We, as human beings, like to lump things into categories. For reasons of practicality, we line things into little rows and alphabetize into columns, making thoughts more digestible than if they flew through the air willy-nilly. How, for heaven’s sake, would we know not to eat cake for breakfast had it not been labeled, “dessert?” We would be lost, but with the help of groupings we are able to make quick, informed decisions, while conserving our valuable brainpower for American Idol votes and Netflix cues. So, instead of that slice of cake, we can automatically reach from something more appropriate….like a donut or chocolate chip muffin.
As a result of this human tendency, I have decided to develop my own classification system for desserts. The two main categories are, “Fun,” and “Serious.”
Serious desserts include pastries that are thick with dark chocolate ganache and abstract garnishes. They are sleek and formal and complement women in black dresses who reapply their lipstick after the third bite.
Fun dessert, on the other hand, does not take itself that seriously. It understands that it’s going to get eaten, so it might as well go down with some sprinkles. The other day in Chinatown, I was practically bouncing with delight when I discovered the best example of fun dessert, ever. Dessert in Chinatown could not be happier. Pinks, greens and purples project from the pastry cases and critter-shaped cakes stare at you with macaroon eyeballs. The color palate was alarmingly bright and reminded me more of a circus than a bakeshop. It’s like the party bus of the baking world: A rather outlandish and loud diversion with the simple purpose of providing a smile and a memorable moment of entertainment.
One cake in particular, shaped like a blowfish, looked like it escaped from a level in Super Mario’s World. Complete with eyebrows and whimsical, meringue spines, the creature evoked a reaction that one might have at the pet store window, rather than a pastry case. You might ask, “Why would you shape a cake like a blowfish,” but the real question is why wouldn’t you.
Dessert, as a category, is unnecessary nourishment. It’s an indulgence, eaten for simple enjoyment, entertainment and fun. So, despite the absurdity of eating a cake shaped like a panda head, why not? Let’s paint it pink and have some fun.