Just the other day I baked a cake. Nothing special, nothing fancy, no occasion for celebration – just a plain yellow cake from a boxed mix, frosted with chocolate icing from a can that I kicked up a little with some cocoa powder, vanilla flavoring, and a little confectioner’s sugar, for the stiffer texture I prefer. In deference to Taz’ Homer Simpson-like obsession with sprinkles, I added some of those.
C’mon… give a girl a break, willya? My days of making cakes from scratch1 ended at about the time Bookworm was born. Too busy. My copy of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible, pages once stained with my efforts, languishes unused on the cookbook shelf, and every so often I give it a longing glance. Chocolate Domingo Cake… White Lilac Nostalgia… Chocolate Truffle Cake with Intense Raspberry Jewel Sauce (okay, fine, I admit to making the raspberry sauce every couple of years or so, but it’s very time-consuming to get all of those little seeds out of the sieve)… Perfect Pound Cake… dacquoise, Italian meringue icing, chocolate leaves, crème anglaise, spun sugar threads…
Maybe someday. Every one of those recipes is delicious and exquisite, and every one of them takes forever to make. Which is why I’m making cakes from mixes these days, and thus the plain cake from the box. Its humble origins notwithstanding, it filled the whole house with the gorgeous smell of vanilla, sugar, and baked goods.
Which made me think of my sister. This is the girl who used to wear Vanilla Fields and Brown Sugar & Fig, and still loves the Aromatherapy Lavender-Vanilla line of body products at Bath & Body Works. She told me once that she enjoys wearing vanilla scents because the smell inspires her husband to hug her, saying, “You smell like cake! Um, I mean… uh, sexy cake, honey!” She’d rather wear Coco Mademoiselle for herself, but her hubby likes the vanilla ones.
If gentlemen prefer blondes2, do they also prefer vanilla? There are probably hundreds of discussion threads on the fragrance forums (Perfume of Life, Basenotes, Makeup Alley, Fragrantica) nattering on about which perfumes men find attractive on women. Having read a fair number of these discussions, I can tell you that – at least among men of Generation X and younger – vanilla is, apparently, a huge draw for straight men. Women (and men) mention everything from Aquolina Pink Sugar to Angel to Shalimar, with side excursions into Jessica Simpson’s Fancy, B&BW Warm Brown Sugar, and a whole slew of Comptoir Sud Pacifique fragrances.
They might be wrong about vanilla’s man-pulling abilities. But it does make me give fervent thanks that I’m not actively looking for a may-yinn 3 at the moment (got one, thanks for asking, although I might sell him cheap4 if he doesn’t stop leaving the toilet seat up), because I’ve never been all that interested in smelling like cake. Even, um, I mean, sexy cake.
Mind you, I really like vanilla. Give me a choice between vanilla and chocolate ice cream, and I’ll take vanilla every time. Plain doughnut versus chocolate, or raspberry-filled? I’ll thumb-wrestle you for the plain!
It’s just that most of my “vanilla” fragrances are really “vanilla-and-something inedible” fragrances: Shalimar Light is vanilla, lemon, and a hint of asphalt. That Slut Tocade is vanilla, rose, and nightclub smoke. Vanille Tonka is vanilla, carnations, limes, Dr. Pepper, and frankincense, a giggly Cuba Libre party in a bottle. Organza Indecence is probably the closest to “sexy cake” that I own – but along with its vanilla, orange, and spice, it contains some woods and a dusty patchouli that takes it right out of the bakery case. Havana Vanille is tobacco, rum, spice, and vanilla liqueur so clear and sweet and boozy that you think of pirates in tropical waters, not of Mom’s coffee cake.
There’s no sexy cake in my fragrance wardrobe, and I’m okay with that. To each her own.
How about you? Do you:
A) believe that men are attracted to the smell of vanilla cupcakes on women, assuming that you care about such matters?
B) own any Sexy Cake or other vanilla scents? Which ones?
As always, please feel free to tell me I’m a nutcase.
Images from top to bottom are: Vanilla cake vanilla buttercream from ladybugluggage; 3 vanilla cupcakes with vanilla sea salt from chockylit; and Vanilla beans from kendiala, all at Flickr. Image of my sister and her glorious hair from my sister’s collection. My sister has a small child of her own, so for safety reasons I’m not naming her.
1 When The CEO was a kid, he misheard his mother saying she’d made a cake “from scratch” as “from scraps.” They fed the dog table scraps, so for at least a couple of years, he was unduly impressed by what he thought was his mother’s magical ability to turn refuse into dessert.
2 Clearly, my brother-in-law is indifferent to blondes. My sister is blessed with the most glorious wavy red hair – in fact, it’s not red, it’s more a coppery bronze. It’s stunning hair. But no one will ever mistake her for Marilyn Monroe.
3 If this doesn’t make sense to you, try saying it the way Ru-Paul would. You know, not just a man, but a manly man who has bedroom potential.
4 He does laundry, windows, and the occasional decent backrub. But he snores, and he’s obsessed with Republicans and geography. Make me an offer good enough to induce me to discount 18 pretty good years, and we’ll talk…