/> Raising Angels: The Evolution of a Cake

Monday, June 04, 2012

The Evolution of a Cake

I have always loved to bake. It is a great way to combine two of my loves - art and cooking. Through a series of unusual events, one day many years ago, I got put in charge of doing a groom's cake for a friend. That cake led to many more cakes over the years. However, other than doing cakes for my own kids, it's been years since I've been tasked with a really big event cake.

The leader of our Glory Run team had a daughter graduating from high school this year. This same daughter babysits for us on a regular basis and I also got to help her on her research paper last year. How could I say no?

However, when I said yes, I had no idea that the cake she picked would be so elaborate. I tend towards the creative, build a shape kind of cakes. This one was a bakery style decorated cake. I seriously doubted my ability to make it happen. I shared my doubts and she assured me that she didn't need it to be perfect so I carried on.

I didn't believe her when she said her favorite cake was Funfetti. I thought she was trying to give me a break. Her mom confirmed that it was her favorite cake, so even though it was hard for me to turn out a straight box cake, I was glad at least one part of it would be easy.

These are just a few of the tools and ingredients necessary. I didn't even use the gum paste.

The first step of course was to make and bake the cakes. This took hours in those big deep pans. A baker friend gave me a tip for helping the cakes bake evenly. The only trouble was that they also stuck to the sides of the pans and I had a messy mistake on my hands. I baked the second round the way I always have and they came out much better. Lesson learned - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The next stage was to make the frosting and put the crumb layer on the cake. This required lots and lots of icing to smooth out those ragged edges.

Cakes this big need a support system so dowels had to be cut. This is the part I wish Nelson was in town for. I'm guessing he would have had a much easier way to cut those things. My little knife did not make easy work of it.

The big layers are stacked. Then the dowels go in those. The cardboard round is cut and put on top of those and then the top two layers are put in place and iced.

I started baking shortly after feeding the kids lunch around 1 PM. I was finished with this much, plus a smoother top layer of frosting around 1 AM. Really the only other things I did were to feed the kids supper and put them to bed (Nelson was out of town). That's a really long time and a big reason I don't do this much any more.

The next morning I awoke tired and a bit bleary eyed from looking at the cake for so long the night before. I was nervous about the actual decorating so I decided to practice on some wax paper. After all the time it took and how well it looked, I wished I could just peel it off and stick it to the cake. Unfortunately, I had to scrape it back into the icing bag and start from scratch.

I was so nervous. Nelson and Mackenzie, my usual support team, were both gone. So, I resorted to what was available. I asked the three boys to come into the kitchen and say a prayer for me. They did, and let me tell you, it was a good one. I thanked them for the prayer and then told them to stay out of the kitchen until I was done. Bless their little hearts, they did just that. They had a very clear sense how important this was to me.

The basic design was simple enough. It required changing tips and a steady hand but I was happy with the results and that gave me the courage to move forward.

The delicate lacy designs were a bit harder. In the end I wished I had used a smaller tip to get those lines a bit thinner. However, because it was not an exact design, it worked. The bad part was that I didn't notice how crooked the cake was until I was at this point and it was way too late to fix it.

So onward I went. After a few hours and a sore hand, I thought I was done as the picture only had designs on the front of the cake. Since mine was not covered in that smooth, perfecting fondant, I decided I needed a distraction from all the imperfections and decorated the back too.

The top I am most proud of as there was no picture to go by. The graduate merely said she'd like her monogram on the top. I bought that gum paste because I envisioned some three-dimensional flowers and a monogram that stood up. By the end of my 10 hour saga, I opted to go with what I know, not what I have never attempted. I was totally pleased with the design and thought it tied in perfectly with the rest of the cake.

The graduate requested a photo of me in front of the cake (taken with my phone, thus the poor quality). Here I was happy. Happy it was done. Happy nothing happened to it as it rode in my lap for the thirty minute drive to the graduation. Happy I didn't trip carrying it up the two gigantic flights of stairs on my way in. Happy she smiled when she saw it.

Each time I do one of these, I totally understand the very big price tag on cakes like this. They are a work of art that gets demolished within minutes. Really though, I guess this is the best use of art. I don’t have to throw it away once I take it down from the fridge.


Blogger Optimistic Existentialist said...

Until reading this post, I had no idea the incredible amount of work that went into one of these cakes! I now have a newfound respect and admiration.

7:31 AM  
Blogger nicole said...

That is a beautiful cake! And I know the young lady asked you to do it because she knew you would do it with love for her, unlike an anonymous bakery. Good work!

10:09 AM  
Blogger Amy Parris said...


9:25 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Great job!

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Tami said...

So gorgeous! I can not even imagine trying something like this. Can tell it was a labor of love ... nothing like the simple sheet pan graduation cakes from the days of old. Truly a work of art (yummy art!).

4:57 PM  

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