Cakes that don’t look like cakes……

The thing that, I believe, makes fondant cakes so popular right now is that you can make them look like something other than cake.  Just google something followed by the word ‘cake’ and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  It is amazing what can be done with something so simple as sugar, which, when you come down to it, is all that fondant really is.

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The challenging part, however, is getting the fondant to participate in bringing the vision that you have in your head to life.  This is where Megan’s famous challenge (albeit, it is only famous in our kitchen), “Well, how are you going to do that?,” (emphasis on THAT) comes into play….and, frankly, I would have to say that I don’t always know.  If you’ve been following our blog you will know that Megan is the concrete thinker and I am the visionary.  It’s not the job of the visionary to know exactly how something is going to come to fruition, it’s just our job to have beautiful pictures in our heads of how things are supposed to be.  Unfortunately, Megan doesn’t always buy that for an answer.  Sometimes, again unfortunately, heated discussions follow when I finally reveal to her that I don’t really have a plan.

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Sometimes, the cake just has to happen.

Like in the case of…………..

We had some lovely people that the Lord had placed in our lives several years ago that needed a baby shower cake.  Actually, the father-to-be (then, they now have two beautiful little girls) approached us about doing a cake for his wife’s baby shower.  He knew us from a previous church that we attended and had seen our cakes and asked us to do a cake for them.  That cake was pictured on a previous blog (it’s one of our favorites) but I’ll post it again here.

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A couple of years after we did that cake, the Mom (whom the shower had been given for) approached us about doing a cake for her sister’s baby shower.  As we always do, we asked the pertinent questions, theme of the shower, colors, gender, etc.  Our friend told us that her sister was an astrophysicist so they wanted to do the theme “Twinkle, twinkle little star.”  Immediately, our creative juices started to flow.  She told us that we could come up with the design, but nothing too ‘cutesy.’  In other words, they wanted a baby shower cake but didn’t want it to look like a typical baby shower cake.

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It’s always very exciting for us when someone tells us that they are letting the design of the cake up to us!!!!!  We love that!!!!  We have replicated cakes in the past but our favorite is when we get to come up with our own design.  We immediately started brainstorming.  Oftentimes we look at pictures to inspire us and, in this case, we started looking at illustrations for “Twinkle, twinkle little star.”  Do you realize how many variations of a theme there are for “TTLS” (twinkle, twinkle….)?!  We found one that we really, really liked.  The challenge was going to be to create what looked like an open book with the picture coming to life in 3D.

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We got to work and things really began to flow.  Rice Krispy Treat houses covered in gum paste, and a boat with a little boy and his teddy bear were going to be put on a landscape that looked like a watercolor.  Things were going along fine, yes, there is always an ‘until.’

We had decided that I would paint the water since, as an almost-art major in college, I had worked with watercolor.  The problem was that painting with food coloring mixed with vodka and painting with actual watercolor were two different things.  As difficult as it is to paint with watercolor I would have to say that painting with food coloring is harder since the surface that you are painting on can break down if it gets wet.  Sometimes we take process pictures while we are working on a cake, just to show how things come together and I wish that I had taken a picture of that disaster that ensued.  Talk about a cake wreck!!  Painting with food coloring DOES NOT have the same dynamics as painting with water color.  We started to panic (which is not the first time when working on a cake).  We took a step back and realized that there was NO WAY we could deliver this cake.  The water was splotchy and dark and looked like someone had spilled paint onto the cake, rather than carefully guiding the color into place.  We got right to work ‘erasing’ the cake.  Yes, you read that right.  It is possible to carefully, painstakingly erase fondant.  If you’re wondering how, paper towels, water and patience are involved.  Eventually, we once again had a clear palette and were able to paint the food coloring in such a way that it did, finally, resemble the watercolor background from the book.  And by the way, if you don’t know how to handle panic, then you shouldn’t be doing fondant cakes.

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All’s well that ends well and we were very happy with the way the cake turned out….and, by the way, so was the astrophysicist.

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Our recent favorite cake that didn’t look like a cake, however, was the grocery bag cake.  When we were first contacted to do this cake by one of Megan’s friends from the school where she works, we were told that the cake would be for her 80 year old Mom.  We always ask theme and/or did they have a design or inspiration in mind.  Megan’s friend said, “well, Mom likes to grocery shop.”  Okay.  Hmmmmmm. Well, we could keep it safe and just do a round cake and put some groceries on top, or, we could go the extra mile and make the cake look like a grocery bag with groceries spilling out.  We chose to do the grocery bag and we were really happy with it.  As a matter of fact, my husband saw the Rice Krispy Treat bananas laying on the table and asked if he could eat one. He didn’t realize they weren’t real!!  LOL!!

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If you do fondant cakes and are thinking of experimenting with making cakes that don’t look like cakes, GO FOR IT!!  They are always some of our favorite cakes and they ALWAYS get the best response when people see them!!!!!

Back again……..I know, we’ve said that before.

“Let me ‘splain, no, let me sum up.”  For those of you who might not recognize it, that’s a quote from Princess Bride (one of the most quotable movies of all time).  But I digress.

Hi.  What else can I say.  We’ve been gone soooooo long.  We abandoned you, and we’re sorry.  We kept meaning to write something but never seemed to get around to it.  Well, here we are.  We’re back, and we hope you’ll forgive our horrible lack of communication.

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Back to the quote.  Where to start.  Hmmmmmm……we’re still doing cakes, just not nearly as many as we used to.  It’s difficult to explain.  We’ve come to realize that we have a love/hate relationship with cakes which we really, really don’t understand.  We love to do cakes but it became so all consuming that we got burned out.  Because we are not a business and we don’t have the facilities to do cakes in a big way (you know, go big or go home) it is very difficult to do a tiered cake in my tiny kitchen (let alone a 3-tiered cake, and 2 single birthday cakes, all due the same day).  We also found that, again, since we’re not a business and only do cakes in our spare time, we were getting burned out because we were spending every weekend enslaved to the kitchen and crafting cakes.  No down time.  We found ourselves dreading weekends.  Something had to give.

