Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's Raining Cakes!

Shower Cakes

It’s that time of year when showers for new brides and new babies seem to fill weekend calendars. I remember a time when a shower was an intimate gathering of a few friends and family in a relative’s living room, and gifts were simple (wooden spoons and mixing bowls or baby booties and receiving blankets!). Today showers are often bigger productions, even extravaganzas, with expensive gifts from registries and catered meals with designer cakes. Recently my family held a luncheon for a soon-to-be new mother, expecting her second child. She didn’t want a shower and preferred something simple, so we all gathered at a Mexican restaurant and ordered and paid for our own meals off the menu. The cake was simple, from a local grocer’s bakery, and was very good (I love all cake, and sometimes even more when I don’t have to bake!). It was a lovely day.

In keeping with simple traditions, I’ve made my share of shower cakes for living room gatherings. Because I am closely connected with the guests of honor, these cakes take on special meaning for me as a baker. I aim to capture some personal essence and usually the result is a cake that receives an awesome reaction. I love that. If there’s no other moment when baking is worth it, it’s then, when the bride, or the new mom, reads my unwritten message to her in the cake, a message that says “You’re important, you are loved, very best wishes to you.” The cake featured in this posting was baked for my nephew’s fiancé, Emily. It was a bonnet cake featuring her favorite shade of green. In the slideshow of cakes on this site, you can also see a baby quilt cake, often requested because it can be so personally designed.

Showers are very happy occasions, filled with promise. Older women participate with a perspective of awareness, while younger women are awed by the possibility of what it all means. I do notice that showers are becoming grander in scheme, and gifts more elaborate. It’s not that I don’t appreciate upscale catalogues and posh furniture stores filled with everything a new couple, or a little girl or boy could dream of. There were times when I wished we could have started out with more, or provided our children with such a well-appointed initiation to life. Now and then I do regret that my kids’ first experiences were in a hand-me-down crib from the local Holiday Inn where my husband worked at the time, but when I look at the pictures of Joe smiling broadly from his crib, or Katie twirling with happiness in a “spin out” dress I bought at a discount store, I see happy babies. I love that their first outfits were stored in an antique armoire with personal history, presented to us by their great aunt. We were in our very early twenties as first-time parents, and money was tight. We did the best we could and those were happy days. The smiles in those photos tell me now that a happy start to life had nothing to do with gift registries, and those moments hold their own immeasurable value in my heart.

I’ve been to a baby shower where the only gifts requested were books for the baby’s library. I love that idea. Of course, it’s not practical. Young couples are faced with a very expensive life ahead, and need all the help they can get. Gift registries are an effective means to acquire fundamental necessities, and many gift-givers appreciate the convenience and efficiency of being able to choose gifts that way. It does seems less personal, somehow.

It’s tempting to imagine a return to earlier traditions, where humble expressions of love and personal generosity took precedence over grand displays of abundance. When it comes to showing you care, simpler just might be better.

Either way, there’s always cake!

Photo Credit: Jeannie O'Farrell Eddy

Tomorrow's post: Favorites from the Food Network


  1. Jeannie,
    I am having such fun with this blog! Thanks for putting such time and love into it...the memories it is bringing back are so special! I'm picturing Joey with spaghetti all over his head, Joe and Bobby "Godbrothers", Teresa and Dish as 'negatives' of each other in coloring and Tina and Katie having constant sleepovers. I wouldn't trade a minute of that time together as young Moms!

  2. Di,
    It's doing the same thing for me. Often times we only remember the things we would have done differently as mothers, but the memories this is unleashing assure me that our kids had a great start and there were so many happy moments. Thanks for reminding me!

  3. The new mother in this story is Shannon Britten, and today (June 4) she and my nephew Matt became the very proud parents of Alexis Erin, 8 lbs., 2 oz. Congratulations to big brother Matty too!