THE POWER OF CAKE
ecently cake has become the center of a First Amendment debate taken all the way to the Supreme Court. Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission involves a Denver based baker who in 2012 refused to make a gay couple a wedding cake on the premise that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. As of December 6, the Supreme Court was torn between arguments supporting the baker’s right to artistic expression protected by the First Amendment vs. his violation of Colorado anti-discrimination laws, leaving both sides waiting in a stalemate, with no quickly foreseeable ruling to celebrate and slice into the, ahem, cake.
It is just cake after all. Cake goes well with cold milk and parties; even break-up binges, but like proper dinner party etiquette, politics should be left out of the mix — there’s no turning back now.
Cake has been over-baked into a political platform that’s decidedly about much more than just cake.
This case begs you to wonder whether or not cake should be considered a form of free speech and subsequently whether or not cake can qualify as artistic expression protected by the First Amendment. Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, maintains that his cakes are his artistic expression protected by the First Amendment and that Colorado law cannot violate his right to refuse to make a cake that doesn’t comply with his religious beliefs — this is where things get muddy. Although certain cakes can be considered works of art on par with the time, skill and aesthetic that oil painters and sculptures lend to their work, a cake is, after all, a commodity meant to be consumed. It’s ephemeral in nature; its art enjoyed only until the moment the knife comes out. I liken it to a Tibetan Mandala; it’s art until it’s not, blown away by a simple gust of wind.
Leading up to the December hearing by the Supreme Court, the argument of cake as art has become seriously heated. Those arguing against it are cautious of the slippery slope that may ensue if the court rules in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop and the repercussions of new malleable interpretations of the First Amendment. Critics wonder, what’ll come next? Can other wedding vendors such as florist and jewelers also call their craft art, and discriminate against same-sex marriage as well?
So far the jury hasn’t reached a resolution. So why not take a break from it all and bring it back to the basics to remind ourselves that there’s a whole lot of joy in cake. It’s the sweet and delicious centerpiece to all occasions in life worth celebrating, and like magic, it can instantly transport you to a happier place through a single bite. Remember licking the spoon? The very first cake I ever baked was a Duncan Hines Spice Cake, straight from the box. My mom helped me make cream cheese frosting, and together we slathered it over a 9×13” pan. I was hooked for life. Today I’d like to think that my tastes are more sophisticated than cake made from a box, but I’m not. It’s about so, so much more than just cake.