the best caramel cake you’ll ever eat
So I was driving to Santa’s Pub last Saturday with a caramel cake tucked safely in the back seat when tornado sirens started going off. (I didn’t even know Nashville had tornado sirens.) I pulled over and called my dad to ask whether he thought I should keep going; as important as it is that I hit 50 cakes before the end of the year, I also need to stay alive in order to finish them. We decided I should head over to my friend Iliza’s house and wait out the storm.
iliza and mike and their crafty tree
Iliza and her husband Mike greeted me in their front yard as the wind nearly knocked us over, and we proceeded to watch the lightning of the oncoming storm from their back porch. (Being academics and all around creative people, they were, of course, interested in studying the weather.) I’ve known Iliza since I was 12 years old. We met at the beginning of seventh grade when I was at my peak unattractiveness, a period that coincided with my peak friendlessness. I had inch long bangs and zero friends at school thanks to a weird hierarchy system of Judaism and knee socks, so I was more than grateful to meet her and our other friend Carrie at a modern dance class full of girls from other schools. Iliza is now getting her Ph.D in neuroscience research and just got married; I write reality show treatments about rappers and am running around with cake trying to find a boyfriend. With the exception of the rapper writing, this would actually have been an accurate prediction of our lives back in 1999.
After it seemed like the storm had passed and the weather had dropped 15 degrees, we headed over to Santa’s, a trailer turned bar near the fairgrounds run by a man who looks like Santa. It’s a cash-only karaoke bar, the kind of pieced together place that people who aren’t from Tennessee probably think of when they picture how us locals spend our recreational time. The last car was pulling out when we arrived, and the lights were all off; they had closed for the bad weather. Iliza and Mike, who’d braved work and Christmas shopping and even baked a turkey that day, were still alert and determined to keep going. “Let’s go another place,” they said, and Mike hopped in the front seat to drive. We were all ready to go to the Taproom when the lights at Santa’s turned back on and they reopened the bar– a true Christmas miracle. We walked inside to find the place completely empty with the exception of a friendly blonde bartender. I bought Iliza and Mike beers for a whopping $6, and we set up shop, Mike advertising “Free Cake!” on its container. We had been sitting at our table for a total of 50 seconds when an entire party bus arrived, unloading a never-ending stream of drunk 25-year-olds, mostly graduates of a private high school here in Nashville. They were all wearing intentionally bad sweaters accompanied by intentionally pretty girlfriends.
Every time I looked up a new wave of them appeared, slightly too-young-for-me southerners with good manners and sweet little accents. “I apologize in advance for all of us,” they took turns telling us, the only other people there. “Let us know if we get too loud.” Guys in their group had started singing NSync karaoke and dancing in front of the bar. Despite my best efforts, none of them wanted any cake, and they were so gosh darn nice about it. “You are so sweet to ask, but we’re full,” they all said. “I really appreciate the offer, but we just had a huge dinner, if you can believe it,” one told me, indicating his drunk compatriots with a wave of his hand. “Thank you so much for asking anyway, though.”
A quick word about the cake: my mother bought me this cake just for cakebarring. She loves this cake that much, and I now love this cake that much. Dessert Designs is a Nashville-based cake company that makes the best cakes you’ll ever eat, specializing in wedding cakes. My mom bought 5 for Christmas, and I’ve eaten 3 pieces a day for the last week. (I now weigh 800 pounds.)
The only cake takers we managed to find were another group not included in the party bus, 4 nice guys who work at the BMW dealership. They agreed to take a few small pieces even though they’d also just eaten; it probably helped that Iliza is pretty cute. After some small talk and a few pictures, my iPhone ended up in one of their hands, and he started scrolling through my photos. “Are you a grandmother?” he asked. “These are all pictures of cakes.” Why, yes. Yes, I am.
As the end of this project approaches at an alarmingly fast pace, I do occasionally remember there’s still no boyfriend. But I do know that if I had found someone already, the momentum behind this whole mission– the hunt, the fun, the will-I-actually-find-someone– would have totally petered out. As much as I want in on all the life practice that comes with having an I’ll pick you up at the airport kind of boyfriend, this writing is pushing me forward towards something. Being single– always always always– is finally working in my favor. It’s given me so much ridiculous material.
There isn’t time for a boyfriend right now, anyway. I have 2 cakes left to make in the 3 days before the end of the year.
me, iliza, carrie – pre-hanson concert, the year 2000