)
      Yes, I’m baking up a storm, so to speak, for my grandkids. I have each one come by him/herself and learn to mix and crack the eggs and sample the batter. (Starting at 5 years old.) They may not remember each particular day with me, but they’ll remember the cakes and cookies, for sure. ❤

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  8. What a beautiful post. And what a wonderful tradition that you and your daughter have carried on. When the cook in the house makes something that he or she doesn’t really care for, simply as a way of showing love, that’s really special. I love to cook for my family, but we don’t have a tradition like yours–I wish we had.

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    • My son tries to bake now and then. The cutest time was when he made some chocolate chip cookies with his three little boys watching (or should I say tried to make?). The boys ate them, but the expressions on their faces was rather priceless. 🙂 Cheers to you, fellow baker.

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  9. I feel for you in the place that you are at with your mom. My mom passed away about 20 months ago now. The last few years were a challenge as her dementia passed, but I liked to tell her stories such as this for being the amazing person she was.

    It is wise to focus on the positives of your mother’s life and her influence on you rather than her present condition. What a beautiful story about the importance of traditions.

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    • Your words of understanding are so helpful, Pete. I’m sorry you and your mom also experienced her loss of memory (and much more) with dementia. And I send you sympathies. My mom, at 95, keeps on going even though she’s wheelchair-bound and doesn’t have her memories to comfort her. However, every once in a while she smiles and I can see her in there. What a gift. To remembering the core of our loved ones. ❤

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  10. My heart is pulled in many directions reading this Pam. The sadness of your mom no longer knowing you which is heartbreaking. That balanced with the loving memories of the weekly cake and how that has carried on through the generations. Sending hugs your way.

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    • My mom has left me with a zillion memories. I’ve written about some of them in past posts, and will share them with her great-grandchildren at some point. You record memories of your environment amazingly on your blog. Thank you so much for visiting here!

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  11. Very interesting and touching how your Mom showed love with baking cakes. It is a good reminder to me to truly pay attention to the many forms of love. It is also interesting how traditions (love) gets passed on in a family. Thank you for the beautiful story Pam:)

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  12. What a poignant post! Like my feminine relatives, your mother equated food with love, I gather. Surprisingly, your mother didn’t even LIKE cake. Oh, my!
    (Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is my favorite!)

    With all the cake in the house, Pam dear, how do you stay SO THIN!

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    • Oh believe me, Marian, I have “cake curves.” 🙂 That’s why I do so many “cakewalks.” Ho boy, I’m on a roll (or is that a biscuit?). Help! Make me stop! Seriously, thank you for your response. Yes, I think feeding our loves ones with food that sustains and comforts is a universal way of showing how much we care. ❤

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  13. I love hearing about family traditions. In my family, my maternal grandmother was a fabulous baker and so were my Mom and her two older sisters. Naturally or fortunately, so were all the granddaughters. My Mom always baked a beautiful chiffon cake with a very light buttery glaze on it for Dad and her children’s birthdays. It was such a very special treat to enjoy her very special cake. . . Mom passed away 2 years ago, but her recipes live on and are passed to the next generation. Her special chiffon cake is baked for family gatherings. . . .I forgot to say that the sons and grandsons are great cooks/chefs. . .

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    • You have a way with words, Marty. I love “a mother’s love shining through from her kitchen creations.” In the past, a person’s baking prowess was taken for granted. These days, someone who takes the time to bake gets extra credit. 🙂

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  14. What a moving story about a mother who loved her family. I love how you’ve carried down the tradition in the family and beyond. Lovely tribute. My mom baked cakes and cookies, but was known for her strawberry Rhubarb pie — my favorite for my birthday.

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    • How special that your mom was a pie maker as well as cakes and cookies. My dad begged for strawberry-Rhubarb pie, but in little southern NJ at the time, no one bothered with Rhubarb. What a lovely baking gift from your mom.

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  15. What a wonderful tradition your mother started for your family. My mother is an awesome baker, as is my son. Me? Not so much. In fact, when my son was in Kindergarten, he returned home one day with his eyes as wide as saucers. “Did you know that you could make cookies in an oven?”
    I was totally busted!!

