Monday, August 31, 2009


Pirate's treasure cake - front

After the stress of last weekend, I was relieved to be back in familiar territory, within the realm of cute, colourful and creative. I know that I can do elegant and fancy but there is such comfort and joy in getting creative license to dream up something equally appealing to the eyes and stomachs of children and adults alike. For Isaac's birthday cake, I was given simply the theme "Pirates", shown the Evite and encouraged to just create. This is why I love what I do!

Pirate's treasure cake - treasure chest with coins

So, I carved the 9" round vanilla cake with chocolate mousseline to allow for appropriate topography in order to integrate a palm tree and buried treasure. This was masked and coated with toasted cake crumbs to resemble sand (an excellent and frugal way to use up leftover cake trimmings).

Pirate's treasure cake - map & flag

Rice Krispie treats were used to form the treasure chest and the head, torso, and legs of the pirate, and later covered with fondant. Adding some tylose powder to fondant, I used this pseudo-gum paste to craft the rest of the pirate paraphernalia and allowed everything to dry for several days before assembly.

Pirate's treasure cake - palm tree

The most delicate item was the palm tree which involved wiring each frond separately before inserting and securing them into a pre-made hole within the tree trunk. The most tedious item was the collection of tiny gold coins which were all cut out using my #802 piping tip, dried, and hand-painted with gold before individually glued onto the chest with royal icing.

Pirate's treasure cake - back

I must mention my favourite items, the antique map (I burnt the edges with my blow torch) and the circling sharks lurking in the ocean. Although these two details were the simplest to make, they certainly add some whimsy that gives the overall cake more character, in my opinion. Happy Birthday Isaac!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Surviving perfectionism

After several days of introspection, I am ready to reflect on the happenings of Saturday August 22nd. This wedding cake was for my dear friend Nadia and her husband, Peter, a lovely couple with a preference for buttercream and a dislike of pretense. Although honoured to be trusted to create their wedding cake, I knew that, as a self-confessed perfectionist, completing the task to my standards would be only the first challenge; surviving the evening as a guest while witnessing people's reaction to the cake would be the second.

Nadia & Peter's Wedding cake

Buttercream is not as forgiving as fondant and despite my obsessive myopic focus on the imperfections, the four-tiered white and butter yellow centrepiece was, overall, pretty darn good. Adding fresh orchids to anything will make it look ten times better! Nadia and Peter had chosen the bright citrus flavours of lemon curd and mousseline, and mandarin orange, combined with vanilla cake and almond dacquoise. The actual wedding cake would produce 70 servings and the remaining 100 pieces were from a slab version. Thankfully, my boss let me do everything at work on my own time, alleviating any space restriction concerns which I had with Patricia's wedding cake.

As the evening progressed, I grew increasingly agitated watching the top tier of the cake (the only one without dowels) slowly bulge. By the time the caterers finally took away the cake, it had sat unrefrigerated for almost six hours, and was virtually unrecognizable as cake when served. In contrast, the pre-cut slab pieces were ice cold, served straight from the refrigerator. I think that I suffered a minor cardiac event when someone asked me, "Is it supposed to be frozen?", and temporary aphasia when everyone kept repeating "But it tastes great!" after trying either the brick hard or soft mush version of wedding cake.

Nadia & Peter's Wedding cake - close up

It is easy to blame the caterers in this situation but should I have done something to prevent this? Should I have checked how cold their refrigerator was? Should I have taken the wedding cake back to the kitchen myself hours earlier? I had wanted to simply be a guest, not a pseudo-caterer, at my friend's wedding and had mindfully chosen to restrain the control-freak in me. But this decision to not micro-manage the wedding cake resulted in what I perceive to be my failure as much as the caterer's. And so, after several days of self-pity, I conclude that this has been a good learning experience, reinforcing my belief that being an unapologetic micro-manager is a good thing, and to try to never attend any event where my cakes are served!

PS. Congratulations Nadia & Peter...I'm happy if you're happy!