Monday, May 2, 2016

A Cake Party for Exhausted People

For the last few years, I've pretty much lived in a state of exhaustion, the kind that cries out for Geritol and afternoon naps. Last fall, a heart arrhythmia wore me to a frazzle, and I just couldn't cook or entertain like I had in the past. But I come from a long line of stubborn Southern women, the kind who refuse let go of the things we love. And food is one of those loves. It's nourishment, yes, but it's also fraught with emotions.

I am fascinated by the psychology of food. We all know that scratch recipes are labor-intensive--and labors of love. If there's no time to sift flour and grease pans, the obvious answer is to buy a pre-made cake. Nothing wrong with that, of course, even though these desserts carry a stigma. Aunt Bunny might take offense if you serve her a Sara Lee pound cake, because the food we serve isn't just nourishment; it's an emotional barometer, a secret window that reveals how much we care. In Aunt Bunny's world, a cherry pie from Kroger is the mental health equivalent of a person who has lost interest in life and won't comb her hair (though it may really mean that Aunt Bunny is a royal pain, and when you serve her a too-perfect, assembly-line dessert, you are also serving up a delicious subliminal gesture). Psychological undertones aside, if a bone-weary person wants to party, she has two choices: put on her jammies and binge-watch Orphan Black or gild a Stepford cake. For me, it's a simple decision. I'll drive to the grocery and push my cart up and down the aisles, looking for inspiration.

By keeping the menu and accouterments simple, you can set up a table in ten minutes, with time left over to entertain your guests.

What You Need:
Flowers and/or cuttings from your yard
A Store-bought Cake
plates, forks, napkins 
a cheerful tablecloth
plastic trash bag
scissors (optional)
vase and fresh water

To save time and energy, start with a color scheme. It makes things easier and provides much needed focus. Napkins or a favorite tablecloth might jump-start your party planning. I began with three bunches of pink Alstroemeria  (three bunches for $12 at the grocery). I also splurged on pink tulips, mainly because I couldn't resist. Now that I had a color scheme I searched for a pink cake. It had to be small because leftovers somehow end up on my hips and thighs. Carrying around "dessert weight" can lead to regret, and regret can lead to emotional exhaustion. :-) Luckily, I found an itty cake.

The next step is well-known among bloggers: shop your house. I have a small dish room, and I plundered it for a pink tablecloth and napkins. For a vase, I used a large Mason jar. In the kitchen pantry, I gathered more items: a rattan cake stand; forks; white dishes. My motto is simple: You can never, ever go wrong with white dishes. On my way out of the house, I grabbed the happy-as-can-be living room pillows.

My porch has two seating areas, so I combined them. 

I put the flowers in the jar, then went into the yard and cut some greenery. (Note: to prevent ants from raiding your party, be sure to rinse all yard flowers and cuttings in water.) Wearing disposable plastic gloves, I shaped the vine around the cake in a circle, making sure the plant didn't actually touch the icing or cake, then I cut some tulip blossoms and set them on the vine, also keeping the flowers from making contact with the icing. 

You know that old saying: Keep the area tidy, cleaning as you work. If you trim the flowers, place the bits in a trash bag. If you're using paper plates and plastic cutlery, discard the wrapping. Before guests arrive, blow off your porch (I use a battery-operated blower for weaklings. It has a short life, but it's quick and easy). Before serving, remove the floral garnish and save for another decorative use.

For easy refreshments, place bottled water in a galvanized tin bucket and add ice cubes. Or substitute water with sodas and/or individual wine bottles. For a touch of elegance, use pottery dishes and stainless cutlery (sterling might require polishing, and it's not favored by exhausted cooks). I adore cloth napkins (these are by April Cornell). Paper plates and plastic cutlery are an extra expense, but they make clean up a breeze. 

 Grab a plate, fork, and napkin.
And let's eat cake.

Shared at:
Metamorphosis Monday
The Scoop
Inspire Me Tuesday
Tweak It Tuesday
Wow Us Wednesday
Home Sweet Home
Pink Saturday
feathered nest fri


  1. I like the way you entertain. I find now that I am olden, I just can't stand over a stove and cook or bake anymore. Sometimes I ache to bake and will whip up cupcakes or a box cake. I am sure my relatives (I'm from VA) are rolling over in their graves because I am so lazy.

    Your table and cake looking amazing and everything is perfect.

    Enjoy your week.


