One of my dear friend Milton’s great passions is cake. The man can speak rhapsodically about long-shuttered obscure bakeries with the same degree of affection others reserve for a departed mate, relative or pet. He can be merciless in his opinion about red velvet cake for that confection proves reliably disappointing. One cake that consistently delivers his seal of approval is the Magnolia Bakery’s Hummingbird cake. Unfortunately, I have searched my extensive personal photo archive of thousands of images that I have shot over the course of the years but much to my regret, I have yet to photograph a slice of one my buddy’s favorite cakes. To fill this void, I am posting a picture of the Valentine’s Day cake he had made last month.
I would like to add that he ate this entire cake himself in a single sitting at his desk at work, but I jest. That is something one of the more dysfunctional nabobs at my place of employ would do. Milton is very good at sharing with others, so his colleagues very likely view him as “the cake guy”. I am sure that he’s quite a popular and adored member of the staff.
Unlike Milton, I’m not much of a cake woman. I like cupcakes, but I’m not a fan of a large slice of anything with frosting. Last month at work, to celebrate my sidekick Greg’s birthday, he wanted a chocolate banana layer cake. I could barely eat half a slice. It was a struggle to get down. When I had given up I emailed an image of it to my Special Someone under the subject heading “I. Am. Stuffed.”
Me: Jesus, what a dense cake! I feel like I ate the Alien. I did the best I could with my piece of it.
SS: LOL. That’s it?! I wish I had your petit appetite.
Me: Oh, cut me a break! That thing is enormous! It weighs as much as a Buick and feels like a Buick idling in my gut right now.
SS: I could eat half that [entire] cake and not look back.
Like Milton, my Special Someone has a sweet tooth for cake. Although I am not much of either a cake or dessert fan, I do like cookies, in particular the legendary six ounce warm chocolate chip cookies that are baked fresh throughout the course of the day at an Upper West Side institution, the Levain Bakery, conveniently located just a short trot from my sanctum sanctorum.
During a casual email exchange with Special Someone, I mentioned Levain and sent her the link to the cookie portion of the site. She thought their cookies looked amazing. The next day we visited Levain so she could try one. My favorite is the traditional chocolate chip walnut variety, but Special Someone hates walnuts to a near violent degree going so far as to claim they’re racist. I resist the urge to fall into the trap of asking for an explanation of this intentionally absurd declaration. Since it’s the weekend, the line outside is long, and the aroma of warm chocolate is intoxicating. We have both been subject to far worse New York City line-waiting experiences. At least this one smells like paradise. I don my little spender cap and ask:
Me: What flavor would you like?
SS: Can we get the dark chocolate chocolate chip?
Me: Of course. We’ll get whatever you want. I like them all [muttering] and I’m perfectly fine with ditching the dream of eating my favorite flavor with you.
Special Someone is fixated on the cookies on display.
SS: I think I want the dark chocolate peanut butter chip. Let’s get that!
We get both the chocolate chocolate chip and the chocolate peanut butter chip. We hightail back to my lair, open our bag and place them on a plate. I am eager for us to dig in.
SS: Hey, I thought you wanted to photograph these for your blog?
Me (salivating): Huh?
She whips out her iPhone and takes a picture.
We first try the chocolate peanut butter chip. The center is warm, ooey, gooey, and the peanut butter chips are melty, too. This cookie is like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on steroids. For those of you that are peanut and nut-averse, take it from us that the chocolate chocolate chip is equally satisfying; like a chocolate lava-filled brownie with a crusty shell.
Special Someone enters cookie-bliss and I follow her lead. As we eat our cookies, I realize that cake-connoisseur Milton is onto something when he laments the loss of the many bakeries he’s loved that are no longer around. If the Levain Bakery ever shutters, that will be a sure sign that the Upper West Side is on the decline. In fact, it might be yet another indicator that western civilization on a whole has entered freefall.