My chocolate cake wins awards.
I don’t mean to brag, that’s just the honest truth. Well, it has won one award, so I like to call it “My Award-Winning Chocolate Cake.”
A number of years ago, we were members of a small town Oklahoma Baptist church, and our Sunday School class decided it would be fun to have a dessert bake-off. I brought my chocolate cake – the ultra-unassuming, super decadent recipe given to me by my mother-in-law – and I’ll be danged but what it didn’t win Best All-Around.
So even though we try not to each much sugar these days, and even though the glory days of clouds of powdery processed white flour floating through the air are long gone now, I still keep all the ingredients on hand for my Award-Winning Chocolate Cake. I make it for parties and potlucks, new neighbors and new mamas, for all manner of happy occasions.
But honestly, even more than I make it for happy folks, I find that I pull out my trusty 9×13 glass cake pan to bestow cake on the heartbroken, too.
Like when my precious friend and neighbor — who had, only a week before, told everyone that they were delighted to be expecting a surprise baby — sent a group text to inform us all that she was losing it, I didn’t know what to say or what to do. We always want to do or say the perfect thing in those moments, don’t we? I didn’t have anything perfect to offer her. But I could make a cake. I left it on her porch and texted back, “I’m so very, very sorry. There’s a warm cake on your front porch. Let us know what we can do.”
And just a few months ago, one of my best friends had found what she thought was her absolute, end-all be-all perfect house in the perfect historic neighborhood that she had been daydreaming of creating a perfect little life in, but just a few weeks later, their contract on the house fell through and all those perfect dreams were crushed. Once again, I was left fumbling for words, so I pulled out the butter and the sugar and got to work.
Those of us who choose to walk a path with intention through life can be a little prone to overthinking. (Wait. Is that just me?) We know we want to live lives connected to our communities, our neighbors, our friends, but sometimes we get so bogged down in good intention that we collapse under the weight of our own standards and do nothing at all.
In 2013, I read an essay by one of my very favorite writers – D.L. Mayfield. It’s called the ministry of funfetti, and I am here to tell you it changed my life. If you have a few minutes, go give it a read. She talks about how easy it is to begin to believe that only in doing the biggest, wildest, scariest things will we live lives of meaning, become people truly loved by God. But she takes that erroneous assumption down, and in her humble, humorous way, she notes the unrecognized ministries that change the world in the smallest, simplest ways:
“I think about those blogs I used to read, and all the feelings they would bring up. And now I just want to sit down, over a good direct-trade cup of coffee, and say to those writers: spray all the things gold. Bake all the tarts. Make all the lemonades you want. And take all those little lovelies and run, run in the direction of the world’s brokenness.”
I think of her words so very often as I mix together sugar and cocoa and flour and butter (so much butter). I think of how cakes are so great for celebrating with the jubilant, and how they are so great for offering a little sweet in the midst of sadness. Words are good, but sometimes they fail, and when they do, there’s always cake.
It really is as simple as that.
(Oh, and here’s the recipe if you’ve been meaning to add a very non-health-food Award-Winning Cake to your repertoire!)