Sexy Cake

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…


39 thoughts on “Sexy Cake”

  1. One of my friends once smelled my (then Body Shop) Vanilla scent and told me it was boring. My immediate retort was that my then-boyfriend/now-husband liked it. He still does. My general opinion is that plenty of men like sweets and smelling like one never hurts. Plus I actually really enjoy vanilla.

    1. Oh, good, a vanilla fan. And a Man Vote for vanilla, too! Straight-up vanilla isn’t my thing, although I do enjoy an occasional foray into Hanae Mori (butterfly) territory, all berries and vanilla and sugar… I have two samples. Don’t see myself buying a FB, though.

  2. My bf gets migraines and I have to be careful about what I spritz around him. One thing he doesn’t seem to mind is vanilla (and I like them too)! I have many in my collection – La Maison de la Vanille Noire de Mexique and Savage de Madagascar, decants of Havana Vanille and SDV, Yves Rocher Vanilla, CSP Vanille Coco (which now is way toosweet for me but man, if I don’t get compliments from guys every time I wear this!) and Givenchy Organza Indecence. I have a sample of Tokyo Milk’s Dead Sexy, which is on my FB wishlist, and it is a vanilla – since it’s called Dead Sexy, they must think it’s sexy to someone!

    Also, the bf LOVES yellow cake from a box. Plain, no icing. Easy (and cheap) to please!

    1. I am just full of typos today. It is Sauvage de Madagascar, and obviously a space should be between too and sweet!

    2. Glad you have found some things that don’t bother his head, O – I hope some of them, at least, make him want to cuddle you.

      I hear good things about that Noire du Mexique – doesn’t Musette over at the Posse like that one? Maybe it was someone else, though.

      Haven’t tried any Tokyo Milks; aren’t those pretty reasonably priced?

      Regarding icing – I have one kid who lives for icing (and sprinkles!), one kid who eats any cake, any time, and one kid who scrapes all the icing off his cake, making faces. They’re all quite thin, taking after their father in that way…

      1. The Noire du Mexique seems to be the most highly rated out of the La Maison bunch – I believe there are 5 of them? Robin gave it a positive review on NST – “nicely done comfort scent.” My bf actually bought me a backup bottle of that as a gift (I asked for it of course), so he must like it at least a little!

        The Tokyo Milk’s are reasonably priced – $28 for 30 ml, and very nicely packaged. I have Honey & the Moon and a few other samples. It’s nice that they have them at Anthropologie so I’ve been able to sniff most of the line.

        I do scrape most of the icing off most cakes, unless they are cream cheese or whipped cream based!

    3. And also forgot about my Lavanila Vanilla Grapefruit. Sounds gross, but it’s quite nice. It’s not really grapefruity, but there’s something citrusy there that lightens up the vanilla.

  3. I enjoy vanilla for comfort.

    My husband enjoys vanilla in the kitchen.

    What does he like as scent? The only one he went nutty for to date was Magie Noire. Otherwise, most things run a spectrum along the lines of degrees of “nice” or “too talc-y.”

    Since “bacon” scent has yet to be offered (Burger King’s “Flame” perhaps coming closest), the jury is still out on foodie fandom from my S.O.

    1. SS, I figured that manly preferences would run the gamut from Fancy to Opium… you just never know. The CEO doesn’t seem all that drawn to vanilla fragrances, either. His favorites now include Cuir de Lancome, Citizen Queen, and, yes, MJ Daisy.


  4. A) My husband loves vanilla scents, though not sure about the “cupcake” aspect. Sometimes he’ll smell the vanilla and say it smells like chocolate. There’s definitely a similarity if you’re talking sweetened milk chocolate.

    B) As to vanilla scents I own – Maison de la Vanille Noire du Mexique, PdN Vanille Intense, Vanilia, CSP Vanille Abricot and Vanille Banane, and Havana Vanille. I suppose you can also throw Chocolovers in there as well. I don’t wear any of these very often, though. The ones he tends to like that smell like vanilla in the drydown are Hypnotic Poison, Delices, L de Lolita Lempicka, and Angel (that choco/vanilla thing going on)!

    1. Karin – well, I call that another Man Vote for vanilla! And clearly you like them too.

      I have yet to smell Hypnotic Poison (L de LL was… I dunno, heavy and indigestible for me, and Angel – oh, gosh the patchouli in that just killllllls me). And the Noire du Mexique is getting love today… Hmm.

  5. Your sister’s hair is gorgeous!

    I really need to try that Noire du Mexique. I like vanilla scents but I have to be in the mood for them.

