"No doubt you will laugh and laugh at our linguistic crisis vis-à-vis the tops of what should be our happy cakes, but instead are only our miserable reminder cakes of the simple pleasures that shall be forever denied us," jokes Baden-Baden cake decorator Gerhard Schneiderhoffen.
ERMAN BAKERS, busy as ever creating and decorating beautiful cakes for every possible occasion, admit that there is one thing they can't do that so many others in their profession take for granted: fit a simple, appropriate message in colorful icing atop their cake creations.
Gerhard Schneiderhoffen, a third-generation baker from Baden-Baden, laments that the German language, known for its compound word construction, does not lend itself to the language of cakes.
"It is, yes, the language of kaisers, poets, and mathematicians, but it is not the language of the humble baker who needs words that can fit onto a surface of average proportions."
For example, the English "Happy College Graduation!" message, loosely translated from the German, would read on a very large cake: "Joy emotings are aspirated toward you upon your head-topping flat board condition signifying exit from the older children upper learning infusion building."
Said Mr. Schneiderhoffen, "Although the 'good news,' as you are so fond of saying, is that such a cake would serve about 300 guests, the bad news, which much more accurately reflects the actuality of existence if you were thinking with your mind on straight, is that most graduation festivities are not comprised of 300 people. And even if they were, they are not all likely to wish for a piece of cake. It would be foolish and stupid even to entertain such a ridiculous fiction. What about the diabetics among the throng? And the gluttonous ones who are being prevailed upon by their spouses to lower their caloric intake or risk expulsion from the household? As you see, mine is not such a frivolous occupation as you first imagined, wrongly."
Mr. Schneiderhoffen and his colleagues do their best to compensate, by adding more butter-cream decorations, or settling for abbreviated messages that must communicate more with less. For example, many graduation ceremonies will feature cakes reading simply "Flat Board Condition!" along with one, two, or three German Mark currency symbols "to indicate the financial accumulations the particular graduate under celebration is expected to earn," explained Mr. Schneiderhoffen.
"It is so obvious to say, but an engineer will receive more Marks than a graduate of a school that teaches illustration techniques by way of electronic correspondence."
Although Germany is part of the European Union and the euro is now its official currency, Mr. Schneiderhoffen insists that the old German Mark will continue to grace the tops of bakers' cakes for generations to come.
"This is my Deutsche Mark frosting pen, ya? It will paint Deutsche Marks on my cakes now and into the future time until it breaks into little tiny pieces that cannot be mended."
© 5.21.09 Kate Heidel