Introduction Growing up the sixth child of a family of eight, means that a party is not always possible, and it did not mean that we celebrated under anything less than grand terms. My family knew that the experience of an event was the most important factor, not the amount that was spent. I remember not going trick-or-treating on Halloween, but organizing a ghostly house and preparing a spread of delightful foods for family andfriends. There was no one on the entire block that did not know about our annual festivities that replaced the need to go out for the traditional treats. I am quite sure that walking out in unpredictable weather terms was not missed. Eventually, therewere two additions to the family after me; this made celebratingevery birthday and every holiday truly a majestic occasion. Notonly were there birthdays to enjoy every other month, now, the dinner table for Christmas and Thanksgiving was brimming with faces. Our family unit did all that was possible to makeeach member feel special, whether it was a store bought cake or the handmade delights by my grandma Susie, for many years everyone at least had a cake on their day. Through all of these efforts and the time tested techniques I created to make sure monies were spent in a minimal capacity, the need for a dedication to my organized junk was unavoidable.
Chapter 6: Make the cake and eat it too Cake, this sweet delight, is reserved for the ending of manyevents because it needs a grand entrance. I have seen plenty ofextravagant cakes on television and know that people gooverboard with cake some times. As a child, mud pies/cakeswere my specialty. I would decorate them with outdoorsupplies. For instance, there was this plant that grew in thegrass that resembled a pea pod. I would open the pod and usethe little circular “beans” to garnish the horizontal borderaround the pies. The pine trees also had these buds that werepulled to make this dusty application for our masterpieces; ourcake was the best. Going to that extent for an inedible cakeshows that this is quite relevant to any occasion. Whether it bea cupcake or sheet cake, these desserts can become costly themore detailed they are. Some have found the need to takedecorating classes or ask close family to assist with this matter.Nonetheless, purchasing or baking it at home does not makethe cake any less special.
Grandma Susie had this cake that she always made forbirthdays; it was and still is my favorite. I use to watch herblend all of the ingredients in these tan mixing bowls. One ofthe bowls must have come to close to an open flame since itwas partially melted in a spot. She had this stirring dance, theshing-a-ling we will call it, that she did while she stirred herfluffy cake mix. People usually wait for the spoon to lick afterthe cake was in the oven, but we did not have to linger aroundfor spoons; she would dip her index finger into the mixtureand shove it into your mouth. It only started to feel weirdwhen we began to go through puberty. No one seemed to mindin any event. The aroma of that culinary masterwork filled theroom and warmed your heart. That butter nut cake washomemade from the batter to the icing. The taste was tattooedon my tongue forever. Unfortunately, I did not get the recipebefore she passed away and have not eaten a butter nut cakesince only because I will not be able to get the unique spoontreatment. I really feel like there will be no other cake likehers.
My cake experience did not stop at my grandmother; my mom, aunts,and cousins all made baking seem like a breeze. Like stated previously,all of my sisters and brothers at least had a cake on our birthday, so cakeis very important to me. I have found unique ways to convert cake andcupcakes into edible sculptures. A few were from other sources, but I tryto figure out how to manipulate the product to get things out of theordinary. Trial and error efforts along with experimental baking dayshave made me a proud cake baker. We will examine some of my designsand techniques to help inspire the pastry chef in anyone. Some of the first cakes that I made did not have that many layers orelements as the more recent ones. The more I saw the possibilities oftransformation the more I practiced. A carnival themed celebration isbright and colorful; any and every color can be use for this occasion. Itook advantage of having a youthful childhood when I decided what thescene would be. There were games, carnival foods, and sounds. Mybrother dressed up as a clown so that no aspect would be left out. All ofthe basics of a carnival were simple decisions; the cake, on the otherhand, could not be simple. The centerpieces were black top hats filledwith artificial lollipops. So I thought there was a need for thecenterpieces to match the cake. How to make the cake look like a top hatwas puzzling in the beginning. I needed to look at things from a diverseangle. The hat could be seen as layers of circles. The bottom or brim ofthe hat is a larger circle than the body; the body of the hat is levels of thesame circle. I sketched out a plan; Figure 8 demonstrates my thoughts.The actual cake made follows.
Knowing that I had to travel two hours with this cake uncovered itlooks pretty good besides the fact. The base (brim) of the hat is a 9 inchcake. The body are four 2 x 2 cakes. Each layer needs to have frosting inbetween to keep the structure stable. By keeping the cake in therefrigerator, the cold air helps with stability also. The hat was not blacklike the table pieces; black icing is usually bitter and I did not want torisk having a tart cake. I turned white icing into purple by adding a littlered and blue food coloring. Purple candies were then added to give moretexture. The sketches are not exact replicas. The finished result, on theother hand, is pretty accurate. Depending on schedules, some thingsneed to be eliminated. My daughter loves the “Camp Rock” movie and asked for a guitar forChristmas one year. I knew then that she was a rock star at heart.Developing a theme equivalent to her personality is always best. Theevent was a red carpet affair, literally. I had a red carpet with a backdropfor photos. Stars were aligned throughout the space. The dinner settingswere laid like a royal event at a mansion. The bright pinks and purplesdanced alongside shimmering silvers and midnight blacks. Graffitibanners hung precisely along the walls. The scene was electrical. Miniawards waited to be presented to guest and the cake lay boldly in a seaof graphics, a guitar of cupcakes or a cupcake guitar. The search for the perfect pastry figure was initiated. I found a cakein the shape of a guitar. It had many elements to it. A lot of work wasahead. There were candies of various types and shapes as well asdelicate icing skills represented. The party was once again back at home,a two hour drive, which needed to be factored into the preparation. I didconsider still taking on the mission. The primary focus of the cake canbe found on Figure 9.
Figure 9: Guitar Cake As you can see this would take a while to assemble, time Idid not have. A plan B was formed to reduce any timerestraints that this cake had. I did not draw up a new plan, butI did think of a creative way to make the cupcakes look like aguitar. The guitar that my daughter asked for was the essentialpiece to my new undertaking. It was a straightforward chore.The guitar was outlined on plain white paper. On one of myexperimental baking days, I cooked regular size cupcakes andminiature ones just to see how each would work. I simplyplaced the cupcakes within the outline to see what would bebest. I changed the icing color to match what the differentaspects of the instrument.
The difference between miniature cupcakes versus the standardsize was that it took more to fill the outline. I use boxed mixes orbake from scratch. The spare time you have determines what youshould use. The handle of cake was covered in a silver icing whilethe center was a deep brown almost black icing. The internet wasresourceful in this instance; research on how to change icing toparticular hues was found which was very helpful. I reused theoutlined paper for the background on party day. I added graffitilettering to give a rock star effect; it also matched the birthdaybanner created. Making the cupcakes rather than the two circularcakes eliminated a lot of decorating. The cupcakes are easier totravel with as well. I invested in a covered cupcake holder, so themini cakes can be transported safely. The finished product wasquite eye popping.
I am not a pastry chef and do not claim to be a greatbaker. Having heart and passion is the only thing that canmake a great cake. The lines are not perfect; the cake tends tolean from side to side every now and then, but no onecomplains. They know that I took the time to make it specialjust like my grandmother. Cake is still cake no matter how itlooks. However, what is a party without entertainment, anassembly. Entertainment can be just as cost efficient as thedecorations and food and cake!