My mother was a cake decorator, self-taught out of the backs of Wilton yearbooks. She used mostly store-bought icing because it was the seventies and she charged hard at convenience cooking. Store-bought, tub icing, for those that have never attempted, is crazy difficult to pipe with. I find it really fussy. Continue reading
An exhausting day filled with cake. Much of this work should have been done yesterday but I didn’t start until eleven at night. The equivalent of four cakes (three fondant, gulp) and I wait until eleven the night before to even bake the first one.
I doubt my sanity on most days.
The green border crosses the finish line first. First to finish but second class in order. Flowers and Cake Design. I talk about colour theory. I talk about symmetry. I talk about a lot of things that make me happy. Technically it was last night as I hadn’t slept yet. It was almost three in the morning though, the clock had rolled over and I was now on deadline day.
The calla lilies bring up the rear around nine in the morning and hide in the dehydrator for a few hours getting ready for their big reveal. That only leaves the real, live birthday cake that’s been sitting on my counter since the night before.
And that was the cake section of my day.
I do a cake during the first of each of my four-week Level 1 classes. I also make the icing in class with my hand mixer so that the students can see how it’s done. I like being able to leave the cake for the staff after class (they don’t complain either) and I get to demonstrate actual technique more effectively. The biggest reason of all though is that I’m a bit of a showoff. I really like being able to decorate a cake in front of them from beginning to end during that first class. Even better though, is the next week when I get them to do it and they would have sworn that they couldn’t
It was made easier by the fact that I’d done a LOT of them. Then Wilton went and changed everything up and I couldn’t do the old standby. I got to do something new and I think I like it.
In my defense, I didn’t actually design this cake, I merely executed it for Paige, the Birthday Girl. What Paige asked for was a dance floor with the Mario characters that you see specifically: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Wario, Waluigi, and Bowser (no mention of poor, forgotten Toad). She included a wee picture and the characters but I had no idea of what she meant by dancefloor though.
Fortunately, I’m a gamer from way back Atari Days and have logged in enough hours under the console that I hadn’t really needed the picture. A lot of the “butt bounce” mini-games feature a DDR-like disco floor so I went with that in Color Flow icing. I didn’t really want to do just a round cake so, since the story takes place in the Mushroom Kingdom, the mushroom shape took place really quickly. I torted two of Joe’s Grandma’s White Cake recipes, 10″. A little bit of carving and then filled them with Cookie’s & Cream filling. High Test Buttercream around the outside and base (with a little more time, I would have put white dots on the mushroom cap but I procrastinated so damn long with the figures out of sheer terror.
I molded the figures out of fondant beefed up with Gum Tex and, if I had to do it again, I would start the figures days in advance so they dried properly. I might put an armature in some next time because I’m not entirely sure that Waluigi could support his own weight.
The gum paste was fresh and I worked in so much pigment that they were rich, the picture doesn’t really do the colours justice. I learned that washing the residual icing sugar off of the gum paste flowers with a paintbrush dampened with vodka will produce a really nice finish on them if you pop them immediately back into the dehydrator.
The skulls took about 20 minutes per tray in the dehydrator and I needed about 30 to go around the entire 10″ cake base accommodating the two flower clusters. I piped all of the lines on with small round tips. I originally tried to use red icing in the eyes to mix it up with the black and gold but they looked like evil little devil skulls then so I just started sticking dragees in and that worked for variety and accent.
Wow, boring post isn’t it? I don’t know what to say other than I loved this cake and wouldn’t even mind doing it again. She also paid me a great compliment when she opened the box and looked at the top (she hadn’t even seen the base yet), she said “Oh, you should have done our wedding cake.” No one says THAT to be polite. They got the white cake with raspberry cream filling and the buttercream was just vanilla as well.
Oh yeah, and the other big thing that I learned was that if I’m going to leave the cake till the day before it’s due anyway, then I should just design cakes that can be done in two days and then it’s all good. No stress that way and so stupidly obvious, I wanted to call my family and ask whether I had been dropped on my head.
I also had to dust off what I could remember of Gothic lettering from the calligraphy set I got for Christmas when I was 8. Next time I would do something funky with colour flow that I could just lay on in one piece.
Note: The kit to make this cake at home is available for sale at my Etsy shop.
That’s the explanation for the little running men scattered about the place. They’re joggers.
So I dropped the cake off just before 8 and the doubts had set in by 8:01. I’m not sure if I can kick this doubting action that I have going on but I’d sure like to skip the “second guessing” portion of the schedule.
I’m just getting whiny really because I’m having fun with the cake most of the time. It does sort of feel like “ephemeral art” but I might be trying to justify it all in my head.
Having said that, working with cake this time does feel a little different. I mean, the actual doing of it feels different than my last burst of cake activity. I feel like I’m paying attention this time; I’m actually thinking about it real time. I can’t really articulate it other than to say that a lot of my cake successes feel like they owe a lot to luck. (I’m honestly not slighting myself there, I’m just a big fan of luck.) These current successes feel like they were ability or (while I hesitate to say it, maybe, talent?)
Anyway, it was a tasty cake.
I really kind of let it go with these cake boards. The other teacher had called me and laid down the law as to what they were supposed to look like. I got my nose bent out of shape and decided to go all out.
I dropped the cake boards off this afternoon and saw her boards. They’re very traditional and, in fact, look a lot like the cakes on the cover of the workbooks. I actually feel a little ugly right now because, while I wouldn’t really want my little scenario-from-the-other-day to come true, I am feeling a little like a bully.
I spent the better part of today in the truck taxiing people around but I did manage to sit down and take care of photographing the gum paste flowers that I’ve been working on.
I’m really bag-ged so I’m going to head to bed and try not to feel like a puppy-kicker in the morning (I’m totally game to blame the whole thing on exhaustion).