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    • When I read your comment here I burst out laughing. What a story about your son learning “where cookies come from.” Hysterical. Sounds like he has taken up the mantle of baker from his grandmother. 🙂

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  16. It’s so hard to watch someone you love slowly slip away while they are still there. I’m glad she has given you some good memories and I’m sure she knows you appreciate her on a soul level. That’s a very dedicated mother. It’s a wonderful thing to pass on to the grandchildren 😉

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    • It’s said that being with a loved one with Alzheimer’s/dementia is a slow painful goodbye, and it’s the truth. A horrible illness that maybe in our grandchildren’s time a cure will be found. Thank you for your empathy – I agree with you about the “soul level.” ❤

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  17. Pretty amazing that your mom didn’t like desserts or eat cakes and yet she baked one for you both every single Friday! Perhaps she enjoyed the process of baking and the joy of her children eating the cake each week ~ a family ritual. Interesting how that family tradition has endured and been passed down, and what lucky grandkids they are to receive your fresh baked goodies at their front door!! (Viet Nam is not THAT much further than San Francisco from you, is it?) Hahah 🙂

    I tried to bake cakes for my sons when they were little, and they were kind of a hit and miss affair. Then I got smart, or so I thought, and found a really superb bakery that made wonderful chocolate cakes and carrot cakes. Now I think perhaps I should have worked at it a bit more…..

    Peta

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    • Finding a “superb bakery” is an act of love – I’m sure your kids totally appreciated it! You actually did an act even better, teaching your children about healthy nutrition and eating their vegetables. xo

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  18. My mother showed love with her cooking as well. We clashed like chalk and cheese, but she taught me about good food, how to make it and how to eat it with friends and family. It’s a tradition the Offspring and I continue, with love.
    -hugs-

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  19. Dang! This gave me a lot of memories of my childhood. My mom also disliked sweets and hated baking. YET yet she often made a vanilla cake/chocolate frosting OR chocolate cake/vanilla frosting cake. One time I requested vanilla cake/vanilla frosting and she just looked at me and said “no” because my sister and dad would never go for it.

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    • Aw, Mike. If you lived closer I’d make you a vanilla cake/vanilla frosting cake. I make one of those for the Fam and it’s acceptable because I dribble rich dark chocolate on the top. 🙂 Cheers to your mom for keeping you and your sis happy with childhood cakes.

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  20. What a fun tradition!
    It’s Friday . . . cake day!

    My mom was a wonderful baker (and sweet eater). So are my sister and both sisters-in-law. Not me. I don’t have the baking gene.

    Sorry that you mom is slipping away, memory by memory. It makes for a long good-bye. I was over-joyed on days when my “real mom” reappeared for a few brief moments.

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    • In many ways I envy your lack of needing/liking sweets. Sure would make life easier (I wouldn’t have to ‘work off’ the cookies every day). 🙂
      Yes, I’ve experienced those short minutes of awareness from my mom- they are treasured more than gold or jewels.

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  21. What marvelous memories, Pam. It would have been another thing entirely if your mom had both enjoyed baking, but also enjoyed the sweets! To understand that she bakes purely for you the joy of pleasing you and your brother is tender and so dear! As you slowly lose her to the limits of what she can recall it’s just tremendous to know that she has created such a wonderful legacy with the “gift of cakes!” I wish I’d done something with this regularity with my own children. It’s fabulous!

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    • I’m sure you have your own traditions that you’ve experienced with your kids over the years, Debra. Kids don’t forget these ‘little’ things, even as adults. Maybe PARTICULARLY when they are adults! xo

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  22. What a wonderful – and tasty – tradition that is being handed down, Pam. Unbelievable that your mom never ate any of her own creations!

    I did not grow up with cakes, home-baked or other. In Belgium, when I grew up, moms would bake waffles in a waffle iron (my grandma did this) or make crepes, especially on birthday parties. Other families might bake cakes, but our bakeries have a wide assortment of incredible cakes in Belgium. We call them “taarten” and they are very different than here. None of that colorful bright or frosted stuff from the States. 🙂

    Interestingly – and this is something that never fails to amaze my husband – my parents never had an oven (by choice), so I didn’t grow up with any baked goods, for desert or dinner.

