The sense of taste, so they say, is almost as powerful a memory trigger as the sense of smell.
So last Friday night when I put the first bite in my mouth, I was instantly taken back.
The smooth texture of the not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting, chock full of pecans. The crunch of carrots mixed in the spiced cake batter. A mouthful of sheer heaven. So rich I could only devour a few bites at a time.
I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I started requesting a carrot cake for my birthday.
Always before I’d asked for a Scotch chocolate cake, with coconut and pecans in the thick chocolate fudge icing, and a hint of cinnamon in the cake batter. Then there was the year that I asked for a blueberry banana pudding pie. Who knows what I was thinking that year. Oh well, I was ten. But once I tasted my mother’s carrot cake, there was no turning back. From then on, every year for my birthday, my mama made a carrot cake, complete with colored buttercream icing saying, “Happy Birthday, Sally” in my mom’s handwriting.
And of course, it had candles. Until I got so old that it would’ve constituted a fire hazard.
The recipe was fairly complex and it was always a huge ordeal to bake the cake. It took all day, to hear her tell it.
But the end result was divine.
Some years I invited friends over to share a piece of that cake.
Some years I was a glutton, hoarding it in my refrigerator for a couple of weeks, and slowly devouring every last piece by myself.
It was delicious.
Love in butter and flour and eggs with carrots and spices, cream cheese and powdered sugar and pecans, fresh off the tree in my parents’ backyard.
I wasn’t quite sure what it would be like this year to have a birthday without her carrot cake. Without her.
But I didn’t have to.
With every bite I could still taste love.