Friday, August 12, 2011

The Cherry on the Top

"I keep thinking of that cake. It's so absurd" she thought. True, there never would be such a cake again, but why it should come into her head now, when she was, of all things, trying to make up her mind about clothes, she couldn't understand. Certainly that smooth symmetrical confection -- perfection of confection, poem, and absurd again -- bore no relation to this higgledy-piggledy. She remembered it, wistfully. Round its glacial circumference medallions of crystallized ginger, next a ring of violets alternating with handbags -- no, not handbags - hazel nuts -- then, cut into leaves and stuck into the icing slantwise (so easy to pull out), a wreath of almonds and umbrellas -- "what am I talking about? I mean angelica, of course" -- rings within rings, until the middle circle - best of all - brilliant cherries. How she had longed to get a whole one to put on the side of her plate and save till last. Marvellous cake! Such a shame to cut it such an adventure to eat it.

At last she understood. "Of course! That's what mother was doing when she was decorating it. Now I see. All round her a mess, a confusion of bits and pieces, and she picked from here and there and the result was that cake. I remember she wouldn't put all the cherries in a cake. She liked to keep some back for the top." She remembered, too, her mother trying things out; holding a nut or a piece of peel over the cake to see if it looked right. "Funny thing is," went on her thoughts, "if asked in court to describe the actual cake beneath the icing, I couldn't. I don't think any of us noticed it. It must have been a Christmas cake -- or was it for one of our birthdays? Or am I quite wrong and it was plain? Never mind, it was just the top that counted, I remember that all right."

Just then the assistant returned with the hat and an apologetic look. It's just perfect for the suit, of course, madam, but it's rather expensive...."

She smiled, suddenly light-hearted with decision. "That's all right," she replied, "I'm keeping something back this year to buy really exciting accessories.

"You see, I have my own theory that people don't notice nearly so much what the rest of your clothes are like --

it's the trimmings that catch the eye and linger in the memory."

From Everywoman magazine, March 1950


  1. This made me giggle a little bit until I realized that the main idea (moral?) of the story is still relatively applicable today. Some things just don't change! :) Thanks for a really interesting post!

  2. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing. And I agree that, if you're wearing a wonderful hat, it attracts almost all the attention, no matter how lovely the dress.


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