Saturday, January 26, 2013

Let them eat cake!

I know, I know. The title is so very original. Sue me.

I've done my fair share of baking and have some experience in somewhat elaborate cake decorating, mainly from culinary school. Admittedly, it's been a while since I've made much more than a simple 2 layer cake. But when a friend and co-worker of my dad's asked if I'd be willing to make her daughter's birthday cakes (yes, cakes; plural), I jumped at the opportunity! Can you tell I miss kitchen work?

I wanted to make sure that Dari was very specific in what she wanted. That wasn't hard for an 11 year old girl to do. She knew exactly the looks she was going for. And since she's apparently an avid Cake Boss watcher, I knew I had my work cut out for me. After a few days of planning, collecting equipment and ingredients, testing, baking, and finally decorating, I was able to put together 2 cakes that I was very pleased with. And Dari's initial reaction each time was enough to know I had done well.

The first cake was, as she described it, a "Cotton Candy" cake. It was later known as the "Bow Cake". She wanted a 2-tiered cake; one tier hot pink, the other sky blue. She asked that there be lots of decorations and adornments with sky blue bows on the bottom and "Happy 11th Birthday Dari!" written on top. I took a little bit of artistic license on this one to keep it all balanced. And unfortunately, my ability to write on a cake is still dreadful so I ended up just piping on a big number 11. She was still very excited about the look of it. Here's the final product:

As you can see, I added handmade fondant bows to both layers. I also used  Sixlet "pearls" around the top border along with some piping. This is a basic vanilla cake with vanilla Swiss Buttercream frosting. 

The second cake she requested was easier and not as elaborate as the "Bow Cake". It was to be iced in her soccer club's colors of "Clemson orange" (a bright orange) with white piping around the borders. She requested edible soccer balls and megaphones. While not my first choice, I piped a simple megaphone on the cake instead of spending extra money on new materials to fashion one. I bought some royal icing buttons and drew on them to make them look like soccer balls. Dari requested a different frosting for this cake as she wanted to try something very light and whipped. So I made whipped cream a bit more stable for room temperatures by using cream cheese as a base. I was please with the texture and flavor of the new frosting. Plus, it piped like a dream. It piped so well, that I took a chance on actually writing on this one. As you can see I still need a good bit of practice, but it wasn't completely horrible. Here is her "Soccer Cake":

This is a basic vanilla cake (single layer; 9x13) with a "stable" whipped cream frosting. The soccer balls are made of edible royal icing buttons that have been drawn on with a food coloring pen. Admittedly, they were inspired by a similar looking pre-made product. But I really wanted to experiment with the food coloring pen.

The moral of my story? I now remember why I chose to stay on the cooking side of the line in the culinary world. I love to bake; don't get me wrong. But having to do this for a living would have likely broken me. It can be difficult, even as a professional, to live up to your client's expectations. I really enjoyed making these and I learned a lot in the process, though. I would definitely enjoy taking on a few more commissions in the future, but I am glad that I don't create these kind of things on a day to day basis. I think the hardest thing to overcome was living up to Dari's expectations. It's a lot of pressure knowing that if you create something terrible or not at all what was requested, you could ruin an 11 year old's birthday party...twice!

Thank goodness I pulled it all off with my normal gracefulness. And by gracefulness I mean a sleepless weekend and having to make an extra batch of frosting because of my failure to plan appropriately. Oh, and presenting the cakes to them while still in my pajamas. Live and learn.


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