I grew up in Southern California, an area known across the country for its “perfect” weather. But even without getting into discussions about the toxic smog that is ever-present; or the fact that while LA may have been nice, I lived at the foot of the San Gabriels, where it was always at least 10 degrees hotter; even setting those two facts aside, I found that the preponderance of sunny skies grew to be straight up monotonous. While I loved playing in sprinklers and jumping into pools with abandon as much as any other self-respecting kid, I also longed for stormy weather. I loved the blustery excitement of windy days and clouds moving across the sky as if on skateboards. If a cloudy day dipped below 60 degrees for more than 30 minutes, I scrambled for soup and sweaters. Thank goodness for the Pacific Northwest, handily camouflaging, yet catering to, my odd weather preferences.
While never as delightful as a properly blustery day, a life well lived will also include storms and foul weather. Things can’t always go our way. Obstacles stubbornly plant themselves on our yellow brick road, changes in plan arrive unexpectedly. Sure, the good will buoy your spirit, bring lightness to your step, and fill your heart. Good things encourage us and give us hope; they bring happiness. But truth be told, a life lived only in the sunlight of “good” would be hollow, shallow, and meaningless.
Difficult times have this interesting way, with their deep, scarring aches, of carving out depths in our hearts, in our souls, which deepen our capacity for love, increase the reserves of our compassion, and give us an appreciation for stillness and silence amidst the raging storm around us. Happy times are wonderful indeed, but the difficult times are what draw us together. When we are broken and frightened, that’s when we reach out to those around us, looking for life preservers in a roiling sea.
For better or worse, in a life well lived, there will be moments when every molecule of oxygen is sucked from a room. The flame of our hope gutters and is suffocated, vanishing in a wisp of a moment. There is illness, there is tragedy, a phone call that drags bad news through the wires, things happen to us that steal our air, robbing us completely of the ability to breathe. With any luck, there is someone there with us—to quickly fill that airless gap with a grasping hand, reassuring determination, or a firm commitment to not leave us in that moment alone.
That is the privilege and gift of a lovely marriage. That we shall never be alone, that when the air suddenly leaves the room, there remains someone with you, breathing, slowly breathing, for two.
I was so honored when Joe and Amy Heiden asked me to make the cake for their anniversary. A couple who well knows the cold, harsh lashing of a brutal storm, as they pause to mark the triumph of togetherness and mutual support. If you know the Heidens, you know as I do what sincerely kind people they are. So well matched for each other, they clearly share a happiness and connection that anyone can see. These are the kind of people, who when experiencing difficult times, naturally motivate a community to pull together around them in support. It is an honor to make this cake.
This cake came with a special request that it be dairy free. And while the baking world indeed seems to be BFFs with dairy, there is at least one cake that is by definition dairy free—a genoise. This is a cake that Shirley Corriher, well-respected food scientist, refers to as “simply trapped air”. Eggs whipped carefully and precisely create a strong but light and airy cake that can be made luscious with a soaking syrup. For this cake, a simple syrup steeped with lime zest and lime juice is painted over the cake, its bright sweetness impregnating the open air-capturing holes that are the signature of this cake.
Raspberry filling, with the soft floral notes of lemon zest, brighten the cake with a joyful tartness and the richness of ruby red liquid jewels while an old-fashioned favorite, 7-minute frosting, brings a gooey sweetness. After a few hours, moisture will escape from the exterior of the frosting, leaving behind a delightfully crisp coating around the luscious sweetness, creating a texture similar to the rainbow-hued French macaron cookies.
This cake marks an anniversary and is an offering of oxygen, of trapped air, in a season of life which can feel airless. It is a subtle reminder that, even when we are left struggling to breathe, with any luck, there is a partner beside you, breathing for you. As they mark another anniversary of their love and partnership, a reminder that they are never truly alone.
Happiest of anniversaries and wishing you many, many more, Joe and Amy—you are deeply loved by this community. We are breathing with you.