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So we made the decision to scale back.  It was hard.  We love people and we love to use our cakes to love people but we had to learn to say no.  We didn’t want to, but we knew we had to for our sanity.  Plus, we didn’t want the caliber or quality of our cakes to suffer because we had to drag ourselves into the kitchen to work on them.  We don’t really do little cakes anymore, like birthdays.  We found that the little cakes were just as labor intensive as the bigger cakes, especially because birthday cakes for kids tend to be based on iconic figures, either cartoons or video games.

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The sad part is that we’re really good at it.  Please.  I mean, don’t misunderstand.  We’re not prideful about them, that’s not it.  It’s more that it shocks and surprises me every time I look at our cakes.  No I mean it.  I don’t say that we’re good at it because we’re proud or bragging.  If you know us you know that we’re not braggy people.  We just learned early on that making cakes, and adorning them with fondant and gum paste was something that we were really good at it, and no one is more surprised by that than we are.  I don’t know why we can do this or where it came from.  Again, if you know us personally, you will know that we continue to be shocked and amazed at the gum paste and fondant creations that flow out of our hands.  We are also perfectionists which often makes things even more tedious for us.  We don’t really understand where this came from at this point in our lives but there it is.  We tapped into something a few years ago and had no idea that it would lead us here.

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Now, let me say that we will never completely give up making cakes.  We LOOOOOOVE to do baby shower cakes, and bridal shower cakes, and we ABSOLUTELY love to do wedding cakes.  We will always do cakes for special situations and special people but just not as much as we used to.  We will still try to blog as we can.  We’ve added another baby to the family and with two grandchildren running around here, that makes even less time for cakes.  We are enjoying our time with them, and I must say that Thatcher enjoys helping us with cakes.  Anytime he is here he absolutely has to help me bake.  We love it.  At four years old he helps with the ingredients (except eggs, they are too slimy for him) and he has already learned to cut out fondant flowers to help Auntie M.

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We want to still be able to enjoy the process and be proud of the finished product, so while we are not doing as many cakes, we are still putting all the love and care into them that we always did, and the payoffs are huge!!  The excitement, smiles, and sometimes tears, when someone sees their cake, never get old for us.  Yeah, we’ll keep doing cakes.

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There and back again…….

You know how when you haven’t talked to someone in a while it gets harder and harder to go back and talk to them? Sometimes you never go back. That’s kind of how it’s been with coming back here. When you’ve been away for a long time it’s hard to know what to say when you come back. You talk about coming back but then you never really do it. So much has happened that you don’t know where to start so that makes it even harder. There’s just too much to tell. Or maybe there’s nothing to tell. Not sure which is the case. Anyway, we’re back. It may not be for long but here we are…..

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But then there are friends who you haven’t talked to in forever and you can pick up right where you left off. Well, most of you who read our blog are old friends and we know that it will be easy to pick up with you right where we left off.

Our last post was over a year ago, June of 2013. That’s ridiculous. What slackers we are!! Well, writing slackers, not caking slackers. (You may remember if you’ve been reading us from the beginning that caking is the term we use for the entire process of what we do…from baking to fondant to finishing). Although we have certainly slowed down and are trying to not do as many cakes as when we first started, we are still busy most weekends. We just have so many wonderful people that God has placed in our lives that we have a hard time saying no to precious friends. We still have lots of stories to tell…..like the time we delivered to the wrong location for a kids’ party, only to find out that the right location was on the other side of the valley (yikes)…….or the first time we messed up our schedule and got the date wrong and missed doing a cake. See, like I said, so much to tell…..where does one start?

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We’ve had several requests to start writing again. That certainly makes us feel happy, to know that you enjoy hearing from us, but as I said, it’s hard to no where to start. Let’s start with what has changed and what has stayed the same….

Caking….

We won another cupcake competition last year, and we’ve learned that we absolutely LOVE to do weddings. We’ve done several weddings this past year and thoroughly enjoyed them. We much prefer weddings, bridal showers and baby showers to birthday cakes. As a result, we have tried to back off from the smaller birthday cakes and only schedule larger events. Caking has already taken away so much of our family time and we want to be better guardians of that time, especially since after three miscarriages in one year, my middle daughter is once again pregnant with a baby girl. She has been through a lot trying to conceive and have a healthy baby and I anticipate spending even more time with my grandson, Thatcher, and the new little one who is due in the beginning of November.

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We also did a fundraiser for a friend’s daughter who was going to the world Irish dancing competition in London. We auctioned off a cake to the highest bidder and donated 100% to help our friend and her daughter make the trip. Our friend’s daughter came in 22nd in the world!!! We like to think that we had a part in helping her achieve that.

We also have another new member of the family. My family surprised me with another chihuahua in January. Cobian…Cobi for short and if I thought Thistle was a handful….well, Thistle is an angel compared to this little troublemaker that has come to live with us. I’m hoping that, just as Thistle settled down and became my friend, Cobi will as well. I’m afraid we have quite a ways to go before that happens though.

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What has stayed the same?

We still love what we do. We still love fondant and gumpaste and making something out of nothing. We still love to see the look on the faces of people who get one of our cakes. We especially love when people, who don’t normally, cry when they see the cake that we’ve designed for them. We love doing multiple cakes for one family. We love when wedding cakes turn into baby shower cakes. We love when one member of a family, who has been the recipient of a cake from us, comes back and requests a cake for another member in their family. We love when people say, “I haven’t had your cake in a while and I need to get one because I’m craving it….” Insert smiley face here.

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We still long for a little shop somewhere. I don’t think that will ever change. I know it will never happen and we will always have to be closet bakers but we are still dreaming and hoping for a little place where you can come in, smell wonderful things baking, have a cup of coffee at a little wrought iron table and listen to the French Cafe station playing on Pandora. There will be lovely little confections in the window and a bicycle parked beside the open door…….

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Back to cakes…..

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Ohhhhhh the cakes we’ve done in this past year. We are really going to try hard to update you on all the cakes that have come and gone through our kitchen. It may take a while but we’ll try to bring you up to speed. We’ll start with an entire blog on the weddings that we’ve done so stay tuned………

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Traveling, Baking, and Friends…It doesn’t get much better than that!

