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Doing Things By Halves

By Kellie Purcill

I baked someone half an apple streusel recently. I didn’t deliberately set out to do it. Too many apples, a new baking tin, a prodigal pack of butter returned from the crisper and an internal bellowing for sweetness had me humming and puddling thick mix between my fingers and the springform’s edges before I realised it was a REALLY big tin, and there was no way I – uh, I mean, my boys and I – could eat the entire cake.

Then I remembered one of the Primary Presidency on Sunday joking to the kids that if they wanted to they could make her an apple pie. Cool, I thought, chewing on a stray blob of buttery lusciousness, I’ll give her half the cake.

For the next hour or so while it baked I gnawed my bottom lip. Is half a cake okay to give? I didn’t have enough to make another whole cake (or, frankly, the inclination) AND it was going to be a big half… What if she was on a diet, or allergic to apples? Should I just keep it all or send it all? I didn’t have anything pretty to wrap it in either… Finally the timer went *GGUURRrrrhhh*, the cake looked smugly gorgeous and maybe – I grabbed my biggest knife and problem solved by cutting straight through the middle, narrowly avoided drooling on both pieces, grabbed the improvised platter and slid one half across for transporting.

I was still doubting my idea. It was now half a heart cake, looking more like a wonky comma than, well, anything else you would recognise. It was on two paper plates randomly stapled together. Wrapped roughly in tin foil, tied with a piece of ribbon I scalped off a card someone sent me. I looked up the address, and took off in the car to deliver my wonky shonky unpretty delicious stupid interpretation of a once good idea.

Her husband answered the door, I handed over my still warm foiled disaster and opened my mouth – only to discover I’d left my brain at home. “It’s for Tara” I babbled. “Please tell her I’m sorry it’s not an apple pie but it’s a German apple streusel – well, uh, half of one – and I thought she’d like it.”

Back in my car, I considered going back to their house, asking for the cake back and returning later with Martha Stewart in apology. I felt like an idiot.


Obviously, I do. Turns out, Tara loved it. She’d had a rough week, was at work when I delivered it, and while half of it was already devoured by her girls and hubby by the time she got home, the rest was there waiting for her. More than the struesel’s inherent wonderfulness, it made Tara feel loved and remembered. Which – while it wasn’t my goal (I just thought she’d like it) – made for a pretty good result. Well, that, and eating cake.

No matter how badly it was wrapped.

What are some ‘unwritten rules’ you follow with giving people things? Do you surprise others with gifts or service? Would you be happy to give – or receive – half a cake? What thoughts stop you when it comes to reaching out to someone?


About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

15 thoughts on “Doing Things By Halves”

  1. This is the God we worship. We think we have a half-baked idea, but really, He's brewing something so much bigger than what we thought it was.

    And He makes it, us, everything whole.

    This brought tears to my eyes, Kel. Love you.

  2. Love this. And Michelle's comment too.

    I've given the equivalent of half a cake before, down to the tin foil and sorry paper plates. I figure I just have to find the right person to give it to, and they'll love it. And they do. It also helps that I've lived overseas so much that I'm always getting something unexpected and certainly giving things that are unusual. It works because we love each other.

  3. Oh, I loved this post, and I would be thrilled to receive half a cake. It's not about 1/2 a cake, it's all about receiving something homebaked by a friend, and still warm!! The fact that you made a makeshift platter, means that Tara didn't have to worry about returning a plate either, which is even better. The perfect gift, but I totally get your hesitation, I can imagine my own self doubt in your situation.

    Sometimes my husband tries to talk me out of giving things making me second guess my own instincts, but when I let go of my self doubt and concerns about 'what will they think of me' and go with my gut feeling I end up feeling good about what I'm doing and always seem to get a smile in return.

  4. I needed this today! There are 2 people I have been feeling prompted to do something for. I don't have time for a big dinner so thought I would just do a quick dessert or even an "ice-cream" pie- but have been totally second guessing myself since I've been feeling like it's a lame gesture. Thanks for reminding me NO gesture is lame!! I will deliver my good today.

  5. Well this confirms, yet again, that my fears and thoughts about giving are not unique to me. I have been mortified by some of my heartfelt gifts to others, wishing in hindsight that I'd just done nothing at all. But kindness and thoughtfulness never seem to be rejected. I appreciate every single instance of generosity and goodness others bestow, upon me or my fellow human beings. I loved this story, and hope it inspires all who read it to increased awareness and self-consciouslessness (is that a word? It is now.)

    You can bake for me anytime, dear! ♥

  6. I totally do this! I can't tell you how many times I have talked myself out of doing something because it wouldn't be 'perfect'.

    I once took what I thought was a sub-par batch of sugar cookies to my visiting teaching ladies. After I dropped off the plates I was worried that they would hate them. One of the ladies called me and gushed about how these cookies tasted just like ones she used to get at a bakery as a kid. She loved them so much that she hired me several times to make them for special occassions in her family!

    I'm trying to be better about acting on good thoughts quickly before I talk myself out of it. I'm my own worst enemy somtimes.

  7. I love this post! Not just the ideas of gift giving or food, but the idea of doing the best you can and being generous with what you have. My husband and I have a new motto: It is what it is. We give it our best effort, accept imperfection, and move forward. It is what it is. 🙂

  8. Recipe please? I LOVED this article. I would LOVE to get a half of something–especially an apple streusel! I think it shows, more than anything that you were thinking of them and that you are comfortable with them are close enough for that kind of sharing and friendship. We've been in the hospital with one of our kids (he's out now and on the mend) but so many people have done things–some large (a dinner for the WHOLE family), some small, a basket of rice krispy treats but we have appreciated EVERYTHING. It means they were thinking of us and they love us.

  9. I would happily recieve half a cake, it is so nice when something thinks of you. It takes time and effort no matter what it is to make and deliver it. I love to bake and often bake too much so frequently I will drop by friends with a few things for them, it may be a plateful or just one huge slice of cake just for them as a treat. I love homemade gifts too and having been making lots for my friends this year for birthday and 'just because' moments. In fact I try to keep a stash of handmade pincushions and lavender hearts ready in case I feel the need to give something to someone, which is usually about once a week. Gifts from the heart no matter how small mean more to me so I hope they do to others too. If anyone wants to drop me by half a cake I would be more than happy to eat it.

  10. I've often wondered how to give half a cake to others. I worry that it would come across as, "Oh, they had half a cake they wanted to get rid of," or "I guess we're not worth a whole cake."

    I'm happy to hear there are so many people on the pro-half-dessert bench!

  11. Oh Kel–I love you so much. As a cup (or cake, as the case may be)-half-full kind of girl, I love this. Thank you!

  12. I remember once when I took dinner to someone. And if you're going to bring dinner, you have to bring dessert, right? But the day was hectic and crazy and my best intentions couldn't get my world famous (ok, maybe just neighborhood famous) caramel brownies made. My boys had a great suggestion – root beer floats. Grab a quart of vanilla, 2 liter bottle of rootbeer, and you're done. And I let myself feel guilty about it for a week because I didn't spend 2 hours slaving over dessert. Aren't we women ridiculous? They loved the floats, by the way, and I learned a lesson – Just being thought of is better than any dinner/dessert combo. And, yes, give me half a cake anytime.


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