Last night, I just had to have cake. It was one of the uncontrollable, must have it NOW urges. And I didn’t just want a sliver of cake. I wanted to 3 x 3 inch square of cake with about 2 inches deep of frosting.
This was a serious cake craving.
Now I’ve lived in my body long enough to know about urges like this. When faced with this feeling, there are two options; (1) completely and fully give in allowing myself to eat cake without abandon, or (2) spend the next 2 weeks eating bits and pieces of little things to substitute for but never quite satisfy the taste for cake.
And so I gave in.
I headed to the grocery store. Knowing I should be in bed getting ready for tomorrow’s run and lift, I went against my better judgment and went with better taste instead. I had to have this cake. It didn’t matter the cost. It didn’t matter that the sugar right before bed would leave me jittery and restless all night long, that I would wake up with weary bags under my eyes, that I would probably turn away desert for the next 2 two weeks. This was cake we were talking about. It was different, it was worth it.
Walking into the store, I wasn’t quite sure if it was cake or the ingredients of cake I was seeking. In other words, was it the spongy texture, the creamy frosting, the buttery taste, the batter, even dough? What? What was I looking for?
This necessitated a trip up and down every aisle narrowing in on everything naughty and sweet. If cameras had followed me, for sure they’d think they had a ready to binge, obsessive cake-compulsive tiny clown on the loose. After all, I was wearing a pink Ironman shirt, green pants, and hair like a nest on my head. Nothing good can come from someone looking like me in a store. We the random, disheveled few that frequent the grocery store late at night after a long workout or after too long since their last meal craving something – anything – but not sure what so we walk through the store picking up and putting down about twenty items before making our final choice.
I started at the refrigerated cookie dough aisle. I thought about it. Not sure if it fell under the category of baked goods I currently craved, I moved on to the frosting aisle. I was soon surrounded by colorful tubs of creamy goodness. I wanted each and every one. Vanilla, rainbow chip, cream cheese, even german chocolate in all of its artificial coconutty sweetness. I made a left turn to towards the ice cream aisle. None of my favorites were on sale but still I gave the others a fair chance. Caramel Tracks, Moose Tracks, every carton displayed some type of edible animal track that sounded like sweet heaven to me.
But it was cake I came looking for. And so I wheeled myself to the refrigerated cake section. It’s a silly section. I mean, who would pay $1.99 for a slice of cake when you could bake the whole thing for less. A woman with very little time to satisfy a serious cake craving. Out of my way.
Four choices; carrot cake, german chocolate cake, vanilla cake, chocolate cake. Four very fine choices. I pick up vanilla. Always trust your first instinct. Upon inspection I notice it’s a hearty size with double layers of vanilla frosting with a tiny frosted rose on top. I scan the case for the most heavily frosted piece compared to overall size. I’m willing to sacrifice a little on size for more frosting. I find my precious plastic box filled with vanilla goodness and put it in my cart.
But what is vanilla without chocolate? Salt without pepper? Peanut butter without jelly? Lonely it is, I could see it’s longing and lonely vanilla-frosted rose staring back up at me. It needed a chocolate frosted friend.
Same selection process, this time dark instead of light. Large piece, excessive frosting, double layers, even a rose to boot. It finds its way into my cart.
Now, cake mission almost complete. But what is cake without a cold glass of milk to wash it down? I approach the milk cooler and I sense a mutiny in the making. Two random, suburban housemoms desperately searching for skim milk. 1 percent, 2 percent, whole, organic, skim, chocolate, rice, soy. But no skim. Housemoms ready to riot. How could this be? How does a large, national grocery store chain run out of skim milk in a suburb like this?
Let’s face it, no one is walking out of this store with milk. I refuse the other version, the substitutions and just settle on my cake. I wheel my cart the other way. That’s right, I am wheeling around a large shopping cart with two 3 x 3 inch cartons of cake. It was quite the chariot and throne for my little cartons. I take my cake very seriously.
Departing the store I realize there are thirty minutes before Chris arrives home from swim practice. Ten minutes later I arrive at home ready to get to work. There is no way I will share my cake tonight. Oh no, tonight I eat cake with all the reckless pleasure and none of the careful guilt. Tonight this cake box is mine. And so is the other one too.