Hello blogging world! I know, I know…it has been ages since I have written a blog. When I started the blog, I started it for my mother. I knew how much she liked to write. So, I am always happy to sit and watch her writing ideas come out on this blog. Well, every once in awhile I get the urge to write. Strangely enough, this cake adventure is without my cake partner. When I have been in Russia and Slovakia my mother has posted about how strange it has been to be without her cake partner, and now I know how she feels. This cake adventure was one for the books, but it was a little strange to be without my partner in crime…I mean, partner in cake.

So, today I am going to share some of my adventures with my dear friend Ruthanne from EasyBaked. (After you are done reading our blog you should make your way over to her blog. It’s great).

My story actually starts about three years ago. I was in Russia with a group of Americans, and we were getting paired up with a roommate for the two weeks that we were going to be there. Well, it just happened that I got paired up with a woman from Indiana. Her name is Ruthanne, and little did we know that we would become the best of friends. After two weeks we realized it was scary how much we had in common.

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Ruthanne and I have had some crazy adventures since Russia as well. We both LOVE to travel (Because, of course, it’s another thing we have in common.) We have gone to the Statue of Liberty. We have toured Chicago, and we’ve had another international trip to Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

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The funny thing is that we both started baking right around the same time. Little did we know that we each had started this whole baking journey. Ruthanne is the one that got us started blogging.

All that to say that about a month and a half ago I went to visit her and my other great friends in Indiana. Well, Ruthanne and I talked and planned and shopped. We had a very intense weekend of baking, and had an awesome time with friends (Of course, we just had to throw a party for our friends once we had baked all of our goodies.) It was a weekend to remember. Here are just a few of the things that we created for our friends…

The first thing we did was a chocolate cookie with royal icing. Royal icing is one of my favorite mediums in cake decorating, and I re-introduced Ruthanne to it. It is a love/hate relationship with royal icing. I LOVE it. She HATES it.

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The second thing we did were cute cupcakes. Ruthanne had never learned how to make and work with fondant. So, we had a fondant tutorial. Even though she didn’t like the royal icing, I think I was able to convert her to like fondant. 😉

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And the last thing we did were super cute mini coffee cups with a mocha flavored icing. I know what you’re thinking…three major projects, a party, and hanging out with friends. I never said it was a relaxing weekend, but it was definitely enjoyable one. (And we had some awesome help, and I got to meet a new friend too. Thanks Miranda, Carlee, and Danielle.)

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I am so blessed that God brought, my friend Ruthanne, into my life. Even though she lives in Indiana, and I live in Pennsylvania, I see many years of traveling and baking in front of us. I can’t wait to see what adventure we will go on next.

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Bungee jumping

I have never bungee jumped. I think that, at my age, it would be an instant heart attack. I don’t really have a desire to bungee jump mind you, but that doesn’t mean that I am afraid to take risks. Even though I have never bungee jumped, I think I understand why people do it. I think I understand taking on a challenge that you are terrified of and yet exhilarates you at the same time. I think I understand what it means to be stupid enough to do something that is totally outside your realm of comfort, and yet, when it’s finished, you walk away with an incredible sense of victory. I think I understand the idea that you might not walk away from it at all.

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little…….but last October, we took on a cake challenge that felt like bungee jumping….with cakes.

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Several months ago we got a phone call that went something like this…….

“Hi, I got your name from my hairdresser.”
“Who’s your hairdresser?”
“Well, it was actually a client of my hairdresser.”
“Oh, okay.”
“I think it was the granddaughter of a friend of hers.”
“A friend of the client?”
“Yes.”
“Do you know who it was?”
“No, not really. They were at a party where they had one of your cupcakes. We were wondering if you would be able to do my daughter’s wedding cake next June.”

Oh, okay.

The conversation took place at a time when we were still hoping/dreaming/wishing/not knowing if we could be a business or not. We were growing and trying new things and happy to take on new cake projects. We decided that we would meet with the family and see if we could help them. We got directions and drove to their house to meet with them in person. The great part was that they live ten minutes from our house. That was the first plus. We’ve driven as far as two hours to deliver a cake. Yeah, crazy, I know….but remember what I’ve said before……we LOVE people with our cakes.

The family wanted to do a tasting which is totally understandable because, as far as they knew, our cakes might look pretty but taste like wet sawdust. Most of the people that we’ve done cakes for have already tasted our cakes in one realm or another so tastings aren’t usually necessary. Since the bride and her mom had never had the opportunity to eat our cakes, we were happy to oblige. Weddings are a pretty big deal and no one wants to serve wet sawdust.

Usually, for a cake tasting, I do a 6 inch round cake and we try to decorate it with a sampling of what we can do. I had no idea what this family would be looking for but I had been working on gumpaste roses so Megan worked her piping magic and I put a gumpaste rose on top.

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They loved it. Then they showed us the picture of what they wanted.

Oh my stinking heart.

The cake was a three tier cake designed to look like baskets of roses stacked on top of each other (their cake would be a four tier). The outside of the cake was marbled fondant, layered on the cake to look like slats on a basket and the whole thing was decorated with gumpaste ivy and gumpaste roses. If we pulled it off, it would end up not even looking like a cake.

I said, “Sure, we can probably do that.”

Megan didn’t like the word sure, or the word probably in that sentence. Remember, Megan is the part of our team with her feet firmly planted on the ground.

We went home and immediately came up with our list of concerns. I figured that if I addressed all of Megan’s concerns right up front, she would agree to do the cake.

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I had already stacked enough cakes, at this point in time, to be confident of my ability to do a tiered cake, so that wasn’t a concern, at least not for me. Megan has this habit of watching me stack a cake, taking a step back, and waiting for it to bulge, lean or topple over. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I’ve stacked a cake, she still gets this crazed look in her eye, tilts her head slightly and starts taking short, shallow breaths. I just have to walk away.

So our first concern was not the stacking, necessarily. It was that it would be a stacked cake for a reception that took place outside, with no air conditioning….at the end of June…..

Let me take this opportunity to tell you what Pennsylvania weather is like in June. Pennsylvania is the state of weather extremes. By that I mean that it can feel like the polar ice cap one day and within 24 hours turn into a tropical rain forest. A four tiered wedding cake, covered in gumpaste roses and double layers of fondant would do great in a lovely outside polar ice cap wedding, however, Megan and I began to have visions of a heap of cake covered with melting fondant in a lovely outside tropical rain forest wedding.

I have repeated the words, “It’ll be okay,” to Megan at least 5,000 times since last October. She never really got to the point where she believed me.

