MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
’cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again,
When I think of cake, I’m reminded of the above lyrics to the song Macarthur’s Park, a ridiculously over produced piece of pop music released in 1968. The song was written by the late, great composer Jimmy Webb, and first recorded by Irish actor Richard Harris. Webb was unapologetic over his schlocky use of cake as a metaphor in describing his breakup with then girlfriend Susie Horton. Many assumed Webb was inspired by the psychedelic craze when he wrote the song, but he insisted this wasn’t the case. Apparently, Webb and Horton spent a lot of time in MacArthur Park and his loopy lyrics were merely a collage of the images he saw in the park each day, from birthday parties (hence the cake) to old men playing checkers. In this case, I’d prefer to believe that old Jimmy was tripping his brains out when he wrote the silly song. Apparently others feel the same way. In 1992, journalist Dave Barry conducted a poll among his readers searching for the worst song of all time. Guess what song won the coveted title… you guessed it, MacArthur’s Park, worst lyrics and worst song of all time.
Speaking of dubious distinction, cake is also associated with the infamous words of Marie Antoinette, Let them eat…yeah. I’ve often wondered if she ever really said such a thing, or if it was just an incendiary rumor aimed at rallying the masses against the Crown. Actually the quote was, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”, but that’s beside the point. Did she actually utter those famous words? Apparently not; it appears that good old Jean-Jacque Rousseau anecdotally included this supposed quote in his autobiography written in 1765. Sweet Marie was only nine years old at the time. Again, “cake” becomes just a maligned metaphor for a writer with the munchies.
Of course, no thought of cake is without the association of birthdays. Who doesn’t love a birthday cake? Well, pie lovers I suppose; however, “birthday pie” lacks the panache we’ve come to expect on such a momentous occasion. Birthday pie just lacks a certain je ne sais quos…non? According to historians, the tradition of mixing cake and birthdays traces all the way back to Roman Times. Our modern concept of a layered cake with candles can be traced to 18th century Germany. Yum, I love a Black Forest Cake, which originated in Germany but is not, by the way, named after the famous Black Forest mountain range. Rather, the name originates from the special liquor of the region known as Schwarzwälder Kirsch(wasser), a beverage distilled from tart cherries. As far as the whole candle thing goes, history is a bit murky. One theory is that the candles represented the “light of life”. That makes sense to me. Thanks Germany, you’ve given us a fine tradition. I wonder how many heads of hair, or whole houses for that matter, have gone up in flame as a result of this quaint tradition? I suspect we’ll never know, but the risk seems to outweigh the alternative of battery powered candles atop our celebratory confection.
I admire those that still bake their cakes from scratch. This seems to be somewhat of a dying art form in the modern world of pre-mix conveniences. Who the hell invented box cake mixes anyway? Well, we have good old John D. Duff to thank for them. In 1930, Duff and Sons submitted the patent for his dehydrated flour mixtures designed for the convenience of his customers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For better or worse, the rest, as they say, is history. I grew up in a family that would never allow a cake mix in their kitchens. As a result, I became a bit of a cake snob as a youth. I thought everyone’s mom slaved in the kitchen all day baking. Needless to say, I recovered from that misconception rather quickly. But, I still love a good made-from-scratch cake, dense with butter and eggs. I wish I knew how to bake one. I should learn fast if I ever hope to get one again. Pre-mixed cakes are just too damned convenient I guess, and simple too. Oh well…
I can’t come up with a poem about cake. After Jimmy Webb’s masterpiece, my best efforts just seem inadequate. Not to mention Mother Goose’s magnum opus:
Handy Pandy, Jack-a-dandy,
Loves plum cake and sugar candy.
He bought some at a grocer’s shop,
And out he came, hop, hop, hop!
There’s just no way I can top that one…nope, not even gonna try. Thanks Daily Post for today’s inspiring topic; and, for leaving me with an insatiable craving for some Black Forest Cake. Do they make a mix for that?
Daily Post Keyword:Cake