Well, this is a helluva way to end a Whole3o, isn’t it?
No, I didn’t taste the cake – I wasn’t so anxious to see the end of the 30 days to gluten-bomb myself. I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.
Oh, hush up.
Anyhoo, one of my co-workers is throwing a big bash birthday party for her oldest daughter tomorrow, so I made her a cake. She’s in the first grade and very much a girlie-type girl, so I made her a girlie-type cake. Which is my very favorite kind, to be honest.
And on that note, we’re off to deliver the cake, then head down to Columbus for our date tonight.
If you’ve been reading here any length of time at all, you know that I once spent 10 years as a professional cake decorator. This was 20 years ago, but it’s one of those things that, once you know it (and do it for 12 – 16 hours a day, 6 days a week), you never forget how it’s done. And as I mentioned when I showed the pictures of the Tractor Cake, while it’s a stressful occupation, cake decorating makes a wonderful hobby.
At any rate, word of the Tractor Cake got around, and another friend approached me to do a cake for a small graduation party she was having for her daughter. This one was a little different – the young lady in question didn’t want fondant, as this was to be an “eating” cake. LOL What she wanted was a chocolate cake with mocha icing and aqua-colored gerber daisies.
I had no problem with the chocolate or mocha parts, but the daisies left me at a bit of a loss – they’re not exactly something you can pipe out of icing, especially the icing I was planning on using for this cake. (The icing was Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Neoclassic Buttercream with the addition of melted bittersweet chocolate, instant coffee dissolved in a little hot water, and a couple of tablespoons of Kahlua. You can find the basic recipe here, and while it says it is easier to use a hand mixer to make it, I prefer using my KitchenAid stand mixer.) Nor did I think they would quite work with fondant, either – fondant is fairly soft, and while it will dry and become stiff, it never completely hardens. It’s more like clay.
So I decided I’d use gum paste for the daisies, a medium I’d never worked in before. I’m pleased to say that the flowers came out better than I could have hoped for – I made them Friday night, and they were completely dry by Saturday morning when it was time to decorate. I’m also pleased to say the cake came out beautifully; I was a little dubious about the combination of brown and aqua, but it was really lovely.
Once upon a time, in a former life, I was a professional cake decorator.
I enjoyed it, and was very good at it. But decorating professionally is a stressful occupation; clients and customers can be demanding, and most professional decorators are perfectionists. It can also affect your health, if you do it for many years – you basically stand in the same spot, in basically in the same position, doing very repetitive motions, for many hours a day. My career spanned nearly a decade, and I wouldn’t go near a cake or turntable for years afterwards.
Now, having said that, I’ve decided in recent years that cake decorating is a really fun hobby. I don’t eat cake, of course, but see no problem with a great, big sugary treat for a birthday if you can tolerate the occasional dose of gluten and refined sugar (to say nothing of the artificial colorings), especially if the person celebrating the birthday is a child.
Recently, we were talking with a friend whose daughter turned 3 yesterday about the party she was planning for the little girl. She had a problem because the little girl had asked for a tractor cake – our friend’s parents have some land, and her daughter is fascinated with Granpa’s tractor. The problem was that other than a cheesy cake from a grocery store with a plastic toy tractor on it, she was having trouble finding a tractor cake – especially one that might appeal to a 3-year-old girl.
So I came to the rescue.
And I haven’t had this much fun with a cake in a very long time.