Our second concern was the time factor. We were just beginning to scale back and had decided that, because of the amount of work involved with this cake (they wanted a four tier wedding cake, a 6 inch anniversary cake, and an 8 inch groom’s cake) we would not do any other cakes in June.

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Who was I kidding? Myself, I guess.

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That lasted about two weeks. We have scaled back, but as I’ve mentioned before, there are certain people that God has brought into our lives that we will never, ever, say no to when they need a cake.

By the time we got to June, we had scheduled four birthday cakes, 2 graduation cakes, and 185 cupcakes.

“I’m just a girl who can’t say no….I’m in a terrible fix….” Somehow, the song that Ado Annie sings in the musical, Oklahoma, kept running through my head.

The biggest concern, and it was mostly my concern, were the roses, and they were mostly my concern because Megan doesn’t do roses. I have tried and tried and tried to convince her that she can do them. She’s actually tried to do them but she hates doing roses and nothing that I say or do will get her to try again. She and gumpaste are not the best of friends, although she has discovered that she loves to do the delicate little flowers that we use for filler.

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Well, it’s a good thing that I love to do roses. Roses take time. You can’t just sit down and do a rose and throw it on a cake…..well I guess I did do that once before I knew how long they took, but we won’t talk about that cake. You have to make the centers, let them dry, then start layering them with petals. While you can put all the petal layers on at one time, I like to let my roses dry between each layer of petals. Are you counting?….a week for the centers to dry, a day for each petal layer, and a day to add the calyxes. There had to be enough roses to make the baskets look believable. A single rose scattered here and there wouldn’t do the trick.

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You know how when you can’t sleep and you wake up in the middle of the night and you stress about something that you’ve been worrying about and that same thing just keeps plaguing you anytime your brain has some down time when it should be relaxing?

Yep, roses.

I wanted to have them done months before the wedding. After all, the cakes had been scheduled about 8 months before the event. It’s not like I didn’t have the time. Well…..factor in Christmas, a trip to Disney, my daughter’s struggles with miscarriages, my own struggle with skin cancers, on and on…..I guess life just got in the way of me doing roses.

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So guess when I finished them? Five days before the wedding…..32 roses in all….18 full size roses, 6 medium roses, 8 rosebuds and 12 sprays of ivy. I guess that I work best under pressure, or at least it seems that way. I like to live dangerously….remember the whole bungee jumping concept?

We kept praying for good weather. The day came and it wasn’t as hot or humid as it could have been but it was pretty hot and relatively humid. We set up the cake, cried because it turned out so well, and drove away. For about two miles down the road after leaving, Megan was still hyperventilating, waiting for a phone call telling us that the fondant was sliding off the cake. “Oh, ye of little faith.”

We had mixed feelings as we drove away. This had been our most challenging creation yet and we had planned for it, stressed about, and spent hours creating it. Leaving it behind felt a little like leaving a child on the first day of kindergarten. You’ve put so much love and effort into it, you trust the people that you’re leaving it with but you leave a good portion of your heart behind when you go.

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In the end (as you know, I’m a bottom line kind of person and I like to let you know how it all turned out), we set up the cake, the reception tent looked gorgeous, and everyone was happy. The bride and her family took a big risk in asking amateurs like us to do a cake like this and I like to think that their faith in us was not misplaced. (As a matter of fact, sometimes I think that people have more faith in us than we have in ourselves.) The bride and her mom were wonderful to work with and the wedding was beautiful.

We have since scaled back on the cakes we’re doing (“yeah, right”…..that was my husband in the background). As I’ve mentioned, ad infinitum, we are not now, nor anytime in the near future, going to be a business. We only do cakes for family and dear friends…..but it’s funny how, when you take on a project and work so closely with someone, and get to see their hopes and wishes come true in a cake, you get to be friends. As I’ve said before, we’re thankful to be given the opportunity and the ability to do these cakes….but we’re also, mostly, thankful for the people that they bring into our lives.

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It was a huge cake risk for us, one that we stressed about for months but it was a good feeling to know that we didn’t shy away from it, and it was a wonderful feeling knowing that we helped to make the bride’s cake dreams come true. After dealing with severe panic attacks many years ago, I am convinced that the only way to conquer your fears is to face them, smack them over the head, and walk right through them. We met the challenge head on, although we did take a few panic attacks along for the ride.

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We bungee jumped……and lived to tell about it.

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The Little Cottage

I always wanted to live in a little Irish cottage near the sea……..or maybe a little Scottish cottage, since my great-grandfather came from Scotland.  Any movie that has a cottage in it has my heart.  I don’t really care for the content of the movie, “The Holiday,” but I adore the cottage.  If I could put a building in my back yard, in the woods, where Megan and I make fondant covered cakes to our heart’s content, it would look like a cottage.  One of my favorite movies is “The Quiet Man” with John Wayne.  I love how Maureen O’Hara takes the deserted cottage that was John Wayne’s character’s childhood home and turns it into a cozy little nest for the two of them.  It took me years to figure out what kind of decor I wanted in my house but finally, after being married for about 25 years (that was 11 years ago), I figured it out.  Any ideas?  Not too difficult…….cottage, of course.

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And so it’s not really surprising that the first cake that I ever covered with fondant was a cottage.

I can’t tell you why, or explain it in any way because we’re not Irish but we love St. Patrick’s Day.  We look forward to it for weeks to come.  We go downtown to a little Irish cafe and have pastries and tea to celebrate.

Two years ago, St. Patrick’s Day was around the time that we had put our feet to the fondant path.  We had done cupcakes for my middle daughter’s baby shower and we decided it was time to try to cover a cake with fondant.  After all, how hard could it be?  It seemed appropriate to do a cottage.

Turns out that covering a cake with fondant wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.  Please don’t misunderstand, covering a cake with fondant takes some practice, especially if you don’t want to end up with cracks or wrinkles.  It’s been quite a journey to get to the point where I feel comfortable with putting fondant on cake. I had quite a few disasters along the way but now it’s my favorite part.  As a matter of fact, I would have to say that putting fondant on a cake is my favorite part of the ‘caking’ process.  I would rather put fondant on a cake more than anything else.  There is something about the way the fondant feels when you are stretching and shaping it to a cake that feels so satisfying to me, almost therapeutic…..that is, when it goes well.  I don’t usually have too much trouble anymore but I remember a time, not so long ago, when I have had cakes where I would put the fondant on, take it off, put it on, take it off……you get the picture.  These days, if someone would do the baking and crumbcoating I would be perfectly happy to just put fondant on cakes all day long.