    Just for kicks I picked up some Coty vanillas (Dark Vanilla and Vanilla Fields) in a thrift shop though I have really not sprayed them except around the bedroom a few days after I bought them. Must really give them a test. I also have a few vanilla-based samples but have not really given them a thorough testing, either.

    The only FB vanilla I own is Le Labo Vanille 44 and it is not really a sweet vanilla. Wait a minute, does Emeraude and Shalimar count as vanilla scents? I guess I’m thinking of the cupcake kind of vanilla. (Boy do I ramble, sorry!).

    I don’t know if men are partial to vanilla or not but I do recall getting in an elevator some months ago and a neighbor mentioned “You smell delicious, what are you wearing?” I was wearing LL V44. So I guess that’s another man vote. 🙂

    1. Connie, I’m rather jealous of her beautiful hair. My own hair is straight dark blonde. (Luckily, my sweet daughter inherited lovely strawberry blonde hair like my sister’s little boy – their hair is almost the same color, and looks like my brother’s baby boy is going to have sandy red hair, too. At least the red-hair genes are still floating around!)

      I never liked Vanilla Fields much and haven’t smelled Dark Vanilla – nor the Le Labo.

      But I would count Shalimar and Emeraude as “vanilla-AND” scents. (Emeraude, oh, Emeraude… I lurve vintage Emeraude. Funny thing is, I don’t smell VANILLA in it, myself, I just smell Emeraude. But when my children smell it, they say it’s vanilla. I mean, it’s there, but I’m somewhat reluctant to analyze Emeraude because I love it so much.)

      And yep, I think that’s another Man Vote for vanilla!

  6. My husband loves vanilla! In food as well as in perfume. When we met, I didn’t really like vanilla-smelling things. But slowly slowly he got me in to it and now I love vanilla too. Not as much as him when it comes to food but in scents I really enjoy it.
    Shalimar, Songes and Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin(which we both wear) are scents with vanilla that I own. Plain vanilla isn’t for me. I prefer non-foodie vanilla kinds but could probably be persuaded to wear Eau de vanilla cookie at home at least 😉

    1. Another Man Vote for vanilla! Em, if Eau de Vanilla Cookie makes your sweetie happy, it might be good to wear it every now and then. I think women should wear the scents they like themselves, but it never hurts to just do something nice for a partner once in a while, and wearing his favorite scent is easy.

      I think we agree on non-foody vanilla. I’m not a huge fan of Shalimar myself – the weather and my mood have to be right, and I prefer Shalimar Light anyway – but I think it’s a terrific example of vanilla done intelligently.

  7. Hmm, my bf prefers chocolate cake to any other. If there’s not some chocolate in it, he doesn’t consider it cake. 🙂
    But I don’t think he is much into vanilla (or anything of the gourmand sort) on me – as much as I could see, he really enjoys flowers which are not my favourite type of scent but he comments most on those.

    1. Ines, a lot of people would agree with your BF on chocolate cake! Now, I love plain dark chocolate, and chocolate with crunchy bits in it, but when it comes to cake I’d rather have vanilla.

      My husband tends to like light flowery scents too. And of course I accommodate that preference occasionally, while wearing what I like most of the time – although I think I like florals better than you do. (My favorite fragrance groups would be green florals and floral orientals, anyway.)

  8. Maybe vanilla-loving is a geographical thing?
    I can imagine someone liking the note, but sexy?!? Say comforting and regressive instead ;)! (which is not insulting, I think)

    Like me, my husband doesn’t like plain vanilla scents, nor do my many male friends. Everyone loves it as a result of a cake in the oven, and that’s pretty much it!
    Few years ago, a colleague of mine, who was wearing a plain vanilla fragrance, was (mockingly and nicely, but repeatedly) asked to stop. The motion came from our mainly male work group. She never did, and I love her for that, but it was awful to get into the elevator with her….plain vanilla just smells bad, too sweet and foody, and the cheap ones develop a stomach-turning plastic note.

    My personal experience is that men ususally like fragrances that are not overwhelming, not too sweet, talcy or floral, but that leave a delicate feminine trail. Their scent vocabulary is: perfume-y (bad), talcy (bad), strong (bad) and nice. They always say nice when a scent is light and/or quite worn up.

    So, I cannot think of any sexy vanilla… I enjoy from time to time a drop of HV, but that I wear for comfort, not to seduce! Same thing goes for Montale Intense Tiaré: the vanilla is heavy but a bit smoky, and the white flowers are there, thick and beachy with a slice of coconut… Images of long beaches come up, not of ruffled bedsheets!

    1. Z, I don’t know about geography – there are a number of Europeans commenting on Fragrantica and Basenotes, and there were a lot of men saying they liked vanilla on women… But, of course, there is a wide variation in what *women* like, so it’s not surprising that there is a big range of preferences for men.

