No Cake Walk

Posted on July 5, 2014 under Storytelling with no comments yet

Cakes by Ellie

Three Teared Cake?




Just uttering the word evokes a powerful image of the bucolic village, nestled in the interior of Cape Breton Island, overlooking the Barramen’s Strait on the Bras d’Or Lake.   The community is steeped in history.  The Highland Village is the centerpiece of the community, perched atop a very steep hill amidst breathtaking scenery.  The place oozes history and authenticity.

When I think of Iona, one word creeps into my consciousness.  Terror.

Several years ago, our daughter, her husband and their infant daughter lived with us while he completed a degree at St. F.X.  Ellie is a world class pastry chef.  In the wink of an eye she turned our basement into a bakery from which emerged all manner of delicious and expertly decorated confections.  For some strange, yet undetermined reason, I became her helper.  I would routinely roll up my sleeves for the dishes during the week and escort her to the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.  Her cupcakes were legendary.

That first summer she developed a sidearm of the business; the uncertain and oft times stressful world of wedding cakes.

An order came in for a triple layer wedding cake to be delivered to Iona.  I checked on a trip calculator that indicated a distance of 128 kilometers (80 miles for our friends in the U.S.), with a travel time of one hour and forty four minutes.  My suspicion is that this calculation is based on ideal conditions.  Believe me; delivering a wedding cake is not “ideal conditions” under any circumstance.

Over the summer, after trial and error, we had developed a way to transport our precious cargo.  We used an old wooden slab that used to be the top of our dishwasher, leveled and secured in the back seat of the Camry.  Ellie would sit beside the cake to make sure it didn’t slide.  Final assembly would occur at our destination.

The cake was a masterpiece.  The finishing touches were applied on Friday evening.  Saturday turned out to be the hottest day of the summer.  New record high temperatures were set all over the province.   When we went to get the cake out of the fridge we noticed that the fondant was weeping ever so slightly.  The cake looked like it was crying.  There was at least one other person on the verge of tears.

We managed to get the cake into the car, the first of two delicate lifts that day.  I wasn’t this nervous on my own wedding day.  “Turn the air conditioning on high,” directed the steely voice from the back seat.  I tilted my chauffeur’s hat ever so slightly and off we went.

Normally, the fan for the air conditioner in one’s car rarely goes above one.  The dial was cranked up to the maximum and by the time we hit the Causeway, I was damned near frozen.  This white knuckle drive was precipitated not by anxiety, but from the frost forming on my fingers.  We made our way safely to the turnoff to highway 223.  I noticed that the pavement wasn’t quite as smooth as on the Trans-Canada Highway.  We got on the cable ferry for the short passage at Grand Narrows.  The cake was still in one piece.  Well, three pieces, technically.

Although this was in the middle of summer, highway 223 seemed to be more like the roads one sees just after the frost has come out of the ground in the spring time.  Despite the ice box that we were driving in, I started to perspire as I carefully negotiated every bump in the road.  And there were plenty of them.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, we reached the Highland Village, where the wedding was to take place.  Grown men are not supposed to weep but after more than two hours of tense driving, I faced the steepest hill I had ever seen, with the huge white wedding tent perched at the top of it.  To come all this way and face the prospect of the cake sliding into the Bras d’Or was almost too much to contemplate.

With the dexterity of a magician, Ellie managed to keep the cake in an upright position all the way up the hill.

The drive home was uneventful, and I turned off the air conditioning to feel the warm summer breeze as it thawed out my hands.  When we arrived home, we were met at the door by my wife, grandchild on her hip.  “How did it go?”

“Piece of cake” I replied.

I curled up in the hammock on our verandah and dreamed of the bride and groom on at their Highland wedding banquet.


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Highland Hearing Clinic

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