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Back to our little cottage….

We worked so hard on that little cottage.  It took us hours.  We totally underestimated the amount of time it would take us to do the whole process.  Probably between six and eight hours later, when we stepped back and looked at it, we were so proud of it.  We had crumbcoated, put the fondant on, piped, and glued pieces of fondant on for doors and windows.  We took it to my daughter’s house and everyone thought it was adorable.  That was then.

Fast forward two years…..

“You’ve come a long way, baby.”

All along the way, though, as we learned more and more about decorating cakes, we always wanted to remake our little cottage.  It was still one of my favorite cakes because it was our first to cover with fondant, and, frankly, no matter what it looked like, I thought it was charming.  I knew that we could improve on our original design but, in my mind, the little cottage was still adorable.

We had had multiple discussions about the cottage.  Megan, always the realist, kept saying, “It was so bad, Mama.”  In my head I knew she was right but my heart had romanticized it.  I would always jump to its defense, saying how good it was considering what bad decorators we were at that time.  I didn’t want anyone to abuse the memory of my little cottage cake.  It would always be sweet and special to me.

And then one night we went back to look at the pictures.

It was pathetic.  The fondant was dry and covered with powdered sugar.  I didn’t know any better and I used powdered sugar as lubricant when I rolled out the fondant. As a result, the fondant, already dry, had little pieces of crusted powdered sugar all over it.  Although I’ved watched many videos using lots of different methods, I only use cornstarch now to roll out my fondant.

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Megan hadn’t perfected her piping with royal icing yet and so we used buttercream to pipe the vines.  The fondant was so dry that it picked up the oils from the buttercream and left an oily ring around anything that was piped.

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I was afraid of carving at that time so the windows were just pieces of fondant glued on the front and the whole cottage was shaped more like a bell than a cottage.

Sorry little cottage, but you were pretty bad.

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Enter my friend, Jennie, and her husband, Matt.

Jennie has been one of my dearest friends for many years.  Jennie and I have weathered the seasons of life together and although she is almost 20 years younger than me, we have allowed some pretty difficult circumstances to bind us together.  I love her honest, no-nonsense approach to life.  She is a wonderful friend, great wife and loving mom to her three kids.

Jennie has also been one of, if not the, biggest, supporter of our cake obsession.  She has been with us at events where our cakes have been served.  She looks at every picture we post and comments often.  She has commented on the blog.  We talk cakes when we’re together.  She has done some pretty awesome cakes herself.  And she always tell me that no matter how many cakes we have done, her favorite is still our little cottage.  I keep telling her how pathetic that little cake was but she won’t hear of it.  She has told me on more than one occasion that she wants to live there.

It seemed appropriate that when Jennie’s husband, Matt, called us to get on the calendar to do a cake for Jennie’s birthday (he called us six months in advance), we would have the opportunity to remake our little cottage.

I asked Matt what we should do for Jennie’s cake.  I was hoping that he wouldn’t have any ideas because I already knew what I wanted to do.  When we finally had the chance to talk (the cake and party for Jennie was to be a surprise), Matt confirmed that he didn’t have any ideas and he would leave it up to us to do whatever we thought Jennie would like.

We were so excited. We finally had a good reason to re-create our little cottage.

We searched the internet for pictures of cottages. We wanted it to be accurate but we found that we had talked about the cottage for so long that during the planning stages we were already on the same page. Color, construction and finishing components were decided and we got to work. The great part was that the cottage would be for Jennie who had loved the original so much.

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We had come so far and had learned so much that we were able to finish the cake in half the time of the original. Although it has to be one of the easiest cakes that we have ever done, it looks difficult because of the intricacy of Megan’s piping.

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I did the baking and carving and put the fondant on. Megan made the cottage come to life with her mullioned windows and her vines creeping up the walls. I worked on the externals like the benches and the flower pots.

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We stepped back and, immediately decided that we both wanted to live there. It turned out exactly as we had pictured and exactly as we had wanted the first little cottage to look.

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“Thank you, Lord, for this cake journey, and for the opportunity to craft this cake for our precious friend.”

In the end, Jennie loved the cake, and, as is the case many times, she didn’t want to cut it. We all took lots of pictures and the cottage will live on in our cake memories as one of our favorite cakes……right next to the original.

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The Long and Winding Road……

We’ve missed you.  We’ve missed being here on the blog.

“Let me ‘splain, no, let me sum up.”  (Anybody know where that quote is from?)

It’s not that we stopped doing cakes and had nothing to write about.  On the contrary, we are still doing cakes and have tons of stuff to write about.

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It’s not that we didn’t want to be here.  There have been plenty of cake stories and life stories that we’ve wanted to share with you.  But we’ve been on a very long and winding road, cake-wise and life-wise, and it’s been very difficult to put things into words.  Our family has, once again, gone through a series of unfortunate events and it’s hard to be funny and uplifting when your heart is breaking.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily write this blog to be funny and uplifting, it just kind of ends up that way.  My Mother always said that if you can’t laugh at life and at yourself then you’re in big trouble.  That perspective flows through my fingers, jumps onto the letters on the keyboard, and ends up on the page that you’re reading here.  We laugh at ourselves and the ironies of life……a lot.

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And I guess, in looking back at the blog, we’ve written about some pretty heartbreaking things here too……things like my Mother’s house being flooded, and losing my precious furry friends, Saboo and Gypsy.

So if I’m being true to form, and as I’ve said, many times before, that if you’re looking for a how-to on baking cakes, or covering cakes with fondant, this might not be the blog that you’re looking for (although sometimes we slip into teacher mode).  If, however, you are a looking for a blog where a family lives life with all the joys, celebrations, heartaches, and sorrows that go with it, with a few cakes thrown in here and there, then you might just be in the right place.

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So we’re back.