      I was a little surprised, actually, at how many men said they loved sweet vanilla scents on women. And I’d never have called it sexy myself, but clearly some people do. “Sexy cake” was such a funny description, I had to use it as a title! And as I say, my husband tends to prefer light florals.

      I haven’t smelled that Montale… there is something very tropical about good vanilla, isn’t there? When I was making cakes from scratch and had a stash of real vanilla beans on hand, I used to love opening the jar just to sniff.

  9. Hmmm… I’m not much of a vanilla lover anymore, but I did used to wear things with names like Vanilla Musk, Vanilla Fields, Vanilla whatever when I was younger and was complimented by men on them. I do have a few vanillas like Shalimar, Vanille Galante (which isn’t vanilla-y at all) and Hanae Mori, but I don’t even care for SDV or Havana Vanille.

    At the beginning (or right before, really) of my perfumista-hood, I wore Pink Sugar and it was very comforting to me, although I can’t stand it now. My husband hated it – he thought that it smelled like cotton-candy and I never wore it around him. However, I did get unsolicited compliments on it all the time. Granted, most of them were from 1st graders, but I did get quite a few from men who thought that it smelled good – including one from an ex, who upon hugging me, whispered in my ear that I smelled fantastic and it made him want to do unspeakable things to me. So, there does seem to be a subset of men who find the smell of vanilla sexy.

    What does my husband find sexy? Epic Woman and Citizen Queen – a man after my own heart.

    1. Cynthia, I was never much of a straight-up-vanilla fan myself. I loved Emeraude from the first moment I smelled it, and of course it is really heavy on vanilla, but there’s so much other stuff in there that I don’t think of it as being a VANILLA scent.

      I have yet to smell Vanille Galante or SDV. (Or Epic, for that matter, but I’m sure I’ll get around to that one someday. I didn’t like Gold or Dia – they were so HUGE – but I love Lyric, and Ubar is fantastic too. I’ve got samples of both Jubilations that I have yet to put on skin… sorry, end digression.)

      So you present one Man Vote for vanilla, and one Anti-vanilla Man Vote? I’m sure there’s really more variety out there than the discussion thread on forums would indicate. Could be that the people who participate just happen to be the vanilla fans… could be an age group thing, too.

      And your husband is right on with Citizen Queen. (wink!)

      1. lol – there are probably men who think “I smell vanilla… huh, I wonder what’s for dinner”. So – one group thinks that it’s fine for food, but not on people. One thinks that vanilla = sex and one thinks that vanilla makes them hungry?

      2. Apparently that is the case…

        I try not to salivate at that picture of the vanilla cake on the post. It looks so wonderful (I think maybe the person who put the photo up on flickr is a baker).

  10. Nobody should knock Duncan Hines! I’ve gotten compliments on my baked-goods-from-a-box, so I don’t know if I’ll ever make a “scratch” cake again.

    Although I love the smell of vanilla in cooking, it’s not something I particularly look for in perfume, as I don’t want to smell like a sugar cookie all day. I do like Shalimar, because the vanilla is tempered with lemon and that tarry note. As for attracting men, my husband is anosmic, so I wouldn’t know! He only notices someone is wearing perfume when his nose itches.

    Please tell your sister I think she’s beautiful.

    1. Oh, hey, Duncan Hines is the best of the boxed mixes. (It isn’t the same as homemade, though. Homemade pound cake is Da Bomb…)

      Shalimar is really genius, I think. For myself, I’d honestly rather have Shalimar Light – or vintage Emeraude – but Shalimar is the very opposite of Vanilla Cupcake!

      At least you don’t have to deal with your husband wrinkling up his nose at you when you are wearing vintage Jolie Madame, and saying, “That smells like some flowers died a very unnatural death.” (Or do you? Does his nose itch very often, or is it just strong perfume that bothers him?)

      I shall pass on your kind words – I think she’s beautiful, too. She’s too hard on herself – that photo is about 12 years old, but it’s the only one she’d allow me to post.

  11. Lovely post, thanks. I avoided vanilla for ages because I associate it with a story I heard once that during the Second World War, when fragrances and cosmetics could be scarce, women would scent themselves with vanilla essence. (Some would also draw a line down the backs of their legs to represent the seam on the backs of the stockings they could no longer buy.) It’s a great story but it did nothing to encourage me to explore vanilla scents. But more recently I bought me a bottle of Chamade EDP, and that I am loving. A mini of Shamilar is on its way to me right now. May it be in my mail box tonight!

