Many years ago I purchased a restaurant display cake at a local auction. You know, one of those replica pieces some food establishments put out to entice you to save a little extra room for desert. In this case we are talking three layers of dark chocolaty goodness slathered with thick fudgy frosting topped with whipped cream and chocolate covered strawberries. Or more precisely, three layers of colored construction foam coated with tinted bath caulk and topped with even more caulk into which three strawberry-shaped resin orbs dipped in, you guessed it, more tinted bathroom caulk, were lovingly placed.
To be fair, it really is a convincing facsimile of a delicious, fresh from the bakery, devil’s food cake. So much so that I have proudly displayed it on my kitchen counter under a glass cake dome for years. Mostly just to tease my guests. Many people have been disappointed to learn that the cake they had expected for dessert was nothing but a sham. Over time my friends and family have all learned the sad and dessertless truth of the matter and just ignored its forlorn existence.
When I heard that the clan would be gathering at our home for the holidays I decided to play a little trick on them. The night before our guests arrived I baked an actual devil’s food cake. See where this is headed? True to the original it was three layers, frosted with chocolate frosting and topped with whipped cream. I didn’t have the strawberries but I figured nobody would remember it had them anyway. I slid the inert chunk of impostor cake off of its pedestal and replaced it with my moist and delicious, freshly baked, real and true cake.
As expected, all through the day, no one so much as looked at the cake. Food was served and eaten, stories were told, relatives were caught up with and yet the cake still sat untouched. Seeing that one of my cousins had brought her boyfriend with her I decided the time was right to strike. I approached with cake spatula and dessert plates in hand and asked, since he was the newest to our family, if he would do the honor of cutting the cake. Suddenly the room grew quiet. People glanced around unsure. No one had brought a cake. They hadn’t seen any cake except for the old….oh. Some smiled knowingly thinking I was trying to play a trick on the unsuspecting young man. People nudged each other’s ribs and the family gathered around to see him “cut” the un-cuttable and inedible faux dessert. To give him credit he knew something was amiss. There was too much attention for such a simple thing as cutting a cake, but he soldiered on and poised to make the first cut.
With a quick slice the spatula slid easily through the layers. People were stunned. There was even a gasp from someone. He had just ruined my cake! Perhaps all of the years had weakened the sturdy foam? Could it be fixed? The fake cake had been broken! Oh dear how was I going to take this? Everyone knew I loved that old cake. To his credit the would-be-cake-killer made a second slice and lifted out a thick wedge, placing it neatly on a saucer. Looking around he wasn’t sure what to make of the expressions on people faces.
I couldn’t hold it back anymore and started laughing. Then everyone seemed to get it. I hadn’t been playing a trick on my new guest, the fun was on everyone else. The rest of the cake was passed around with smiles and good humor. Even those who had eaten their fill earlier made room. The cake that had been promised for so many years had finally been served.
Although the fake cake has been returned to its pedestal people usually check it now… Just in case.