We’ve wanted to come back for a while.  It’s just when you put the keyboard pen down, sometimes it’s hard to pick it up again.  I’ve been trying to decide where to pick up to start writing again.  Megan and I have had so many conversations about coming back and connecting with everyone here again.  We just had the wind knocked out of us and it’s been hard to find the motivation to write.  My motivation finally came at a party that I went to today.  We were talking cakes, people always seem to have lots of questions for us, and one of the sweet ladies at the party (yes, you know who you are, and, by the way…..thank you) told us that she missed the blog.  That was all I needed to hear.

A lot of cakes have come and gone since we last wrote.  I will try to do some catching up in the next few blogs but you’ll have to be patient with us as we get our blog momentum going again.

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Just to ease the suspense somewhat, as to what’s been going on with us…….

I had a brief run-in with cancer which turned out to be okay but it really rattled my chains for a little while and took up a whole lot more space in my brain than I should have allowed.

My married daughter has had three miscarriages in the last year and our whole family has felt the sorrow of these losses.

We did well at the competition back in February but things went a little askew and we had to do some major evaluation of what we were doing with cakes.  We are not a business and we were looking a lot like a business.  We can’t pretend to be something that we’re not.  So we’ve scaled way back on the cakes that we are doing.  We’re still doing a lot of cakes but they are only for family and close friends……and because of some of the things that have happened in the past few months with our cakes, we have re-evaluated why we do cakes and here’s what we came up with.

First of all, in spite of all the stress, all the cake battles, all of the time sacrifice…in spite of all of that….we love to craft a cake.  We love the smell of cakes baking, the feel of gumpaste in our hands, and the blank canvas of fresh fondant on a cake.  We love to create a concept on a piece of paper and watch it come to life in sugar.  We love to match the color of a piece of ribbon, or take a one dimensional barnyard animal from a party plate and make it three dimensional.  We love our art.

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Second, we do cakes because we can.  The fondant monster was born a couple of years ago when Megan and I learned how to do fondant for my middle daughter’s baby shower, and we took to it like a baby fish learns to swim.  I still look at the pictures of our cakes and wonder where it all came from.  God must really have a sense of humor…..years ago I longed to take a Wilton cake decorating class but I never seemed to have the extra time or money.  I know that God must have been thinking, “Wait until she sees what I have in store for her!”  God gave us the ability to create these cakes and we enjoy doing it, so, as long as He allows us, we will continue to make cakes just because we can.

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Lastly, and most importantly, we LOVE PEOPLE with our cakes.  We love people.  We love cakes.  We love to bring the two together.  I CANNOT tell you how much we love reactions!!  I can tell you that for every minute of blood (not really), sweat (well, it does get pretty hot in the kitchen sometimes), and tears (have I mentioned our cake battles), the payoff is to have someone look at one of our cakes and tell us that it turned out to be more than they expected that it to be.  When someone looks at our cake and starts to cry because it is exactly what they wanted……that’s why we do cakes.  We LOVE TO MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY WITH THESE CAKES.  We know that most people will never have the opportunity to have a cake like they see on cake shows so that makes it even more exciting for us, knowing that we can provide a special cake for a special celebration.  There is something about a cake that is designed specifically for a person that seems to touch peoples’ hearts.

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So, we’re back.  We’ll try to be more faithful with our writing.  We’re thankful for those of you who have been out there waiting for us.  We’ll keep doing cakes and sharing our stories about cakes, and life, and we’ll keep posting pictures.  Feel free to leave us a comment or share one of your stories with us.  We love to hear from you.

Thanks for waiting for us.  You’re why we’re here.

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P.S. Point of information……for those of you who had been subscribed to our blog, we’ve had some glitches with the blog and we lost your subscription. If you are still interested in having our blog delivered to you via email, you will have to re-subscribe to the blog. Happy ‘caking’……

“To all who have come to this magical place, welcome.” Walt Disney


If you know the Davis family at all you know that something we love even more than cakes is Disney Word.  We are a little addicted, and when I say a little, I really mean that are pretty hardcore Disney fans.  Well, a couple of weeks ago we made our trek to Disney, the happiest place on earth.  We pack up our things, board the magical aircraft, and head towards a land filled with pixie dust and……well, CAKE of course!

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We go to Disney World ever two years.  I am one of three girls.  We are all in our twenties.  My sister is married, and has a baby.  We all laugh every time, because we talk about going other places, but when it comes time to think about where we want to go on our family vacation the answer is always the same.  DISNEY WORLD!!!!!

I know that some of you may think that Disney is a place to go once or twice.  It is a place that you only go to when you have little kids.  I politely disagree…well, I may look at you with a crazy expression and think you are a little nuts for not wanting to go to Disney for every vacation, but to each his own, right?!

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Anyway, Disney world is a wonderful place where you can go and be completely immersed in the magic.  You can forget your life at home, and truly be a kid again.  You can wear matching outfits, and be considered perfectly normal.  You can walk into a fancy restaurant with Mickey ears on, and no one looks at you like you are crazy.  It is a place full of fun, laughter, great music, great food, and of course one of the most important things about Disney are the great desserts!

So, for this post, I am going to do something a little out of the ordinary.  I am not posting pictures of our cakes.  I am posting pictures and talking about some of the ways in which Disney does dessert.  Last time we went to Disney my mother and I looked at Disney like any other Disney fan.  This time it was a little different.  This time we looked at Disney through the eyes of baker/cake decorators.

One of the truly magical things about Disney is the fact that they make everything a celebration.  So, for this trip we had two celebrations. The first celebration was my nephew’s first trip to Disney World.  He was so adorable.  He loved Nemo and Buzz Lightyear.  And any time he heard music he liked to dance.  I know he is still very little, but you could see how the magic of Disney impacted this little boy.

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The second celebration we had was my sister’s birthday.  We ate at her favorite Italian restaurant, Mama Melrose’s, and she got a cake with her favorite Disney character.

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My very favorite thing to do at Disney World has always been to go to France in the World Showcase.  There is a little pastry shop that has the best Napoleons I have ever had.  They are truly amazing.  You get your dessert and coffee, and you eat it at these little wrought iron tables on this quaint cobblestone street.  You really feel like you are sitting in a little European town eating pastries.  Truly my favorite part!!!!

