Today’s cake is a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake) from the Kuchenladen on Kantstrasse in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district. On first glance, it is full of delicious cream, mixed with layers of chocolate cake and topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. The back side is covered in flakey dark chocolate, giving a slight crunch sensation as you bite in.
The cherry has flecks of gold on top.
What I’m thinking about:
As I bite, my first impression is the alcohol that must be soaked in the cake - and I’m immediately disappointed. I don’t like alcohol in my dessert (unless that is the dessert!)
I decided to look past the disappointment and take another bite, this time appreciating the chocolate chips I discovered buried beneath the layers of chocolate cake, giving a satisfying crispy texture as I bite down.
Then I appreciate the cream flavor. In full context, the alcohol doesn’t really bother me so much. It gives something interesting for my tongue to play with. And, of course, there is the cherry on top - literally. It’s full of sugar and life. It’s delicious and secretly, I just want more cherries.
When I taste the bitterness of the cognac (or what exactly is it that fills an alcohol soaked cake?) I initially react by scolding myself, I should have planned better- or should have read the menu closer, or read the ingredient list more thoroughly.
I’m disappointed - not in the cake, but in myself. For doing it “wrong”. As though there is a wrong way to indulge in cake. So often I wish I could plan more, or put in more effort or pay more attention. I don’t like to be disappointed. I want to be assured pleasure and joy - in food, in relationships, in work, and in life.
I don’t plan for eventual disappointments because I so carefully monitor that I won’t have to experience them. A disappointing cake seems like it could be devastating - but is it really?
What flavor am I really trying to create, or experience. What is the true cost of disappointment to me?
While contemplating my views on disappointment, the cake suddenly disappeared. I devoured it. It was truly delicious. Sinnfully so.
And as I lift my eyes up, beyond the limits of my plate and internal reflection - I watch a young musician politely ask permission to play in front of the Kuchenladen. She is nervous, new to this. She stands in front of us - with her sheet music on the floor, her head bent low to read the words - and to avoid making eye contact. She plays well, and sings beautifully - her voice barely above a whisper, as though she is trying to make herself smaller, less intrusive, less offensive.
I wish she would raise her voice a bit louder, to feel confident in front of a street full of people and a cafe full of cake-lovers. I silently encourage her to take up more space. To trust her voice, to believe in her talent, and to shine in that beautiful spotlight that she so courageously took up, on the sidewalk.
I admire her bravery. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be to stand on a street corner for the world to see and to sing my heart out.
I could sense that her authenticity was not quite showing through, a mask protecting her from what she might have feared would be ridicule, judgement, or even work - ignoring her altogether. And yet, despite her nerves, she did sing - and it was beautiful.
And I remembered that sometimes we must get through the temporary disappointments and setbacks to be able to show up courageously and share our voice - regardless of who wants to hear it.
And that is what I think about when I eat cake.
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