I celebrated my birthday earlier this month, by which I mean I bought a couple slices of cake from a nearby Tous Les Jours bakery and contemplated how I was spending the remaining years of my 20s going nowhere and doing nothing but descending into gradual physical decline. My hair, which has long been lightly flecked with the odd white hair hidden among the black, has begun accelerating toward a state of graying, with wiry strands sprouting near my temples like a conspicuous invasive species. I’m incapable of pulling all-nighters anymore, with anything less than 6 hours of sleep all but guaranteeing a headache so pulsating that I have to down some tea and painkillers and pray. The slightest wrong move messes up my neck or lower back with alarming regularity; once, I raised my arms too quickly and couldn’t lift my head fully for a week. I don’t mean to do that irritating thing of complaining about aging when I’m still objectively young, but it’s difficult to ignore the bodily effects of the passage of time when they are so readily apparent.
Maybe it was because my spirits were low due to my grappling with this reality, maybe it was the fact that it was midnight and I was tired, but the first bite I had of the cake was transcendent. As was the second bite, and the third, too — it was the kind of cake that only tasted better the more I ate. The “cloud cake,” as Tous Les Jours brands it, is just a sponge cake held together by whipped cream and a few slices of not-particularly-fresh-tasting fruit, but it is one of the best desserts I have eaten in years. Like the Asian fruit cream cakes of my childhood, it isn’t sickly sweet. The sponge is so tender, the whipped cream so light, that each sliver melts in the mouth. I could have eaten a dozen slices, but that night, on the cusp of turning one more year older, two sufficed. 4.5/5 stars.