Cynthia, my best friend, was not touched or overjoyed or even grateful when I told her I wanted to make her wedding cake. Her e-mail did not mince words:
Ahem. Have you ever made a cake for 120 to 150? I don't mean to sound like I lack faith, but this is what I fear: The caterer's assistants will have to be working around you as you ice the cake, the kitchen will be in an uproar, icing everywhere, the layers of the cake not adhering, and the assistants will have to pitch in to help. Besides, I really love our caterer, Gracie...
Some people might have found this reply discouraging, but it only piqued my resolve. Was I going to allow her to place more faith in the hired help than in me? A privilege of best friendship is to never take no for an answer, in the certainty that the person will thank you later. I was determined: I would make a cake she would forever thank me for.
Although my baking history is checkered, each cake's problems were unique, and, as I reminded Cynthia, only the initial experience was a half disaster. A decade ago, my first college friends, Annie and Mark, decided to become prematurely grown-up and got engaged. They had no money, and when the caterers informed them the cake would cost $500 (the standard fee), they were shocked. I told them I could make them a free cake in a jiffy.