    I have seen really interesting cosmetics ads published during the Second World War – Ponds maybe? – so they must have been available. (This is Australia, and where this sort of thing would have to be imported.) One ad that I remember had some small print encouraging women to be careful and sparing in the use of the product, a lipstick and powder set I think. Amazing to think of now!

    1. Anne, I knew a girl who would wear vanilla extract (as we Yanks say) as perfume, and I thought it was a dumb idea, as vanilla extract smells primarily of alcohol to me.

      Chamade is really gorgeous, isn’t it? It changes so much from top to bottom. I have difficulties with Shalimar, except in parfum and pdt – in fact, I generally have trouble with classic Guerlains in their lesser concentrations (exception Apres l’Ondee). I had to settle into Chamade by way of the pdt, but now I can wear the edt just fine. It’s beautiful. Shalimar, on the other hand, I’ll probably never enjoy in edt – it’s sharp and tarry to my nose. It’s genius, but the contrasts in it never let me relax.

      I grew up being “careful and sparing” of cosmetics and perfume – both my parents grew up poor, and that sort of mindset tends to stick. I used one small 1oz bottle of Chloe edt for about 10 years. It finally went bad when I was in college! We’re pretty wasteful these days, I agree.

      So where are you in Oz? I’ve only been there once, very briefly – a weekend visit to a sheep-and-cattle farm in NSW, and a few days in Sydney. Lovely place – I’d love to live in Manly (yeah, like the real estate there is cheap!). I just don’t get why Australia Square is round and Circular Quay is rectangular…

      1. Ah, now I’m looking forward to my Shalimar even more, as it is the parfum. And I love Chamade, and have it in EDT and EDP, but not sure how it will go in the winter. I’m in Canberra – dry, sunny and frosty in the winter, dry and sunny period in the summer. I don’t know Sydney very well although my job takes me there quite a bit. My feet take me to the Chanel boutique but my wallet cries out to be left in the hotel. (Is vanilla extract the same as vanilla essence? The latter is just synthetic vanilla-smelling stuff, I thought, although it’s been around for generations … ).

      2. I’ve not been to Canberra – my husband liked it there quite a bit, though. (Our weather here tends toward the wet, and I’m used to that.)

        I know you are going to enjoy your Shalimar parfum! Chamade is so green in the opening that I never want it in the winter. I think it *could* be worn in chilly weather, though, because the base is rich.

        I think extract and essence is the same, except that we can buy either artificial vanilla flavoring or pure vanilla extract. I always spend a little more and get the real stuff – it tastes so much better.

  12. Lovely post – which almost inspires me to bake, but not quite! (Even from a mix.)

    Mr Bonkers doesn’t care for vanilla scents or anything in my entire collection except SJP Lovely, which he pronounced “quite nice actually, like soap”. But crucially, not cake. Though he wouldn’t look a gift slice of any variety in the mouth.

    My most sexy cake scent I happen to be wearing right now, namely Ajne Calypso – frangipani, jasmine, sandalwood and Madagascar vanilla (which may or may not be more sexy and scrummy than regular vanilla from…er…some other vanilla-producing country).

    1. Ah, another Anti-Vanilla Man Vote. (Mr. Bonkers is always a laugh and a half, isn’t he?)

      Vanilla beans from Tahiti are lovely as well, but I think the Madagascan ones are premium. I never bought them, as my wallet took one look at the total and crossed its arms firmly across its chest. “No,” it said. “Forget it. Make do with the cheaper ones.”

      Seems like I’ve read of your rapture over Calypso… hmm. Those notes sound really lovely (and not very cakeish, either).

  13. Ach. Waaaaay too late. But what a fun post, and you really struck a nerve!! “Sexy cake”– ha! (For the record– *huge* vanilla fan, but vanilla scents all but leave me cold. Can’t explain…)

    1. Awwww, bummer you missed the discussion when it was fresh from the oven, so to speak.

      Vanilla Rules. Totally. So you’d thumb-wrestle me for the vanilla cupcake, but you’re neutral on,say, TF Tobacco Vanille? (Please notice, I immediately dismissed all thought of mentioning Jessica Simpson Fancy. Just for you. 🙂 )

  14. Hi Mals! My ex of many years could not smell a thing. One day, his sinuses miraculously cleared up and he declared himself a fan of Chanel No 5, but he went back to clogged up the next day.
    I’ve gotten compliments on Coach perfume, and on Lolita Lempicka.
    One shmuck told me that my beloved (vanilla-heavy) Kenzo Amour Le Parfum smelled like a candle.
    A Greek boy told me I should make Yvresse my signature scent.

    I cannot even begin to understand them.

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