I’m a food editor, so I show my love through food. I’ll bring a casserole for your freezer when you have a new baby. I’ll bake you cookies for your birthday. I’ll make you soup when you’re sick. I love roasting the Thanksgiving turkey and giving friends and family little boxes of bourbon balls and caramels for Christmas. But you’ll know whether you’re truly loved—not just liked—if I bake you a layer cake.
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Layer cakes are a project. They are messy. They don’t travel well. They require a cake stand or flat-bottomed platter—because why bother making a layer cake if you can’t properly display it? But like many beautiful things in life, they are worth the trouble. Not only are they are also incredibly delicious, far more decadent than any pie, or brownie, or sheet cake could ever be, they are a bold proclamation of love. A layer cake says, I spent all day in the kitchen for you. You are deserving of not one, but two or three (or four!) layers of cake and frosting. And there’s no greater drama than plunging a knife into the side of a tall, pristine cake and wiggling out that first perfect slice, revealing the decadent layers hidden inside. The person who gets it inevitably feels like a king or queen.
And it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Flowers are great, but after a day or two, they look worse for wear. A layer cake will likely yield plenty of leftovers, which are just as good eaten cold, straight from the fridge. Many layer cakes freeze well too, if you don’t want to eat cake seven days in a row. Although I must question your life decisions. The last time I had house guests I made a three-decker chocolate cake with layers of chocolate buttercream and fresh raspberries. Although I cooked everyone several meals at home, and put fresh flowers in the guest room, and showed our guests a pretty good time that weekend, the cake is what they remember.
Valentine’s Day is the time we’re all supposed to show our love, and I don’t know about you, but I think we could all use a little more love in the world. February 14 is as good a day as any to start, whether you’re attached or not. Make a layer cake (I recommend this gorgeous strawberry confection, now that Florida strawberries are in season) and share it with someone you really, really, really care about.
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Giving a layer cake is one of the most Southern, neighborly gestures that one can show. If you've decided to make Nana's famous German Chocolate Cake, be sure to make a few extra layers for your friends next door. Or, we wouldn't blame you if you kept some for yourself.