Whoever used the phrase “it’s all cake” to mean that something is easy to do has NEVER done what I had to do last week.
Jenise is the baker in our household. I cook, she bakes, I decorate. Last Thursday, Jenise took on the assignment of baking her goddaughter’s graduation cake for some outdoor shindig that Saturday. I already knew that I would be tasked to decorate it, because that is my job.
Simple? Of course not.
This is the picture that Goddaughter’s Mom gave Jenise. Of course, Jenise had no clue how to make a cake that remotely resembled this…but she wasn’t about to tell THEM that.
It also didn’t help matters that Jenise is in school (for her second Master’s degree!), and she had a paper due on Sunday. Not wanting to let her goddaughter down–because she really is a sweet young lady–Jenise gets the idea to outsource this cake to any bakery who would take the order.
Unfortunately, she picked a week where everybody’s child was graduating, and every bakery was booked solid. Sheet cake, no problem…tiered cake, forget about it.
In desperation, we hobbled downtown to Tiffany’s Bakery, THE place to go in Philly for a cake. They had already turned us down twice, but Jenise figured that going in person would make a difference. It did, because they had pre-made cakes on display, to be sold as-is. Jenise purchased two birthday cakes: a ten-inch monster and a seven-inch baby.
At that moment, I knew that Jenise’s cake project had just become MY cake project: transforming two store-bought birthday cakes into one two-tiered graduation cake. For the first time. Ever.
Father God, in the name of Jesus…
I had 40+ years of self-taught cake decorating and craft experience on my side. I am also an avid watcher of the Food Network, and I happen to LOVE Buddy Valastro, the “Cake Boss”. I pulled out my cake spinner and every baking tool that I thought I would need. I scraped off all that blue and green buttercream, remeasured and recut new cake rounds, and even found dowel rods in my craft inventory. Jenise had ONE job: make the new buttercream icing.
Two attempts at the white icing later, I am re-covering this cake. Smooth. Cool Runnings! Then we hit a snag with the burgundy icing that I would pipe the borders with. I knew that using too much food coloring would affect the taste of the icing, but we were using food color that was sugar-based, so I thought we were good…until I tasted it.
It almost knocked my head off!
Now, we needed a Plan B. Everything was closed, we could not use that icing, and there was no chance in Heaven, Hell, Earth, or Purgatory that the cake was going to look anything like the inspiration picture. We didn’t even have backup decorations; the stores were cleaned out.
Jenise left the room to contemplate suicide, and there I was, with a blank canvas cake and no clue.
Father God, it’s me again…..
Piping the borders: not a problem. Piping “Congratulations” with that tiny tube of writing gel: passable. Printing up inedible decorations on my home printer and sticking them on with buttercream: good save. Finding just the right tassel to craft a graduation cap to top the cake (and take the attention away from that crappy “Congratulations”): priceless.
Voila! My first two-tiered cake! I already know where the flaws are, so please don’t call me out on them. It is my first, and everybody loved it…even Goddaughter’s Mom.
I will spare you the details of how we transported this fifty-pound cake in my 2012 Ford Hoopty, holding our breaths the entire time. Suffice it to say that my back was wrecked for three days.
We dodged a bullet, but Jenise has learned a lesson about piling her plate too high. I learned that icing a cake on a professional level is MUCH harder than it looks. Therefore, BOTH of us will be signing up for a Wilton class.
May God have mercy on us.