In the story, cake appears throughout Liz’s first day back at work as a symbol of celebration that she does not want to be participating in—to her, returning to work and leaving her son at daycare is a miserable experience, not a joyous occasion. Cake first appears in the story when Liz remembers the ubiquity of store-bought cakes at office celebrations, cakes she doesn’t enjoy and must empty into the garbage “when nobody’s looking.” It also appears as dessert on the menu of the mediocre Italian restaurant Liz goes to for lunch with her coworkers. Liz is angered by the women’s conversation about the importance of weaning children so they don’t “dictate” their mother’s lives, when Liz has been perfectly happy breastfeeding and centering her days around her son. This anger bubbles up during dessert, and she feels as though she’s going to “burst a blood vessel” if anyone mentions cake again. At the end of the day, she has a dispiriting conversation with Andrew about their mortgage and he presents her with a paper bag—he bought cake to celebrate her first day back. The constant appearance of cake echoes the constant pressures Liz confronts as people tell her how she should feel and behave. Society dictates that she should be celebrating her return to work, when in reality she does not enjoy her job and would rather be spending time with her son.
Cake Quotes in Cake
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.
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.