This is really neither here nor there, but the elementary school I attended was named after President James A. Garfield. I had wondered whether this was the case, but confirmed it in an article that talked about the school’s closing.
Garfield is one of those presidents who wasn’t in office very long. Due to an assassin’s bullet, James Garfield was president for just over six months, making his one of the shortest presidencies. He was murdered by Charles Guiteau, who had hoped that as a party man he would be rewarded with a government job. Reading about Garfield’s struggle after he was shot is unappetizing at best, so I’ll keep it short. Modern folks think that it wasn’t the wound that killed President Garfield, but the repeated poking and prodding by unwashed hands and instruments that introduced the infection that ultimately killed him. They were not riding around in cars in Garfield’s day. They traveled by horse. Take a moment to think about that…but not too long. Let’s all take a moment to be happy about antiseptics. Let’s also take a moment to be grateful for the Pendleton Act which stipulated that civil service jobs should be given on the basis of merit, and not because of ties to politicians or parties. Enter the Civil Service exam.
President Garfield taught Greek and Latin at Hiram College. It is said that President Garfield was ambidextrous and could write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other simultaneously. This is the kind of fact that makes for a more pleasant cupcake interpretation than a gross wound and a drawn out demise.
Wanting to play with the idea of Garfield’s ambidextrous multilingualism, using the flavors of Greece and Rome seemed natural. In ancient Greece and Rome, honey would have been a common sweetener, so this cake has a honey flavored frosting, more specifically honey-flavored butter cream. It’s said that the Romans served a dish that was a precursor to baklava. This is why Garfield’s cupcake features a honey and walnut filling. The cake itself is an olive oil-flavored cake because olives and olive oil were important to both cultures. The garnish is honey and toasted walnut bits.