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My brother-in-law also has a favorite dessert at Disney World.  Like in France, Norway has a pastry shop.  This pastry shop has a unique dessert called school bread.  It is an amazing doughnut like pastry filled with a light custard and topped with icing and coconut.  I wish I had the recipe, but alas, I will just have to be content to get it on each Disney visit.

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This year we discovered a fun new dessert.  We were so excited about it, because what better for cake decorators than to find than cupcakes!!!!  These cupcakes were amazing.  Very chocolaty and good.  We found these late one night at the Animal Kingdom.  These were the perfect end to a long day in the park.

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Now is the time where you have permission to laugh at how cake decorating has brought out the craziness is us.  One day we were walking through a fast food restaurant at MGM (now Disney Hollywood Studies, but I refuse to call it anything but MGM), and I saw a woman sitting there about to eat what looked like an incredible cupcake.  My mother told me to go ask if I could take a picture of the cupcake.  So, can you guess what I did?  Yes, I walked up to a complete stranger to ask if I could take a picture of her cupcake.  She was very nice about it, as people usually seem to be more friendly at Disney, and she very graciously let me take a few pictures.

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We also stumbled upon a great coffee shop while visiting MGM.  This is what we found…

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At the coffee shop I got a carrot cake cookie with cream cheese frosting in the middle.

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Another one of our favorite things to do (as you have seen, there are many things we like to do at Disney) is to eat at the different countries in the World Showcase.  These are a couple of the wonderful things we sampled.

England – Sticky Toffee Pudding

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Germany – Red Velvet Cake

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Germany – Cherry Compote with vanilla sauce

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England – Cheesecake with a caramelized banana and whipped cream
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Now that you think all I do is eat dessert, I will make a disclaimer…there were six adults on this trip, and I am pretty sure that I started to frustrate them all by the end of the trip.  I am sure you know the phrase, “You can’t have dessert until you eat all of you meal.”  Well, the saying of this trip was, “You can’t have your dessert until Megan takes a picture.”

It was a very magical trip.  Disney succeeds again in making our family vacation one to remember!  So, thank you Disney.  You never fail in making Disney World the Happiest Place on Earth.

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Perfect people…….

When it comes to crafting a cake for a special celebration in honor of a specific person, we’ve had lots of fun and interesting requests.  One of the things, however, that used to make me cringe was any request for me to make a gumpaste person.  Megan and I are untrained cake artists and we had so much to learn about gumpaste.  I had no idea what gumpaste was capable of and I had no idea what I was capable of in working with it.

I came to find out many things about gumpaste and making people.  Megan and I started working with fondant in February of 2010.  We didn’t start working with gumpaste immediately, however, we worked with fondant for a couple of months before we ventured into gumpaste.  We wanted to conquer everything to do with decorating cakes with fondant and gumpaste so when the time came to tackle gumpaste, we decided that we wanted to make our own.  It seemed simple enough.  We looked a recipe up online (believe me when I say that our cake decorating would be non-existant if it wasn’t for the internet) and got to work.

My husband’s birthday was in early June and we decided to do a baseball themed cake.  Once again, our inexperience and lack of gumpaste knowledge allowed us to be overzealous in our estimation of what we could do.  We got to work in an afternoon in preparation to put the figures on the cake that evening.  We decided to represent our family as a baseball team on the cake with my husband as the pitcher.  Eight hours later…..

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As you can see, they’re a sorry looking bunch.  The color is poorly mixed into the gumpaste, they are cracked in several places and the faces are drawn on with edible markers…….and yet……….I love them.

They had no internal supports.  I’m not even sure how we got them to stand up on the cake.  Since then, we have learned how to use dry spaghetti as internal supports.  We also start with a bamboo skewer running through the entire length of the body, even up into the head.  This gives us a way to support the weight of the gumpaste as well as a way to secure the figure to the cake.  We try to only use edible pieces on our cakes but we’ve found that, many times, spaghetti is just not strong enough to support the entire body.  We do always use spaghetti, however, for supporting arms and legs and feet.

We’ve mentioned before that Megan and I have different aspects of decorating that we enjoy and we learned early on that Megan hates doing people.  As a matter of fact, she doesn’t really enjoy shaping gumpaste at all.  It’s okay though, because Megan excels at piping and detailing, both of which are aspects that I don’t enjoy at all.

And so, my journey with gumpaste people began.

I knew that if I was going to the be the one responsible for the gumpaste people on our cakes, I would need to streamline the process.  I decided that I needed to come up with a generic head shape that I could detail according to whatever person I was trying to duplicate.  I came up with a sort of pear shape that I could work with.  It makes life much easier and I’ve found that I can add enough details that are unique to the person that I’m trying to duplicate to make it recognizable to the people that I am doing the cake for.  It may not look like an exact replica, more like a ‘cartoon-y’ version of them, but I usually include enough details that are specific enough to that person that people say, “Hey, that’s me on the cake,” when they see it.

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I’ve experimented a lot with the details.  In the beginning, I would make all the facial features out of gumpaste or even try to shape the gumpaste into the facial features.  Now, again, after much trial and error, I add gumpaste features such as eyes, nose, ears and hair and I usually go back and add details by painting with food coloring.  I can be much more detailed by using a combination of the two.  Although I paint hair with food coloring, I also use an extruder to make hair dimensional whenever possible.

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Standing figures are obviously harder to do than sitting figures and have to have plenty of time to dry.  If necessary, I can do a sitting figure at the last minute but standing figures usually need a couple of days to dry.  One of my biggest challenges was the zombie couple that I did for an anniversary cake.  I knew that we wanted the couple to either be holding hands or having the guy zombie’s arm around the girl zombie.  I agonized over it because I knew how fragile the figures would be if I tried to connect the two before I put them on the cake.  After pondering for several days about what to do, Megan came up with a brilliant idea.  She said, “Mama, they’re zombies.  Their body parts break off all over the place.  Have the guy’s arm broken around the girl’s shoulder!!”  That’s why there are two of us.  It seems like when one struggles with something the other one of us is able to come up with a solution.

