There it was before me–The Lemon Jelly Cake.
Ahh, Dear Readers, even without taking a bite, I could imagine the complexity of flavors–multiple layers of snow-white cake, tart bright yellow lemon curd, and rosy-red raspberry seedless jam topped with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream whose tip gently curtsied to its audience! Does that sound inviting to your taste buds? Oh, it does to Miss NiNi’s!
I was so hopeful that my fantasy wouldn’t lead me astray, Dear Readers! But as I read the fictional account with such title, I kept reading and waiting for “Mama” to bake a lemon jelly cake.
However, I soon discovered that this essay was not about baking or favorite dessert recipes or even how to make a clear seedless raspberry jelly fit to receive the purple state-fair ribbon. No Siree!
The Lemon Jelly Cake – The Cake of Life
The episode I held within my hands created by Madeline Babcock Smith took a different bend in the road. The Lemon Jelly Cake contained ingredients that comprised a mix of both vibrant and mundane colors and tastes of a cake. But it was the “cake of life.”
The New York Herald Tribune appropriately described this 206-page large-print collection of Madeline Babcock Smith as “It melts in the mouth.” And, that it did!
Within the book’s hard cover, the story focused on an era at the beginning of the 20th Century when there was doubt that the horseless carriage would be here to stay. After all, “How could you ever kiss your girl in one of those gas wagons?”
Trying to Break Out
The book’s theme really was all about a theory. This was noted by “Mama” as her “lemon jelly cake theory.” She felt that the layer of humdrum small-town life made her somewhat complacent (such as a white cake). But, how could she break out of that security? Should she try to find satisfaction by settling for “lemon” or “jelly”?
Both “tart and sweet” adventures came knocking at her door until she realized, “I’ve been much too concerned with layers of the lemon jelly cake. No layer ever won a prize at the fair. It has to be the whole cake, or nothing at all.”
“Mama” goes on to tell her husband, “Frank, your cake—your life—has always been big and beautiful and you’ve cut it in large wedges and shared it with everybody. I want to do that too.”
Dear Readers, Miss NiNi is not a “Mama” or even a “Frank.” You might not be either. But all of life’s personal experiences, trials, tribulations, sacrifices, and joys have been building blocks for mine as well as for your personal lemon jelly cake story.
As beautifully prepared layers of a delicately handcrafted dessert complete a culinary work of art, so do the strata of opportunities that affect the kismet of one’s life.
It has taken decades to create Miss NiNi’s Lemon Jelly Cake. I’m still adding layer upon layer before my whipped cream curlicue curtsies! How about you?