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Eating It, Too

The day of the wedding, I couldn't wait to get over to Linda's and look at our finished, frosted and still-chilling cakes. We took them out of the refrigerator and did some partial assembly, measuring and driving the plastic dowels and tier plates into the firm cake surfaces. Michael came to get us in his Volvo wagon. We boxed up and carried each layer down two flights of stairs -- the 16-inch tier felt like it weighed about 30 pounds. Outside, it was a drippy, hot day, and the frosting started to melt immediately. Linda, conveniently tiny, climbed in the back of the Volvo to help make sure the cakes wouldn't slide around, which of course they did, frosting smushing into cardboard all the way down Wisconsin Avenue.

Linda: At Sea Catch, carts waited for us. We felt very triumphant as we wheeled our cake boxes inside, past the bartender stocking bottles, past the managers placing chairs, past Steven's sister-in-law sticking flowers in cups. Is that the cake? everyone was buzzing, or at least that's what we imagined.

(Photo Illustration by Francisco Caceres)

Yes, that was the cake, headed down the elevator into the kitchen, with its chilled pastry table and walk-in refrigerator. We entered the frosty fridge in our shorts and sweaty T-shirts, and there we stacked the melty tiers and touched up the icing -- the damage wasn't as bad as we'd feared. We applied pearl after pearl after pearl, with my eyebrow tweezers.

* * *

Hank: Oh, the wedding itself? I vaguely remember going. I tried to pay attention, but all I could think of was the cake, sitting there in the restaurant refrigerator. I hoped it was okay. Michael and I walked the six or seven blocks from the church to the restaurant. I took him up the elevator to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. "Look," I said, pointing to it, covered in pearls, glistening and blue. "Wow," he said. "You did it."

Linda: Amy was beautiful at the wedding; she is in real life, too, but was even more so now, and it's always good to see two people get married when you know it's just right. During cocktails at the restaurant, my boyfriend, John, and I drank Seven-and-Sevens and made small talk with my co-workers. They were meeting John for the first time, and I was so happy to have him with me, this man who was so handsome and sweet and who might even dance with me if I got enough drink into him.

Hank: About an hour into the reception, we decided it was time to bring the cake down for its moment of . . . I'd say glory, but I never was sure. As the manager and I were wheeling the cake into the elevator, the automatic door triggered and started roughly pounding against the cart. In a flash, I saw it was going to bump into or perhaps knock over the cake, and I put my fingers between the door and the cart to stop it.

Once the scooter couple was in place on the cake top, we lifted the whole thing onto the table near the dance floor. Linda and I scattered silver Hershey's Kisses and white candy hearts around it for decoration. Guests were coming up to ask us about the cake: Why did we do it? How did we do it? Have we done it before? Will we do it again?

Linda: At dinner, Hank and Michael and John and I made small talk with a couple from Seattle, while I watched across the room as the cake sort of sweated. Scooter Amy and Scooter Steven sank a little into the icing and tilted leftward.

Hank: Michael and I were sitting at our table, watching John and Linda dance, and I noticed a few couples dancing near the cake table. A woman set down her glass of Diet Coke perilously near the cake, and it was teetering on a white candy heart. I had a vision of it spilling onto the bottom tier of the cake. I didn't know if this was the kind of wedding reception where people would be okay with two men dancing together, but action was required: I took Michael's hand, and we danced through the crowd to the cake table, where I picked up the glass of Diet Coke. "Oh, I'm not done with that," the woman said. "It makes me nervous here," I told her, and relocated it to a dinner table.

Linda: After the dancing, the cake was ceremonially cut, and all of a sudden there we were: Eating it, eating our cake with the patient couple from Seattle, who had to listen to Hank and me prattle on about how good the stripes looked and how good the chocolate Yum recipe tasted. Around the room, people were eating without evident revulsion, and I would have loved to hear some praise about the icing, about the moistness, but by now my feet were killing me in my stilettos, and I wanted to go home and sleep.

Hank: I left drunk and relieved, carrying a plate of leftover cake slices.

Linda: Amy's a busy newlywed, and I haven't seen much of her this year. I still see lots of Hank, and he still makes cakes. He'll occasionally get some pans from the bin in my closet, or ask me the address for a supply place in Wheaton, or describe the chocolate mint or red velvet project he's planning.

Our unopened fondant tub, which we weren't allowed to return, sat on the floor by my front door for two months. The $54.99 price tag mocked me until I finally ripped it off. A few weeks later, I lugged the bucket to the trash room.

I've made one cake since the wedding, a flourless chocolate raspberry crowd-pleaser for John's mom's Passover seder. For a while, I used the KitchenAid to make John chocolate chip cookie dough to keep in his freezer, but I haven't lately. (He doesn't open the car door for me anymore, either.)

Hank: I thought I would never make another cake, but after a couple months, I felt the urge. I made Michael's 30th birthday cake, enough to feed 40 or 50 people. I'll make him one next year, too. And the year after that, and the year after that.

Meanwhile, I still feel protective about Amy and Steven's wedding cake, or what's left of it. They have the top layer in their freezer, and when and if they take it out for their anniversary, I would like to supervise the cutting, to make sure it's done absolutely right, and have a little taste. With Linda's help, of course.

Linda Perlstein is a reporter for The Post's Metro section. Hank Stuever is a reporter for the Style section. They will be fielding questions and comments about this article Monday at 2 p.m. on www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.

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