Let Them Eat Cake
By Terese Allen | Photos By Jim Klousia 0
Feel that breeze? It’s the first warm gust of springtime—or just as likely the collective rush of nearly six million Wisconsinites heaving a sigh of relief. Yes, we’re on the other side of winter, and we couldn’t be happier. We couldn’t be more in the mood to make merry.
No wonder the season is all about parties—bridal showers, graduation gatherings, Mother’s Day brunches. Backyard cookouts and front porch picnics. From St. Patrick’s Day to April Fool’s to Cinco de Mayo, from Easter to Memorial Day, there’s revelry going on practically every day in spring. And you know what that means.
“In bygone days, special occasions…of any kind rarely passed without a culminating cake,” wrote Harva Hachten, the twentieth century’s chronicler of all things edible in our state. While that’s less true in contemporary times, we still very much associate a home-baked cake with happiness and celebration. Why? Because making a cake from scratch takes time, effort and attention. In other words, love.
The cake I associate most with spring festivities is one my family enjoyed annually on Easter Sunday. We called it, simply, lamb cake—a frosted yellow cake, baked in a sheep-shaped cast-iron mold and decorated with green-tinted coconut “grass.” Later, words like “génoise” and “buttercream” entered my life when I began working at the Madison-based Ovens of Brittany restaurants in the early 1980s. Like me, area residents of a certain age today will remember their elegant coriander spice cake, served at many a springtime wedding during the Ovens’ era in the city. (Three decades later, I’m still getting requests for the recipe.)
Today, the cake that defines the season for me is angel food cake layered with pick-your-own local strawberries and Dairyland whipped cream. (Shortcake will also do the trick.)
Is there one that tops them all? Not really. Cake is like spring in Wisconsin. It’s all good.