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Gumpaste is a funny thing to work with.  It can be extremely sticky so it is imperative to use some type of lubricant, however, it dries very rapidly and your window of opportunity can be very small before it starts to crack and dry.  I usually break off the amount that I need and keep the rest in an airtight container until I am ready to use it.  Depending on what I’m doing with the gumpaste I will either use cornstarch or crisco, however, when I do people I always use crisco.  I rub it on my hands, work it into the gumpaste and also rub it on my work surface.  Crisco keeps gumpaste from cracking as you are bending tiny arms, legs or hands.  Between cakes, I keep my gumpaste in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator.  I don’t really have opportunity to leave it there for very long because we use gumpaste so much but it will last for quite a long time stored in the refrigerator.

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I’ve been asked to do people that I have never met or seen before so I always ask for a picture.  Even more than the picture, though, are the things that go with the person on the cake.  Obviously, standing alone, a gumpaste figure may or may not be recognizable, but couple it with numbers on a uniform and it becomes a famous baseball player……

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or a kid that loves fishing…..

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or a little girl who is celebrating her first birthday as a fairy…..

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or a sweet girl who loves to shop…..

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or her sister who loves to read…..

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or a friend who loves to hunt……

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I still get stressed whenever I’m asked to do a gumpaste person but I’ve definitely gained a certain level of comfort in working with gumpaste.  You have to know what it is capable of and when it’s going to let you down.  Typically it will only let you down when you expect more than it can give.

As I continue to work with gumpaste people, I can’t help but think of God and His illustration of clay in the Potter’s hands.  It often occurs to me that my gumpaste people have a great deal in common with real people……

they’re not perfect…..

they’re a work in progress……

and patience will go a long way in shaping them to be their best.

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Blob towers and water skis………….

We’ve had some life changes in the last couple of years and as a result there are some people that we just don’t see as often as we used to.  Life is fluid.  It moves and changes like the water in a river and sometimes people move in and out of our lives.  We are always happily surprised, however, when doing cakes gives us the opportunity to reconnect with special people.

Such was the case a couple of months ago when I got a Facebook message from a friend that I hadn’t seen for a while.  She had a special occasion that she was involved in and she needed a cake.  It was a retirement party for some friends of hers.  They were retiring from a ministry that they had all been involved in together for many years.

We didn’t even hesitate……there are some people that I will never say no to……and Anne is one of those people.  Anne was one of the first people to ever request a cake from us.  It was for a very special occasion…..her youngest son’s birthday.  I remember feeling so excited and yet scared at the same time.  That was our first big (size and scope) cake request.  We were so honored that Anne had faith in us when we certainly didn’t have it in ourselves.  As a matter of fact, I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me?…,” when she told us what she wanted.  Half of me was terrified and the other half was jumping out of my shoes with excitement.  She had requested an army cake and, as people so often do, left the creative details up to us.  It was a stretching, growing experience for us and we welcomed the challenge.

(Notice that the soldies are plastic army guys…….that’s because we had no idea how to use gumpaste at that point!!  However, I was pretty proud of my little tank-cake covered in fondant.  We really had no idea what we were doing at that point!)

So when Anne came to us with a cake request, no matter what else we would have had scheduled, we would do the cake for her.  We checked the schedule.  We quickly realized that we would have to do some fancy footwork because she needed the cake on one of the days that we had crossed off the calendar for October.  Our family sacrifices a lot for Megan and I to be able to do cakes and we had determined a long time ago that when we set aside time for special family events we would not let cakes interfere with that.  Not any time for any reason, no way, no how…..well, maybe just this once………

If you’ve been reading our blog, or if you know us in person, you know that we are a close family and annual family traditions are very important to us.  Every year, we set aside the day of the local Halloween parade.  We sit in the same place on the same street, eating hot dogs, drinking coffee and cheering as the local school bands and businesses pass by.  It is a truly a slice of ‘small town America’ and we love it!!  This year’s parade would also be the first Halloween parade where my grandson, Thatcher, was really aware of what was going on.  There is no way that we could miss it and yet this was the day that Anne was requesting the cake for.

Okay.  We can work this out.  There is no way that I was not going to the parade and there was also no way that we were going to say no to Anne.  A clone would have come in handy.

We decided that, because of the timing of the parade, we would finish the cake and deliver it to Anne’s house and she would transport it to the party, however, the idea of someone else transporting one of our cakes made us slightly nervous.  Because our cakes are so detailed with gumpaste and fondant components, we are usually very adamant about being the ones to deliver our cakes.  We also don’t like to transport cakes with the gumpaste components already on the cake so there is usually some set-up involved as well.  Since Anne would be transporting the cake, we would have to make sure that all the gumpaste components were in place and well secured for her to transport.

We got to work.

The cake was supposed to recreate the camp that the ministry owned and Anne was specific about some of the details that had to be included.  She wanted pine trees, regular trees, a boat with a water skier, a lodge and a blob tower.

A blob tower?

Hmmmmm…….

What’s a blob tower?

So, this is what we go through when we begin to concepualize the cake.

Since we had never been to the camp in person, we needed to know the lay of the land.  We went to Google maps to get a satellite view of the shape of the lake and where the main buildings were located.  I couldn’t save a picture of the satellite map but you get the idea…..

The camp had recently constructed a new building so we were able to find the artist’s drawing on the contractor’s website of the new building.

We went to the website of the camp to get pictures of the blob tower for shape and color of the blob.  In case you are wonding, as I did, what a blob tower is….it’s one of those towers on a lake that kids climb and jump off onto a huge inflated blob that is floating on the lake.

Next, since Anne would be transporting the cake instead of us, that meant that we would have to have all of the components in place when we delivered it to Anne.  Because gumpaste can be fragile, we always tell people that we will have to do some setup when we deliver the cake.  We never like to deliver the cake with the components in place.  That can be a recipe for disaster involving pieces that cannot be reconstructed.  So we had to spend a little time securing the components in ways that we wouldn’t normally have if we would have done construction on delivery.

Lastly, we researched the logo of the camp so that we could reproduce it on the cake.

I guess you could say that we are into details.  But it’s what we do.  It’s what makes our cakes, our cakes.  And, we’ve said it many, many times before……the payoff for us is the response that we get when we deliver the cake and it’s usually because of the attention that we’ve given to the details.  In this case, the payoff was huge.  Anne cried.  She wanted to know how we had been able to nail exactly what she was looking for in this cake.

Research.

And caring about the people that we do our cakes for.

Sometimes, there are some people that you just can’t say no to.