Ah, weddings. What could be sweeter? But before we get to the cakes and pastries, allow me a digression.
I confess that for years I did not understand why marriage rose to the top of the gay community’s priorities. I had been there and done that when I was 20. I married a woman I loved and we divorced five years later. I never wanted to be married again, regardless of gender, and encouraged everyone I knew to avoid subjugating their love to state regulation. I still feel that married people should receive absolutely no benefits not accorded single people. In 2004, something caught me off guard. That year, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome ordered the city clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
About 4,000 were handed out (and then revoked a month later). What stunned me was the look on these people’s faces—the intensity of their loving gaze at one another, free from the furtiveness imposed by centuries of oppression. Philosophy and psychology have long been obsessed with the way our understanding of self is fashioned by seeing and being seen by other beings. I realized that most Americans, seeing this flowering of love, saw both us and themselves differently. They got that our long struggle has been about love, not just sex. Well, the far-right Christians didn’t get it. They turned gay wedding cakes into tokens of sin earlier this year. Bless their black, haloed hearts. Honestly, what follows is just an excuse to tell you about some great bakeries. And remember, anyway, that you don’t have to have a cake at your wedding. Pigging out on pastries to kickstart marriage’s inevitable weight gain is totally acceptable.
RATIO BAKERY. Chris Flores has become everyone’s favorite gay pastry chef in the last year. He’ll be opening a walk-in store in Decatur next month. For the present, you can order his pastries off his website, by phone, or by scheduling an appointment. He artfully combines classic, nostalgic flavors—intense chocolate and peanut butter, butter pecan and cinnamon, apples and caramel, coconut and lime. But he also goes for honey and goat cheese, carrots and cardamom. His associate, Lori Clowers Horne, is in charge of wedding cakes. I can’t vouch for them, but if you’re in doubt, you should simply stack a bunch of fist-sized brownies and crispy shortbread cookies atop one of Flores’ splendid usual cakes, anyway. (404-295-6517, www.ratiobakeshop.com.)
HIGHLAND BAKERY. Probably the most notable cake maker in our city is Karen Portaleo. She’s been featured numerous times on the Food Network and is teaching all over the world. But the good news is that you can still order her cakes through Highland Bakery. Portaleo’s background is in clay sculpture and her cakes are brilliantly detailed, sometimes surreal, sometimes hilarious. Wouldn’t you love to serve a cake wrapped in the tentacles of a cartoony octopus? See her website or Highland Bakery’s to get the full picture. Owner Stacey Eames has opened several locations, but the original location on North Highland remains a very popular brunch spot as well as bakery. (655 Highland Ave., 404-586-0772, www.highlandbakery.com; also: www.karenportaleo.com.)
PIE SHOP. I’ve actually never been a big fan of cake. Wedding cakes in particular are infamous for their blandness. I like pie—fruity or creamy, flaky-crusted—a zillion times better (as do a lot of Southerners, I think). Mims Bledsoe returns pie to its rightful status. The changing, seasonal menu is online. I recommend any pie made with rhubarb, tangy and a bit bitter—perfect for envious, unmarried wedding guests. (3210 Roswell Road, 404-841-4512, www.the-pie-shop.com.)
SUBLIME DONUTS. After your wedding, you’ll be losing your virginity at last, right? Make it sweeter. Order a bunch of the nationally acclaimed donuts from here to squish on the body of your new spouse. Once you try these, you’ll never return to Krispy Kreme, not even after you crawl out of the Eagle at 2 a.m. the day after your divorce. (535 10th St., 404-897-1801, www.sublimedoughnuts.com)
THE LITTLE TART BAKESHOP. What to eat the morning after the wedding? Plan ahead and order a couple dozen of the city’s seriously best croissants at this bakery inside Octane Coffee in Grant Park. If you want to keep it lighter and sweeter, get a bunch of the tennis-ball-sized meringues. (437 Memorial Drive, 404-348-4797, www.littletartatl.com).
Cliff Bostock holds a PhD in depth psychology, conducts workshops, and offers life coaching to individuals. www.CliffBostock.com.