The Cake Marathon

Megan and I are finding that we are scheduling cakes further and further ahead into our calendars.  Right now, as I write this, we have cakes scheduled into August and are talking October with someone.  We try to do no more than two cakes a weekend.  First of all, we don’t have a shop and when we are ‘caking,’ the kitchen is recalibrated to cakes.  My tiny little kitchen with my tiny little stove and my tiny little refrigerator can only handle so much. (I picture them as cartoon characters that smile and hum like an old Saturday morning cartoon).

Believe me, this is not what my kitchen looks like when we are ‘caking.’

Secondly, Megan and I, both, have other jobs.  She is a teacher and I am a Christian counselor.  Until a shed magically appears in my backyard complete with a working kitchen and consultation area which would allow for us to do the cakes that we love doing full-time, we must try to restrain ourselves from taking on more than we can handle.

However, sometimes, it can’t be helped.  The floodgates open.

Such was the case last week.  We were scheduled to do 100 cupcakes and a small cake for a 60th birthday party.  It had been in the book for several months, which turned out to be a good thing because it took some time to work out the details.  Originally the woman wanted a tiered cake for her husband’s birthday party but she decided to do cupcakes instead.  We told her that the trend right now seems to be cupcakes on a cupcake stand with a small cake on the top tier.  She decided that was what she wanted.  She also decided that she wanted several different flavors of cupcakes so that took some time to nail down as well.  All of our cakes are homemade so it also takes time to work out which recipes for cakes and frostings we will use.

Since the theme of the party was her husband’s 60th birthday, obviously she wanted it to be geared to one of his favorite interests……..playing guitar.  We’ve told you before how we love to work with people to re-create some special part of their lives in cake form.  At first we started thinking we would do a cake in the shape of a guitar with all the detailing, but when she decided to do cupcakes, we threw that idea out the window.  We decided that we would put a guitar on top of the small cake, and guitars and guitar picks on top of the cupcakes.  Since we would be putting components on the cupcakes and we always want cupcake components to be more palatable than cake components, we decided to go with fondant instead of gumpaste.  We also knew that in order to do 100 guitars and picks, we would have to plan plenty of time into our schedules to allow for the detailing.

I didn’t want to do just any old guitar for this woman’s husband.  Since he still plays in a band, I assumed that he would be very specific about the guitar he would want on his cake.  He’d been playing in a band for years so I knew that he knew guitars.  I emailed her, asking whether he played acoustic or electric and she emailed back saying it would be difficult to nail it down since he actually owns 23 guitars.  Wow.  Okay.

We finally narrowed it down to two and we decided that the more colorful of the two would go on the cake and the other one would go on the cupcakes.  Kudos to Megan here.  She totally came up with the design of the guitars and picks for the cupcakes.

Since I am the one who normally cuts out the gumpaste components when we are doing something with a lot of detail, I got to work on the template for the guitar for the cake.  It’s my job to get the proportions and shape correct before I pass it off to Megan to detail.  You have to look at an object and separate out all the externals and see just the basic shape.  This guitar was going to be difficult because the neck of the guitar would have to have enough support so that it wouldn’t break off either in transport or once it was on the cake.  It would have to be large enough to detail but small enough to put on a 6 inch round cake.  Also, when we are working with gumpaste, it’s important to allow enough time for it to dry.  Ideally, that means at least a week.  Ideally.

We started working on the guitar on Wednesday night.  The cake was due Saturday.  We felt that would be plenty of time to dry because it wasn’t really that large or involved.  I failed, however, to adequately support the neck.  I was out of the house for the evening on Thursday night when Megan sat down to detail.  The neck of the guitar broke off in her hands.

Okay.  I don’t want anyone out there to say, “I told you so.”  When am I going to learn that the first prototype doesn’t usually make it all the way through to the conclusion?  I’m pretty sure that I should know this by now.  I think I need to rethink how far ahead I am going to make gumpaste components.  I know.  You’re thinking, “Seriously?!”  “Do you think?!”  Well….it always seems like I’m going to have enough time.  I guess I haven’t learned to factor in human error.  And, believe me, where I’m concerned…..there’s a lot of human error.  I guess it’s my wild, soaring optimism that makes me think that everything will go right the first time.  Is it any wonder that Megan gets frustrated with me?!

