22 November 2005

A Real Turkey

If I had a day job, don't worry: I wouldn't quit it for cake decorating.

Tomorrow night, our class will be frosting a cake, transferring a pattern, and filling it in. Since I will be out of town, and since my Thanksgiving hosts have requested a carrot cake, I thought I'd give this project a try.

Before I started, I was missing a few things. First, I didn't have enough uncolored icing, so I decided to make a cream cheese version. The consistency was a disaster, so I fell back on last week's batch of practice frosting. I did the crumb coat, and then I piled it on thick, as I'd learned in class. But I didn't have enough to cover some of the thinner areas; some brown shows through.

I found a piece of leaf clip art and outlined it on waxed paper with some black gel. I turned the pattern over on top and pressed the black into the cake. It worked perfectly—and it was just about the only thing that did.

In haste, I turned yellow into orange with some red food coloring, then mixed a bunch of colors together for an icky brown. And then I began to draw. I don't have a lazy Susan, which made for a lot of starting and stopping. And I had a cheesecake baking, a mosaic in the workshop to finish grouting, and dinner to cook.

It didn't look so bad until I tried to write in green frosting. I'd made a mistake, and it stained the cake. I tried to recover it with whatever was left in a pastry bag, but it only made a bigger mess. I wound up inventing a few new patterns (accidentally, of course).

All I can say is that I'm grateful it's the Silver Palate carrot cake under all that nastiness; at the very least, it will taste terrific.

I guess the high point in all this—aside from the fact that I could, actually, fill the leaves pretty well (if rushed)—is that my daughter thinks it's really cool.

17 November 2005

Bad Clown Cupcakes

Perhaps I was a bit smug when I began cake decorating classes. I'm no stranger, after all, to world of art making. I can wield a mighty glass cutter and know my way around a power tool.

But that doesn't mean I can squeeze a pastry bag.

Last night, our instructor, Carole, demonstrated several piping designs, including rosettes, rosettes with stars, roses, leaves, stems, sepals, and the shell border. I got the hang of a couple of these, but none of them were close to good looking. My leaves were far too realistic than the perfectly shaped hearts of the instructor. And I could not make a shell, no matter how many I tried. But It wasn't until we got to the sweet pea that I felt a total failure.

I blame it on the bag. Last night, out of laziness (and because people really do this), I subbed plastic, disposable pastry bags for my tough, washable ones. (Have you ever washed a pastry bag? Ick!) I had spots full of trapped air all night and could not escape the bag farts. I would draw a stem, and in the middle, a burst of air would explode on my practice board.

Maybe it's not all the pastry bag. I can be a little impatient.

When we moved on to the more free-form clown cupcakes, I thought I'd ace icing these. Instead, my clowns are sad, scary proof that I stink as a cake decorator.

And thank goodness! How fat would I be if I were doing this for a living?

It's a Cake Life

Finding a new hobby or interest gives people lots of good ideas for gift giving. It's fortunate that I chose to write about cake rather than, say, defecation (Everybody Poops) or colon polyps.

This year, my birthday netted lots of cake-themed cards and a few gifts for the struggling cake writer, like my new Olympus DS-330, a digital recorder that is Mac compatible, so I can download all my cake interviews and save them on the computer, rather than have to transcribe them right away and erase the file.

I also got a couple of groovy cake-themed goodies: a Hurry Up The Cakes hoodie from Engrish.com, which gets a lot of comments from strangers who don't understand why I'd want the cakes to hurry up; Demeter angel food-scented cologne from Anthropologie, which smells a lot like cotton candy; and buttercream-scented body cream, a thick, rich cream from Jaqua Beauty that smells so authentic that someone like me would be tempted to eat it (or me when I wear it). Last year, my love for cake firmly established, I got a cake-scented candle, which I burn regularly in the kitchen, even though I swear it makes my blood sugar rise and my heart race.

Cake-themed gifts: they're a good thing.