Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Get A Cake Across Town: A Cambridge Dilemma

An episode occurred yesterday that so aptly captures the quirky uniqueness of our life here in Cambridge that I have to make note of it.

The cast of principals: Our next door neighbors -- Steven, Lesley, their 20-year-old daughter Ellie -- and Ellie's boyfriend, Jack. They're all very much a part of our daily life here, and there is much waving through windows and "popping over" back and forth. And, key to the story, we are all living the two-wheeled lifestyle.

So, Ellie and Jack share with Caroline (who's now eight and a half) a love for baking and decorating cakes and other sweet treats. The other night they were all poring over a cake-decorating book, oohing and ahhing over the photos, and Caroline decided that since it had been a whole, I don't know, two weeks since she and Ellie had made a dessert together, it was high time to take their skills to a new level. An occasion was quickly identified: Nonnie and Opa's (Tim's parents') 47th anniversary. And lo, the day before the anniversary (that would be yesterday), Ellie and Jack had the day off from work. What would prevent another sugar-fueled adventure?

All went quite well, with Jack baking the cake and whipping up the frosting while Caroline and Ellie crafted little fondant ornaments, until it was time to look the central dilemma squarely in the eyes: How were we going to transport this cake across town on our bicycles to Nonnie and Opa's apartment?

There was a hasty meeting in the Situation Room, a.k.a. the neighbors' front entryway. Ellie's parents joined in. We discussed. We strategized. We fired on all cylinders.

  • The cake is too tall to fit in any available lidded tin or container. How will it be protected?
  • It just barely fits into my basket, supported from beneath by towels. Should I switch bikes with Ellie, who has a more capacious basket? 
  • Could we carry the decorations separately from the cake? 
  • Could I stretch tinfoil (and here we pause to compare the British and American pronunciations of the word "aluminum" and then decide to stick with "tinfoil") across the top of my basket to keep the whole thing from flying out when I go over a bump? 
  • Could Jack cycle over there with us, placing the cake in a shopping bag and holding the handles of the bag with one hand as he goes? 

We stopped just short of "Could I cycle with the cake balanced on my head?" before it was decided that Steve, Ellie and Jack would put Caroline, the cake, and her little pink bicycle into their camper van (normally used only for overnight trips) and drive the whole lot across town. Steve would stay with the van (too large for street parking) while Ellie and Jack escorted Caroline and the cake to her grandparents' apartment. Ian, Eliza and I would jump on our bikes and pedal like crazy to meet them there. Steve would hand over the bike and we'd lock it up with ours.

And that's what we did.
It was easy as pie.
I mean, cake.

And our dear neighbors can now file the whole incident under "Things We Probably Won't Have To Worry About After July 1."


  1. How wonderful that you went to so much trouble to help us celebrate our anniversary. The cake was delicious, and so very pretty. You have great neighbors, and I am sure you will miss them.

  2. I absolutely love that the whole discussion paused mid-brainstorm for a linguistic discussion.

  3. I just had some serious shake-laughter at the thought of a huge camper van being called to action for the sake of one precious little cake. I love this story.

  4. And Lydia, I'm sure you can appreciate the need to protect beautifully crafted baked goods from harm!