The Costco Connection
Look for ingredients and prepared treats
in your local Costco warehouse and bakery
to convey your sentiments.
By Judith Fertig
“A PARTY WITHOUT cake is just a meeting,” Julia Child once famously said.
Cake signals a special occasion, as evidenced by the gaily decorated, chocolate- or
vanilla-scented Costco sheet cakes that help
members celebrate countless milestones
every day. Yet cake also has a secret language,
which I discovered in 2015 when I wrote my
debut novel, at the same time as my new
cookbook. I’d wonder, “What is the flavor of,
say, starting over?” and then go in the kitchen,
experiment and bake up the answer.
Our perception of flavor involves both
nature and nurture. Scientists tell us that the
chemical compounds in the flavor ingredients
trigger certain physical responses in our bodies. For example, caffeine in coffee naturally
revs us up. After repeated experience, however, we might also come to associate the flavor of coffee with a take-charge feeling.
Deep down in the ingredients in cakes,
in our taste buds and in our brains, things
happen when we light those candles or cut up
a sheet cake. Need serious bucking up for a
“big” birthday or saying yes to romance?
Natural chemical compounds in chocolate—
as in a sultry flourless chocolate cake—can
help you through. How about a boost before
taking a risk? Caffeine is the answer, and a
deliciously rich devil’s food or red velvet cake
could do the trick. Add a little more caffeine
with coffee, and a luscious Texas Sheet Cake
There’s also a reason we crave cinnamon
rolls when our flight has been canceled or
turn to spice cake when the days grow colder
as fall turns to winter. Components in cinnamon and in dried ginger contribute comforting and warming properties. Add to that
pleasant memories of childhood spice cookies and we have a flavor that takes our hand
and walks us safely to the other side of what
Limonene, found in lemon zest, can naturally relax us. It might also help us recall a
refreshing glass of lemonade on a hot day.
Gentle and aromatic, as in Marcel Proust’s
famous literary madeleines (little cakes),
lemon can encourage us to be in the moment
and then remember the past.
We think of strawberries as simple,
almost childlike, but they have six flavor com-
pounds at play. Luscious strawberry, perhaps
flavored with sugar and a splash of rosewater
to taste like a sunny day, can return us to a
happy time in childhood when a strawberry
cupcake or ice cream cone was a reward for
good behavior. That makes strawberry the
perfect flavor to celebrate Mother’s Day,
because that perfect summer childhood day
was all down to Mom, wasn’t it?
Let’s whip up an easy strawberry shortcake for Mom, but give it a little flair to show
we’re all grown up. Steeping fresh basil leaves
in warm cream, removing the leaves, chilling
the flavored cream and then whipping it to
dollop on top of the cake conveys the most
important message for a Mother’s Day cake: I
love you. C
Costco member Judith Fertig (judithfertig.
com) is the author of several cookbooks and
© RELJIC ALEKSANDRA / SHUTTERSTOCK
The secret language of cakes