Cake

The protagonist of the story, Liz is a new mother who returns to work at her office 18 months after giving birth to her son, Daniel. She feels extremely anxious and guilty about leaving him at daycare and feels out of place when she goes back to work. Liz does not find her job particularly meaningful and is stressed by the meaningless tasks and awkward social interactions it entails. She cannot relate to the other women in her office, who wanted nothing more than to return to work after having children, and the men view her emotions with a combination of confusion and disdain. She is so anxious that she calls the daycare center, Kidz Rezort, to check up on her son, and has to sternly remind herself not to call a second time. Throughout her workday, Liz is aggravated by the constant presence of cake. The dessert reminds her that everyone expects her to celebrate her return to “the world of the living,” which only makes her feel guiltier. Liz does not have a particularly close relationship with her husband, Andrew, who is unsympathetic when she tells him how much she hated going back to work—he is far more focused on the fact that they need two incomes in order to pay off the mortgage. Liz only experiences a sense of peace at the end of the story, when she reunites with her son and breastfeeds him.

Liz Quotes in Cake

The Cake quotes below are all either spoken by Liz or refer to Liz. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Guilt Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribe edition of Cake published in 2012.
Cake Quotes

Nobody looks guilty, do they? Nobody else is eating themselves alive like this, trying not to run to that childproof gate and tear back in there, scoop up their kid from the floor of the Tadpole Room and run screaming out of the place.

Related Characters: Liz
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
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And he’s in there, alone, where she’s left him. Abandoned him to a roomful of rampaging strangers: big, chunky, runny-nose buzz-cut boys in miniature camouflage gear, already seasoned commanders of the play equipment and the puzzles.

Related Characters: Liz, Daniel
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Another set of glass doors: her own boundary gates this time, back at her old office, still with the two dusty ficus trees in the foyer, unchanged; perhaps they’re plastic, she’s never noticed before. Her work colleagues all at the same desks, Stella at the front reception, same smell of cardboard and carpet vacuum powder; only the calendar has been changed.

Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

‘I mean,’ she fumbles, feeling her face flush, ‘I’m very glad to be back, of course, but I actually like staying home. I’ve liked it, I mean.’ She senses, as they nod and smile, that this is not the answer they want.

Related Characters: Liz (speaker), Julie, Stella, and Caroline, Tim and Dave
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

These are the cakes that have marked each office birthday and celebration, cakes that leave a fur of sugar on your teeth and a pile of brightly colored crumbs, cakes you need to empty the remains of into your desk bin when nobody’s looking.

Related Characters: Liz
Related Symbols: Cake
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Being a stay-at-home mum can begin to seem mundane and repetitive to many women who have experienced the challenges of a satisfying job and the stimulation of daily adult conversation, it begins.

Related Characters: Liz
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Liz fishes out her wallet and finds a five-dollar note, snaps it shut before she has to look at the photo of Daniel tucked in there. His shy smile like a boobytrap. He’d have his thumb in his mouth right not. Not smiling, that’s for sure.

Related Characters: Liz, Daniel, Julie, Stella, and Caroline
Related Symbols: Five-Dollar Note
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

And those conscientious exclamation marks, as if it all urgently mattered. As if it meant something, as if things would fall apart without her, as if anybody could give a flying toss.

Related Characters: Liz
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Liz concentrates on swallowing the claggy paste of cheese and pasta in her mouth. God in heaven, she thinks, forcing it down, if anyone else mentions fucking cake again today I’m going to burst a blood vessel.

Related Characters: Liz, Julie, Stella, and Caroline
Related Symbols: Cake, Lasagna
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

‘That’s what I mean. Having to walk into a room full of pretty competitive strangers, all with their own agendas. That’s a bit of a tough gauntlet to run, doing it cold like that, getting thrown into the mix.’

Related Characters: Frank (speaker), Liz
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

The day yawning ahead with tiny variations, the endless clock-watching dreariness of it. The salary. Eyes on the salary.

Related Characters: Liz
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

‘We agreed it was always only going to be a temporary thing, you staying home,’ he goes on in a low, reasonable voice, his back still to her. ‘Because, you know, we’re locked into this.’

Related Characters: Andrew (speaker), Liz
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Something is tearing inside her, slowly and deliberately, like a perforated seam. And even as she’s admonishing herself that giving in will only make things worse tomorrow, her hands are functioning outside her own volition again, unbuttoning her shirt.

Related Characters: Liz, Daniel
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Liz Character Timeline in Cake

The timeline below shows where the character Liz appears in Cake. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Cake
Guilt Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Outside of Kidz Rezort, Liz tries to force herself to drive away, but she can’t work up the nerve to... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Liz imagines what would happen if she did run back into the daycare center to rescue... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Liz feels like she should be prepared for this moment—Daniel’s name has been on this daycare... (full context)
Capitalism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Liz arrives at her office and notices how little has changed since she went on maternity... (full context)
Motherhood Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Everyone returns to their desks, and Liz anticipates the cake that will be served at the morning tea. Before she went on... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Liz calls Kidz Rezort to check on Daniel. A staff member assures her that he is... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Liz is asked to contribute money for the celebratory morning tea. She takes a five-dollar note... (full context)
Capitalism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Liz finds the note that she left to her replacement and recalls the days before she... (full context)
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Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
In the afternoon, Julie, Stella, and Caroline take Liz out to lunch at an Italian restaurant. Liz fights the urge to run over to... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
...agree on the importance of early weaning, because children shouldn’t be “dictating” their mothers’ lives. Liz feels indignant because she has enjoyed breastfeeding for a year and a half. Daniel wants... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Later that day, Liz heads to an important meeting and her boss, Frank, asks her if she is feeling... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
At the end of the day, Liz leaves work and picks up Daniel. She talks to him using an “inanely cheerful voice”... (full context)
Guilt Theme Icon
Capitalism Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Later, Liz takes Daniel to the bedroom to feed him his bottle, but he reaches for her... (full context)