Going against the flow

June 22, 2007

If you happen to live in Athens and find yourself at a birthday party, or some other festivity that might be appropriate for the serving of a layer cake, you can put a hefty hunk o’ change on the chance that the cake served will be a Cecilia cake. I remember when we first moved to the Classic City, going to our first few parties, and hearing the excited rumor spread throughout the room that the cake is a Cecilia Cake! and not really knowing what they meant. People planned entire events around serving a Cecilia cake. Budgets were tweaked to pay for the prized confection of glory. I’ve heard many full mouths exclaim their favorite flavor of Cecilia’s cakes — as if delivering the payoff to a good story, or the punchline of a good joke. Usually, the exclamation demands response from others, either agreeing, or giving their own contrary opinion. There is usually no animosity between lovers of different flavors, because everyone is in complete agreement that Cecilia cakes are, by far, the best dessert available in the developed world.

You can guess what’s coming: I don’t like Cecilia cakes.

I’ve never spoken these words out loud at a party. Primarily, because it would be quite rude to announce to the host that you don’t like the chosen dessert. Secondarily, because it sort of feels like coming out of a culinary closet. I have been afraid of people’s reactions; that they would think I’m weird, or not completely human, or that I have bad taste. A hush would fall over the room. People would stare. I would be asked to leave.

I must explain that my dislike for the cakes is not an overarching disdain; in fact, it’s those things about the cakes that I like that make it that much more disappointing when I eat them. They are visually stunning, and quite unique. They are usually iced with thick, expressive application that almost looks painted. They look like they popped right off the canvas of a Wayne Thiebaud painting (that’s probably why I want them to taste better, because I’ve been wanting to snatch pieces of cake off of his paintings since undergraduate school). They are also obviously made from scratch. They have compelling flavor choices, are perfectly moist, beautifully constructed, and boast a delicate crumb.

But they’re just too damned sweet.

I am not anti-sugar, anti-fat, or anti-decadence when it comes to desserts. If you’re gonna have a piece of cake, it better be worth every calorie, paid for in sheer enjoyment. But desserts need balance, and this is where I think Cecilia goes wrong. In a blind taste test, I’d bet most people wouldn’t even be able to distinguish between chocolate and white cake, or (with the exception of stronger fillings such as amaretto or raspberries) entire cake flavors, because they all just taste exceedingly sweet. The sugar covers up everything else that’s so right on about the cakes.

So, there’s my confession. I’m prepared to face the consequences. But, since we’re clearing the air here, tell me: what food do YOU not like that, upon public knowledge, might get you blacklisted?

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