A few months ago we got a request for a very involved cake. It would probably be our most involved cake yet. The son of some very dear friends was turning 13 and they wanted a very special birthday cake for him. They requested that we re-create some characters and elements from a video game that their son enjoyed playing.
“Sure, I think we can do that!” Do you remember me saying that before? I’m always the one that (when a cake order comes in that seems totally outrageous) says, “Surrrrrrrrrre, we can do that.” If you recall this is where Megan just rolls her eyes.
I know what she’s thinking. “Is she nuts?” “We can’t do that!” I don’t even have to hear her say it.
We started planning. We knew this cake would need some research. We are both perfectionists in our own way (that’s part of what drives us crazy about each other…..but it’s also what keeps us accountable to each other) and I knew that this cake had the potential to make us or break us.
So I’m a gamer. I admit it. I have probably wasted more hours playing video games than is healthy for a human being, let alone a woman my age. I know that I’ve spent more hours playing video games than my children. So now you know the chink in my armor (believe me, there is more than one). Anyway, research……..I needed to do research. How else could we adequately portray the crucial elements of this game, unless we actually played. I bought the game on Amazon and started playing. I wanted Megan to play too but she ended up just watching me play a few times. I don’t know why. She doesn’t seem to enjoy the same types of video games that I do, or it could be that she has a really hard time prying the controller out of my hands.
After playing the game for a couple of weeks I felt that I had a pretty good handle on what we needed to do. Megan and I sat down to strategize. It got a little ugly. And then it got really ugly. And that was the night that Megan and I discovered that we were either going to have to rethink this whole cake thing and how we needed to come to a better understanding of each other (as mentioned in a previous blog) or we would need to walk away from cakes……FOREVER!!!
After a few hours of plea bargaining we came to an agreement. We also came to a better understanding of how we are different and how we must be aware of those differences when we work on a cake. We drew a picture of what we thought the cake would look like, agreed upon the crucial components, and got to work.
As I’ve mentioned lots of times before, when we start working on gum paste components for a cake, we start several weeks ahead of time. We sat for hours at the kitchen table, movies playing on the computer, talking about life, as wee little video game characters came to life. It all seemed to be going so well. The gum paste components were finished, the cakes baked and crumb coated, the delivery details worked out and all seemed right with the world.
The day came and since Megan is now back to full time subbing, I asked my middle daughter, Bethie, to come and help me for the afternoon. When I’m putting fondant on a large cake, it’s easier if you have an extra pair of hands to move the cake into place when you’re ready to put the fondant on. Megan would be home after school and I would have everything ready for her to put finishing details on the cake.
Bethie put her baby down for a nap and he was fussing so she went upstairs to take care of him. I was moving ahead with the fondant and was ready to put it on the cake. It seemed to go pretty well so I was able to put it on without her help. I looked at the clock and still had lots of time. There were several jobs to do yet but I felt pretty confident that we could get it all finished and delivered on time.
And then (ominous music in the background), I texted a friend who knew that I was working on this cake and said, “The fondant is on the big cake and all is well…..”
What was I thinking?…….I had just sealed my fate.
What happened after that was a series of events that would make even the Cake Boss have nightmares.
One of the opening scenes in the game had a stylized tree stump in it. Okay, I can do that. I’ll fondant the half sheet and then make a separate cake for the tree stump, fondant it and put it on the half sheet. I would experiment with having the roots of the stump trail across the cake and down the back of the half sheet. Note to self: Do not wait to experiment until the day the cake is to be delivered.
I put the stump on the cake and walked away. I came back and looked at it and it looked like one of the cakes that you see on “Cake Wrecks.” It was HORRIBLE!!! I had to take it off. When I took it off, some of the fondant from the half sheet peeled off as well. Full blown panic attack.
I started hyper-ventilating and shrieking, “Oh no, Oh no, I have to start all over!!!” I flew back into the kitchen, and, fortunately I had extra ingredients for fondant, I peeled the fondant off both cakes and I started all over. By the time I was finished I had lost precious minutes that I should have spent working on the other projects that we had to finish. Powdered sugar was literally floating in the air (many times after a project my glasses are covered with the stuff).
I forgot to mention that there were cupcakes going with this order, only a dozen, but they had to be iced and decorated. Yikes!!! I had put Bethie to work on that and she was having trouble with the recipe for the buttercream. It’s a recipe that we found in a British cookbook and she was having trouble translating the measurements. “Just keep adding powdered sugar until it looks right!!!” I cried from the other side of the kitchen. I was up to my elbows in fondant and couldn’t help her.
The baby started crying again, and it seemed like every time she got him settled he would start crying again.
Then I spilled green food coloring on the counter and rolled the rolling pin through it……
I cut my finger on the dowel cutters that I use to cut dowels for supports.
My composure had long since disappeared. I was in full blown attack mode.
Megan walked in the door. She seemed so calm. It almost irritated me that she was so calm. I wanted her to jump into the fray. It didn’t take long.
She started piping which is what she does at the end. She piped the grass for the video game logo. She piped the cupcakes. She piped the grass around the base while Bethie put the little white flowers on. She piped and piped and piped and time was running out. She looked at me and said, “Mama, I’m going to have to pipe in the car.” At this point, I was muttering under my breath……something about a tree stump as I recall.
I had loaded the car while she piped. Bethie got directions off the internet while she piped. I started the car to cool it down while she piped. We loaded her and the cake into the car and she kept piping.
We pulled out into the street and turned the corner. Oh no!!! I forgot the camera!!! We always take pictures of our cakes and so the camera is always a crucial part of delivery. Megan said, “Mama, we have to have the camera.” I had forgotten my phone as well so we drove around the block, and back for the camera. I looked at the clock. We could still make it on time.
I tried to be a careful delivery driver, although no one beats Jeremy at delivery driving. I really tried to be careful, I really did, but I kept forgetting to tell Megan when we had to cross a bridge. After the fifth bridge, and Megan glaring at me, I finally started telling her but only after we were half way over. I had a lot on my mind, okay?!
Minutes away, literally minutes away from delivery. I couldn’t believe it but we were going to make it on time and then I missed the last turn onto the street where we were supposed to deliver. I turned around, found the street and pulled up in front of the house.
Safe and sound. We made it. Carried the cake in the house and began set up. This cake, as I mentioned before, had lots of components so it would take a little time to set it all up. Finally, we were finished and Megan reached for the camera. The camera wasn’t in the case.
All in all, I guess it’s a miracle that this cake got delivered without being dropped on the way into the house (that is one of my biggest fears….that we’ll be all finished, after working hours and hours on a cake, walk into wherever we are delivering to, and trip and fall with the cake in my hands). After all, that seemed to be the way things were going that day. Believe me, I will never, ever, text in the middle of making a cake, let alone text and say, “It’s all going well!”
Never, ever, ever, never………at least not until the next really hard project seems to be going well. I guess I just can’t help myself. I’m still shocked that we’re doing this at all, let alone that things turn out as well as they do.