I walked Megan through cutting out a new guitar since I wasn’t home.  This time, I told her, put a bamboo skewer through the neck for support.  She texted me and said that it seemed to be working.  Late that night, when I got home, I checked out her guitar.  It still didn’t look sturdy enough but I thought it might work.

Friday morning I got up early and went to check her version of the guitar.  It had a crack in the neck.  Back to the drawing board.  I quickly layered three layers of gumpaste with a skewer running the entire length of the guitar and extending out the bottom so that we could actually use the skewer to stick into the cake.  It worked.  I put it in front of a fan and got to work on crumbcoating all the cakes.

It must have been strong enough to last because I saw it laying on the woman’s countertop the day after the party when we stopped there to pick up the cupcake stand.  I like it when people keep the gumpaste components to our cakes.

As you can see, this project alone took a tremendous amount of time.

Factor in cake number two, due the same day.

We got a message from a friend to do a cake for her little boy who was turning three.  She wanted penguins since they were doing a penguin party at the local zoo.  Again, since the cake would be for children, we wanted the components to be tasty and easy to munch on so we decided to use fondant instead of gumpaste.  It shouldn’t be a problem since the penguins weren’t terribly detailed anyway.

I got to work on this cake.  Where Megan enjoys layering gumpaste and piping details, I enjoy shaping fondant and gumpaste.  I love to see a piece of fondant come to life in my hands as I shape bodies and faces, beaks and wings.  It only took an evening to come up with the pieces for this cake and I worked on it as Megan finished up the details for the guitars and picks.

Factor in cake number three (wait a minute, did I say that we try to restrain ourselves from taking on more than we can handle?).

A dear, dear friend and her husband had been at Thatcher’s birthday party two weeks before.  They knew that we were doing cakes but hadn’t yet seen any of our cake pictures.  They must have spent at least a half hour on the sofa with Megan as she showed them some of our pictures on her computer.  The husband, in particular, seemed to be enthralled with the detail that we put into some of our cakes.  It’s always fun for us when people enjoy looking at pictures of our cakes.

A few days later I got a phone call from this friend.  Her husband’s birthday was coming up and she was surprising him with a party.  Could we do a golf cake for her?  You guessed it.  Due the same day as the guitars and penguins.

You may remember, way back in our early days of blogging, that we wrote about our cake rules.  We had said that there is safety in sticking to the rules.  Well, one rule that I didn’t mention there was the rule that we NEVER turn away a friend.  No matter how much we have to do, we do this mainly because we love doing cakes for the people that we love.  God has gifted us with so many wonderful people in our lives and we have gotten a great deal of joy out of doing cakes for them.  No matter how busy we were, there is no way I was going to say no to this precious, precious friend!!

So we set aside the time and worked on golf components.  We had done a golf cake before so we just borrowed some of the ideas from that cake.  It made it somewhat easier, in that we didn’t have to come up with a new design, however, we still had to set aside the time to get the components done.  These would be mainly gumpaste, because of the detailing, and would need several days to dry.

In the end, as much as we paced ourselves and worked ahead of time (we’ve gotten much better with scheduling and working ahead) we still ended up with a marathon day last Friday.  I was up at 7:00 a.m. and we worked that night until 2:00 in the morning.  Amazingly enough, we didn’t even have any cake wars (Gracie is convinced that everything went smoothly because she left her lucky ladybug in the kitchen with us……we don’t believe in luck…….we did, however, touch the lucky ladybug the day of the cupcake competition……..let’s say that it’s becoming more of a fun tradition rather than a lucky charm).  We’re starting to realize that the cake wars happen mainly in the planning stages and not in the implementation so we try to be clear and patient with each other when we are in the planning stages.  Anyway, we delivered all three cakes, one after the other on Saturday, and still made it back to my house in time to help my middle daughter get ready for the Pampered Chef party that she was having at my house.

Do you remember when I said, last December that we didn’t have much to do at that time, cakewise?  That’s the last time that I could have been able to say that.  It’s all good though.  There was a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that we got all three cakes done, in time.  We’ve come a long way with time management.

Thank goodness……because people are always more important and seeing those cake smiles mean the world to us.

~Wendy~

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