Spice Cake | Teen Ink

Spice Cake

May 1, 2021
By annsmby BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
annsmby BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

A three-layer spice cake. That’s what I carried to school the day my grandmother died. A three-layer spice cake with cream cheese frosting, cinnamon dusted on top in a chevron pattern, and thirty markings to guide the knife. I can’t remember the weather or what I wore that day. I’m not even sure what day it was, but I remember the cake. 

Student Activities had decided to hold a bake-off that day. My sister, Kendra, had convinced me to join, not because she thought I would win—things like that are more of a popularity contest anyway—but because it would be fun. I had made a trial cake a few days before to make sure I liked the recipe and wouldn’t mess up the real thing. When I made the cake for the bake-off, it had to be perfect—or at least as close as I could get.

I was sifting the flour into the mixing bowl when Kendra decided she would visit Nana. I paused my sifting for a moment to consider what shouldn’t have needed consideration. My mom said she wasn’t sure Nana even knew we were there at that point, so I kept sifting my flour. I’d worry about Nana later. Right then, my only concern was my perfect cake.

When I was little, I thought I had all the time in the world. If I was in the middle of a craft project and it was time to go to preschool, the doctor, or even gymnastics class, I was determined to finish my project first. My mom had to drag me out the door; otherwise, I wasn’t leaving. I used to think that I grew out of that, but maybe some things never change. 

Nana was transferred to hospice care about a month or so before she died, after the chemo stopped working and everyone started talking about how close the end was. I guess I got used to her being close to death for long enough that I forgot she would eventually stop dying and start being dead. Maybe I wouldn’t care so much if she hadn’t squeezed Kendra’s hand that night. Maybe it would have been enough if my cake was already in the oven. At least then there would have been a real reason not to go.

I’m not sure when I’ll stop replaying that night in my mind; when I’ll stop searching for the good reason I didn’t have. I visited her plenty of times before that night, but I know how much her grandchildren meant to her. I think she would have asked me to be there if she could have. 

Nana loved to bake. For years she made and meticulously decorated cakes for family birthdays. Every year around Christmas, she baked cookies with her daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren. I don’t think I’ll forget that cake—at least not for a while—but maybe I don’t have to remember it as the choice I shouldn’t have made. If that three-layer spice cake is going to stay with me, maybe it can be a reminder of something she loved.


The author's comments:

I felt a lot of guilt and regret after my grandmother's death, specifically around my decision not to visit her the day before she died. Talking to other people made me realize how common it is to have these types of thoughts following the death of a loved one. I often use my writing to help process and express my emotions; this was much of the reasoning behind writing this piece. It was also helpful for me to know that I wasn't alone in my experiences, and I hope this piece might help others realize the same.


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on May. 7 at 12:29 pm
Lydiaq PLATINUM, Somonauk, Illinois
43 articles 12 photos 265 comments

Favorite Quote:
Normal people don't know what they're missing.

This is beautifully and exquisitely written.