  2. So sweet and makes me chuckle!

  3. I love your clever cake transformations, and this one is a stunner! I think Aunt Bunny would be impressed!

  4. Oooh! Only you could do easy peasy like this! Everything looks wonderful! The itty cake is so pretty with your dressups and all of your linens just say 'spring is here'! Love the little outside spot for your table too! Wish I could sit down with you and help to make sure there would be no left overs! :)
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  5. Completely in love with your tablecloth! Such a fun warm weather look. It made me smile!

  6. I am so glad you expressed the sentiment behind this post. You said in the beginning you were exhausted, yet you went to the trouble to make a store bought concoction something special. You set a beautiful table, and put your heart into it. I have certain family who will buy the store boughts - all - and for every part of the meal, and then leave bottled drinks in the fridge for us to help ourselves. For what reason, I ask, other than resale value, was the kitchen completely overhauled AND an outdoor kitchen added?? Beautiful, Michael Lee. You just proved hostessing can be done very tastefully without a lot of trouble.

  7. Love it, simple and special!!!

  8. We have similar philosophies. Remember this one for Pink Saturday. ♡

  9. Oh how lovely…I just love how that cake is finished. The greens and tulips around it make it seem so intriguing. Such a pretty little tablecloth and I love the alstroemeria. I'm good with a cake whether it's homemade or from the box but I admit the homemade ones really hit it out of the park. I'm sorry you were so stressed you starting having the heart arrhythmia last year. That just adds more stress with more worries doesn't it. Well this table setting is so sweet and inviting it will cure any anxieties and stress in a minute! Big hugs, Liz

  10. You made it look so beautiful and sound so easy! I learned from family reunions that all the ladies were going to make their showiest desserts and food items. This would hold up to any family scrutiny! And now I bet you're REALLY exhausted!
    love and blessings~
    Lynda @ Gates of Crystal

  11. I am wondering who YOUR Aunt Bunny is???? Mine was my Mom's sister. We lived in my Grandmother's house: my Mom, me, my sister, Aunt Bunny and my Grandmother!!! My Aunt Bunny was a saint, I swear! She was definitely my "other Mother". Now, I love your table, the colors and the presentation is gorgeous!!! I would love a slice of that cake!!!

  12. Oh, Michael Lee...what a lovely post...your words and the photos both. The title of this post made me immediately hop over here! I am one of those exhausted people! LOL My husband is home from his 3rd surgery in the past 10 months! Between helping him, and taking care of our "needy" 14-1/2 year old baby Vern (our dog!)...and trying to work part-time.....I am exhausted. I'm looking forward to going to work tomorrow for a few hours. And I haven't been writing AT ALL, which I'm kicking myself for, too. Gosh, I wish you lived closer, I'd love to stop by just for a glass of tea and talk! Thanks for always sharing your lovely home and ideas.

  13. Cute but sorry! Homemade. Is best! Have you ever looked at the ingredients in a store bought cake,cookies or whatever! YIKES !! Don't eat it!

  14. Oh yes! I am all about what's easy for me, if I'm entertaining I have also used "inexpensive" "local" catering, whew! Less exhausting for me, which leaves time for me
    too "deep-clean", get everything shiny/bright. ML your table setting is incredibly beautiful. Enjoyed every photo and of course your "writing's".... ♡.

  15. You always amaze me with your style and ease of decorating a store-bought cake, Michael Lee. I wish I could fly on over and share a slice with you on your prettified porch. Wouldn't your table make for a beautiful Mother's Day presentation? The picture should grace the page of a magazine! Thanks for the lovely inspiration!

  16. What a lovely spot to sit and enjoy a visit with a sweet friend!! BTW I adore April Cornell linens - is that tablecloth from her line as well?

    1. I adore her linens, too. (I follow her on Youtube--she makes amazing videos, as well). The tablecloth was made by ShalinIndia.

  17. Beautifully done! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Love your cake party. So pretty for May or anytime this summer. Waiting for the gloomy weather to fall away to sun so that I can dine outside.

  19. Such a most gorgeous presentation. Truly an enchanting area to have cake!...Sorry to hear about your health issues and hope they it is all resolved now. Cake makes everything better, especially when it is adorned in beauty as you have done!

  20. Rattlebridge Farm,
    I adore your Style, dear one!
    The "pink" theme is elegantly executed!
    Love the April Cornell linens!
    Thank you for sharing a Southern influence way to entertain!

  21. Michael Lee, with a presentation like that, who would even care if the cake was (gasp) store-bought?!

  22. So beautiful! Thanks for joining Home Sweet Home!