KAREN WICKER: Red Velvet Cake More Than Dessert
One of the first memories of enjoying the holidays with my husband's family some 29 years ago was tasting and enjoying the delicious red velvet cake his mother would so lovingly bake.
My mother-in-law would keep the cake hidden from the family until the main meal had been served and eaten. Then she would bring out an opaque Tupperware cake holder and ceremoniously place it on the table. She would lift the lid to reveal a beautiful red velvet cake. Even though we were all stuffed from the meal, we couldn't resist its magical appeal.
There was never a holiday or special occasion that I missed a piece of that cake. I may have had to wrap my piece in tin foil and carry it home, but I always indulged in my favorite holiday tradition. I don't know if it was because it was red, so moist or the cream cheese icing was so smooth -- or maybe because I knew it was made with love.
Because red velvet cake seemed for me a special cake, I tried my hand at baking one for my husband on his birthday. We were living in another part of the state away from family, and I felt if I could make the red velvet cake for him, he would know that he was loved. I even baked it in a heart-shaped pan. Needless to say my efforts were not so productive. I didn't burn it, but it was not very moist, and it looked more pink than red. My husband sweetly ate the cake and appreciated my attempt.
I can also remember a time when my mother-in-law's red velvet cake went for $100 at an auction during their church homecoming. She was so thrilled, but a bit modest about its enormous take. The whole family was excited for her too, but a little disappointed that we wouldn't be able to enjoy any of the special cake. To our surprise there was a red velvet cake waiting at her house when we all came by after homecoming. She was so pleased with herself when she smiled and served that cake saying, "I know how much you all love my cake."
For the past few years my mother-in-law has not been able to bake due to her progressing dementia. Not only do I miss the red velvet cake, but the wonderful melt-in-your-mouth biscuits and other goodies she would "whip up" whenever family came to visit.
Families go through transitions in their traditions at holidays and special gatherings as family members pass away or are unable to do the tasks they once did. I was grumbling to myself about not wanting to see the holidays come. I was being selfish in thinking that because our old traditions are gone, we couldn't enjoy new ones. But out of the blue, the other day my own sweet daughter suggested that she and I try our hand at making a red velvet cake for the holidays.
At first I was a skeptical, but seeing the enthusiasm in her eyes, I agreed, and we decided to tackle the recipe together. Ever since that conversation with my daughter, I have had a renewed spirit for the holiday season. I feel as if I can look at other memories from the past and turn them into new ones. I think it will be the best of both worlds. I will still have my memories, but I will be creating the new ones.
Just like the red velvet cake my daughter and I will bake, it may not taste as good as the one Mama used to present, but I know it will be made with love.
Karen M. Wicker is a N.C. certified parenting educator.
More like this story