My first layer cake was in college — so late teens or early twenties — and I made it for mother’s day. It could have been a disaster. Other than using frosting to cover up some hilly parts, it wasn’t. I don’t recall much else about making it. Let me see, it had berries and marzipan. Ummm, yup — it wasn’t really all that terrifying. Or, maybe and more likely, those parts have been conveniently forgotten.
In the first three months of this year I’ve made two layer cakes. Somewhere, in the decade-plus of making layer cakes they lost all their scare. This last one — the dark chocolate cakes turned to wide stripes with raspberry buttercream — even put me into a better mood. Patiently, I told Benny to stop acting like a snake for the 67th time, to get out of the kitchen for the third time, to go to his room once. He didn’t listen to me one time — or at least not for long. Though there are no eyewitnesses, I smiled, grinned, laughed, and smirked from beginning to end. That layer cake scene doesn’t always play out that way.
Maybe though, practice isn’t what made this cake so much fun. This year I’ve been working on failing. Have you noticed a lot of media — podcasts, blog posts, articles — about failing? I have. Maybe that’s because after failing to create a “fail bravely” mirror message* I started contemplating this post. I am afraid to fail. When you take risks — like I have this year — failing is a very real part of every day.
Trying to describe this to a friend who was sitting on my couch she opened her arms to either side and said “this isn’t failing.” If we hadn’t been interrupted by others arriving to eat the year’s first layer cake I might have attempted to explain myself further. I don’t really see my life as a failure. Losing everything does feel like a very real possibility. The failure I’m talking about, however, is different — it’s happiness and successes and goals. It’s a layer cake — a celebration you might never have.
When first contemplating this post I wondered what of all the foods and dishes that have failed to make it out of my tiny kitchen is really the representation of fearing to fail. Making bread for the first time was scary, but I made myself laugh through the process of pretending to be a cat. When my mom, in a rush, set the ingredients and recipe for cheesecake on the counter and told me to make it for a big to-do and then left — that was scary too. When another friend scooped up a forkful of this year’s first layer cake and commented about being scared of layer cakes I thought back to my very first layer cake. The one mentioned in the first paragraph.
That layer cake was for my mom and for all the guests. I could have failed. Actually, I did sort of fail at the chocolate raspberry buttercream cake. It was supposed to be caramel. The caramel was a failure. Though it required a change in plans it didn’t much upset me. I guess what I mean about fearing failure is that I worry everything will come crashing down. Realizing that all of…all of it is bigger than one failure is a good way for me to go through life.
It is an ongoing goal, but learning to fail bravely…strongly maybe means that you don’t really ever fail.
*mirror message — inspirational reminders or goals written on to a mirror. I prefer a sort of word art style combining words and shapes.