Moments to Savor: Peeling back the chocolate layer cake

A slice of chocolate cake on a plate next to a small bowl with a scoop of chocolate ice cream in it. On top of the cake is a dollop of whipped cream, topped with a strawberry.

(Cassidy Jones • The Student Life)

I’ve felt genuinely happy during these first few weeks of the semester. It’s been so nice getting to see my friends again; on the first day of classes, I ran into 12 familiar faces within the first hour of walking around — yes, I counted. Overall, I feel well-rested and ready to reconnect with people, energized by a sweet moment that happened at the end of break. 

It was my aunt’s birthday on Jan. 11, and I, having been staying at her and my uncle’s place for a few days, got to celebrate with their family. We first piled into the car to get Korean barbecue and then made our way to a cozy Orange County bakery for some dessert.

Inside the bakery, the glass cases brimmed with dainty crème brûlées, colorful macaroons and plump slices of cake generously lathered with swirls of frosting. We each selected a dessert, and my younger cousin chose a slice of chocolate cake. 

After finding a table and carefully bringing over our assortment of treats, my cousin curiously poked at the cake with her fork. “Try it!” my uncle prodded, to which she carefully sunk her fork in through each layer and took her first bite. Immediately her eyes lit up. “This is exquisite,” she declared, grinning widely. 

My aunt and uncle laughed because they had no idea that that word was in her vocabulary, and they were glad to see her enjoying the cake so much. “Is it that good?” I asked, chuckling. “It’s exquisite,” she reaffirmed, goofily closing her eyes as she took another bite. 

Though this interaction was small, it meant the world to me. I had spent a decent amount of time with my cousin growing up, but because she was shy, I had always struggled to connect with her. I would talk to her at church and on random days when I would pop by my aunt and uncle’s house to say hello, but I longed for the day when she would feel comfortable enough around me to laugh and be silly. “Am I doing too much? Am I doing too little?” I would often think to myself. 

But this small moment, aided by some pretty phenomenal chocolate cake, gave me an answer. I was spending time with her, and that was enough. Maybe 9 out of 10 interactions were on the quieter, more awkward side, but the 10th one allowed me to witness her genuine excitement over this “exquisite” dessert. What mattered most was that I continued to be present with her, and finally, she let me see her unfiltered self on her own accord. 

I’ve been reflecting on this moment ever since returning to school, especially as I think about those who I want to reconnect with and new friendships I hope to forge. That evening at the bakery, I offered my cousin nothing but my presence, and the chocolate cake — the sheer delight from tasting the rich, bittersweet ganache — helped her open up when I least expected it. I realized from that experience that time and presence build a relationship, and food can help foster those meaningful connections even in the most unexpected times. 

I’m grateful to my middle school cousin for reminding me of an important truth as I navigate friendships in college. As spring semester starts gaining momentum, maybe you could use this reminder, too. As you reconnect with and build new relationships with the people around you, studying together and running from class to class, there will assuredly be some awkward moments. However, with patience and consistent presence, perhaps over a meal one evening, there will be a sweet, or rather, exquisite, one, too. 

Emily Kim PO ’25 is from Irvine, CA. She has a newfound love for Frary waffles and currently has the Book of Mormon soundtrack on repeat.


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