Let Them Eat Cake

Whoever invented the traditional Romanian pound cakes that are apparently indispensable for Christmas and Easter must have been a masochist with no common sense at all. Yellow, fluffy, scented with vanilla and lemon zest, the cakes sure are good. But I don’t think they’re wonderful enough to justify the labor, expense, and worry their preparation entails. They require tons of pricey top-shelf ingredients, vigorous kneading, over-night rising in a warm room, heavily greased trays dusted with flour, an elaborate folding process as one works in a filling of walnuts, the perfect baking temperature, a ton of patience, and even more luck, as no amount of experience or preparation can prevent them from sinking, or rising too much and crumbling onto the hot oven – not to mention other misfortunes. I also realized that none of the aunts trust their own judgment on various steps of the process, which is why they keep pestering the poor old lizard. I tried to explain that from now on they have to do it all without her. I even told them it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission, but it seems that without the leadership and guidance of the top pastry chef they are lost. Meanwhile the top pastry chef dozed next to the hot oven like an old cat. In the end she was highly dissatisfied with the pound cakes, but since she’s never happy with any baked good, I don’t see this as too dramatic. In fact, as I set out to buy covrigi and other treats I ended up taking a long walk and forgot entirely that pound cakes exist and require three days of continuous labor and worry by four assistants under the supervision of a top pastry chef.

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