Being absolutely and irrepressibly terrified of decorating cakes is a perfectly legitimate and serious fear. I feel it’s something akin to public speaking or jumping out of planes. Or swimming with Great White sharks. One of my dearest friends requested that I make her wedding cake, and being a total puddle of warm and fuzzy that couldn’t say no if her arms had been surgically removed, I of course conceded. Regardless of the fact that not long ago, I professed right here that I lacked in the decorating department. In fact, I remember being quite up high on my horse when explaining how taste was more important than looks.
Karma, your evil is showing.
Since then, I’ve been researching and re-learning cake-decorating techniques and grasping at any chance I can get to make a decorated cake. Thankfully, a chance presented itself in the form of newly-rooted next-door neighbors. Now, of all the soap operas, comedies, and other quality TV programs I’ve seen, I’ve always thought of welcome baked goods for new neighbors being humble home cookery beautiful in its simplicity and message. Not untouchably beautiful-something you’d pick up at your local bakery, no. This offering was supposed to symbolize not one’s ability to drive a few miles and drop some cash; it’s supposed to symbolize the hard work, care and compassion of a person who graciously gave her time and energy to measure ingredients, lovingly beat, fold and scrape into a loaf pan, or casserole dish, and vigilantly bake until it was just right that cake, bread or casserole.
So when I presented my simple and unadorned cream cheese pound cake to my mom for, what I thought was effortless and unnecessary approval, you could imagine my surprise when she called it ugly. Didn’t even bother to sugar coat it. Much like the cake itself, in retrospect. Dad, of course jumped at the surprising turn of events like an advantageous hyena and asked, since it was too ugly to give to the neighbors, could he maybe have a bite. Still a little in shock, I nodded, and he and the boy sibling descended upon my creation, murder in their eyes.
Well, fine. I would make something that only the most accomplished 50’s-style home cook could. Something not quite professional, but that would nonetheless implant questions in the minds of the new neighbors as to whether I would actually take so much time and effort for their sake, or if I knew of a charming old-fashioned bakery in town that could create such whimsy and sunshine.
And, I would take this opportunity as a precious practical application of my rusty decorating skills. So, that night, I set to work Tastespotting, Foodgawking, Dessertstalking, and Pinteresting, looking for easy, yet elegant buttercream decor. The color scheme was sage and cream, and the decor would be roses. Perfect 1950’s-meets-Victorian elegance. I took no shortcuts, took every last seemingly unnecessary step, had patience, remained calm and expectum perolum. Cake.
My confidence is growing with every petal, and hopefully, I’ll be in perfect Ron-Ben-Isreal shape by the time the wedding is upon me.
Next practical application: Father’s Day.
I used the recipe I used for the Source Fed cake. I know. I promised continuous personal improvement and spiritual betterment in the manifestation of a new yellow cake recipe. Hey. I can only continuously better myself one betterment at a time. I’m not an octopus (that metaphor always seems to make sense whenever moms say it).
Also. Canned frosting. What?! I smear it on my English muffins in the morning….