I get to work. The vanilla goes first. Layer by layer. The rose is gone. I make an executive decision that it would be better to leave my mouth flavored with vanilla, so I save a little vanilla to savor as my final pieces. Then, I dabble into the chocolate. Oh it’s good. No wonder why Chris always chooses this flavor. For sure he would like some of this. For sure I am giggling as I eat it, thinking of Chris in the middle of some ridiculous 5 x 500 main set at the pool. I take another bite on his behalf.
The only thing that could possibly make this better is if Justin Timberlake was here singing to me while I ate my cake. Don’t fight me on this one. Adoration of Justin is not negotiable. I could hear it in my head….
I could see us eating cake,
Eating the frosting,
Licking the plate,
I could see chocolate cake in your eyes,
Double-layered sweet surprise.
You could be my baby,
Your cake-eating skills,
Girl you amaze me,
You eat cake no matter the size,
Ain’t no other woman who can eat frosted cake like that,
Ain’t no way you’ll share a piece of cake like that,
I lick the fork, the frosting from the plastic box, my fingers. I might have eaten the cake box if it wasn’t stuck with a large sticker reading ‘you paid $1.99 for a piece of cake when you could have just baked the whole thing yourself.’ Yeah, I know.
After too short of a time, both pieces are mostly gone. Defrosted, only a few remnants of crumbly cake are left mournful and naked in the box. The cake is gone. And so is the craving. About 1000 calories later, I am 100 percent fully satisfied.
What is it about cravings like this? Do they have a rhyme or reason? Are they purely true or pure evil? Is it our head telling us to give in or our body telling us to give it more? And is this just what the body needs, are we wrong to refuse it?
About once a month I find myself in this position – stricken with overwhelming craving for something sugary, processed, purely bad but oh so good. During race season, it’s easy to channel those cravings to post-race. But in the winter, the race or release isn’t there. So the cravings build, and build, until finally you find yourself in the store double-fisting cake boxes.
It’s a funny thing – guilt. This evening I did a bike LT test. I worked so hard for 30 minutes that I thought my legs would just stop, just stop pedaling, lay down, and give up. I pushed out a strong amount of wattage, heart rate was high, sweat dripping. At one point I even drooled. So how is it that I feel that I don’t deserve the cake? What does it take? Do other people go through thought patterns like this? Is it limited to women, or athletes, or just me? And how did I get to the point where my thoughts when through this process?
I blame this on Ironman. After Ironman all I was looking for was cupcakes. But I never found them. And so I substituted with cookie dough and other delights. Had I just found the cupcakes, this would have been out of my system. But here I am over 10 weeks later, still craving the frosted cuppy-cake type treat.
Chris came home after swim practice and I wondered if I should confess my cake-laden crime. Forgive me husband for I have sinned. I had my cake and I ate it too. And I didn’t save any for you. He told me they did a 1650 timed swim tonight. I shuddered to think of how hard that felt with cake sweet on my lips. By the 1000 mark I started to feel the pain, he said. Yes, I feel your pain – after the tenth forkful of vanilla cake I started feeling a little pain too – and I believe 10 is a multiple of 1000 so maybe we went through the same thing. Stomachs aren’t meant for chocolate and vanilla at the same time.
After he ate his dinner, he looked at me woefully, a man longing for something sugary sweet to signal the end of a meal, and said “I wish there was dessert.”
I looked the other way. Perhaps he knew? Could he smell it? Sense it? Were there cake crumbs on the counter? Did he know about me and the cake? I thought about confessing but thought it would be best to savor this memory sweet for myself.
“There’s no dessert here,” I said. It was a half truth. Not a lie. After all, there was no dessert here. But had you been here 30 minutes ago, there was a smorgasboard of cake.
Now that the cake craving is out of my system, I feel better. No, I don’t think we need to eat cake like this every night or even every week. But every once in awhile, it tastes so good to eat something so bad. Be greedy, be sugar-rushed, don’t share – eat cake in your closet or as soon as you get the grocery bag in the car. Have your cake – how two pieces of cake – and eat them too.