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    • NEVER HAD AN OVEN ? And by choice? That is amazing and hard to fathom. But I guess if you lived in Belgium (famous for its chocolate and cakes) an oven was not a necessity. I hope someday I visit Belgium and experience a “taarten.” I have a feeling I’ll love it! I can’t tolerate the store-bought cakes with pink/blue/purple frosting made out of shortening. UGH. I guess I’m spoiled, thanks to my mom.

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  23. What a wonderful post, there is nothing nicer than home made cakes and biscuits/cookies.. And I think I must take after my grandma… She was a baker of bread more than cakes.. Over last Winter I was baking cakes, muffins and pies, crumbles and puds, so much so hubby and I put a few pounds on. So over the Summer I thought less baking, lol…
    But only a couple of weeks ago I made a ginger cake, and this week hubby asked what cake I was going to bake.. 🙂
    Its wonderful to show love through our appetites and home baking.. And I hope I am passing that skill onto my eight year old granddaughter who last week when i asked her what she wanted to do when she visited for the day..
    The first thing she said, ‘Can we Bake grandma?’ We made scones with raisins in them.
    She took half of them home.. 🙂

    Loved reading about the love your Mum has passed on to you ❤
    Much love Pam… ❤

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    • I’m not surprised that you and I share a love of baking, Sue. I didn’t mention this in my post, but for me, there is something spiritual (if that’s the right word) in measuring and combining ingredients and mixing them into one lump and doling it into a baking pan and then smelling the aroma and pulling out of the oven an amazing pan of . . . love.
      I can visualize you and your granddaughter enjoying this act together. You are making lifelong memories. ❤

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  24. Love this. Mom always made our birthday cakes too, and it was one of the many, many things I missed when Alzheimer’s disease took her from us at the age of 75.
    On the other hand, my mother-in-law just turned 90, and although we gave her a huge Costco cake, tons of food and a birthday party with well over 70 guests, she felt she had to make a dark fruitcake with white icing for the event as well. She is an amazing woman and I hope my husband has inherited her genes for longevity!

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  25. I used to bake. I haven’t in a long time. I really need to get back into that but when my daughter en fam move out. When I have more time. When I get the drawer front fixed. when when when….

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  26. Pingback: Let Them Eat Cake! — roughwighting – Rexton digital

  27. As Mom’s, we just “do” for our kids. Some random and some turn into traditions. I think it will be interesting for us to find out later what that thing that we did meant to them. My grandsons now are starting to love traditions. Bless your Mom for giving you the cake tradition, even when it wasn’t the thing she liked…Tell her anyway Pam, how much those cakes meant to her.

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  28. Pam, Love is shown in so many ways … and I’m moved now the cake baking tradition continues through your daughter! Yeah, to you for sending cookies to your son’s children; one can imagine how their faces light up with joy. In our house my mother’s cakes are a treasure, a must for birthdays and often throughout the months! Each year she asks wouldn’t we prefer one from a bakery – a resounding NO is the immediate reply. As it was just my birthday we are still enjoying her best yet … is it too wicked to have a slice for breakfast?😀🎂

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    • I’m glowing in joy for your mom – and that her cakes are so appreciated. My daughter-in-law is not one to comment on my baking or to give praise, but last week she texted me that Schuyler (her oldest at 10, my grandson) after receiving my cookies in the mail, asked her: “Why do Grammy Pammy’s cookies always taste so GOOD?” And my daughter-in-law told him: “Because she uses magic and mixes that with a huge deal of love.” WOW. I was blown away. ❤
      Happy Birthday, a little late! xo

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  29. My Mom was not the most confident cook/baker, yet she clipped recipes and always baked for us from scratch – all kinds of things – cookies, cakes, brownies, rolled whipped cream “logs”, occasionally pies. I couldn’t agree with you more, Pam – Thanks, Mom.

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  30. My grandma taught me so much just in her simple everyday actions. She loved to bake also. Thank you for sharing this. The older generations were not comfortable voicing love, but showed it well. I wrote a post on my blog about my remarkable grandmother as well.

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