Baking cake and eating it, too

I’ve been working from home for two years now, living mostly in sweatpants and trying my best to keep the days from blurring together. There’s a lot that I love about our slower life, and a big lesson in it, too: If I want to mark the passing of time by celebrating holidays and seasons, I have to (and can!) create those traditions for myself.

Annie Dillard says it beautifully:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.

Whenever I find myself getting restless and crabby because I miss the silly little parties and accessories of my former office life, I try to remind myself that I can create a haven like Dillard suggests — I can throw my own celebrations. So I crank up a seasonal playlist or bake a cake, and in my own small way, I fight off the chaos.

Most recently, I made Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate and Almond Tiger Cake for Mardi Gras. (I have my eye on Yossy Arafi’s Snacking Cakes for future holiday — or ordinary day — ideas.)

Painter Wayne Thiebaud, who died in 2021 at age 101, knew about the lush allure of dessert. In the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s text project, when you query “send me desire,” the service replies with Thiebaud’s “Display Cakes.”