Not only have the past few months been our busiest ever, they have also been the most challenging.
Things haven’t changed much here. Megan is still the one that is reluctant to take on projects that she doesn’t think we can handle. I, on the other hand, am still jumping off cliffs of fondant into oceans of buttercream.
Things started to get booked up for the month of June.
Note to self: remember that people graduate, have baby showers, wedding showers and birthdays in June more than any other month, therefore, be careful with your scheduling.
So things were already filling up when Megan and I were asked to do a car cake for the father of a friend.
Another note to self: don’t take on your most challenging project in the busiest week of the year.
I have to admit, this time I was somewhat hesitant but I sort of welcomed another challenge. I had done some cake carving but nothing this precise. I had also watched hours and hours of cake shows with bakers carving all sorts of things from King Kong to a boom box. Famous last words, “But it looks so easy.”
When we work with gumpaste components we try to schedule plenty of time for mistakes. Gumpaste is easy to fix. If you don’t like the way things are taking shape, you just smoosh it together like a piece of clay and start all over. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done bodies and heads for gumpaste characters only to smash them and start all over again. But that’s okay, I usually have the time to do that. There are those random times, however, when we are in a time crunch to get a project done and I start to have panic attacks because the gumpaste will not cooperate and I’m running out of time…..and when I say ‘panic attack’ I’m not kidding. I have experienced full blown panic and am well acquainted with it.
You can’t smoosh a cake and start all over when you’re carving it. I wish that I had taken process pictures to show you here but carving the car cake came during one of our busiest weeks and, sadly, there was no time to stop and take pictures.
We started to talk through the process. I would need to stack plenty of cake so that there would be plenty to carve.
Let me just say here that I hate to waste cake. It always bothers me when I watch the cake shows where people have garbage cans next to their carving stations. I suppose that they do such a volume of cakes that throwing some of the carved off pieces away doesn’t bother them. I don’t know what it is, perhaps growing up in a home where money was tight, or even some of the financial struggles that we have had, food is food and you don’t waste it. Even if it’s cake, which no one in my house really needs to eat (I am certain that these extra 10 pounds came around the time that Megan and I started ‘caking’), I just can’t throw it away.
So what do I do with it, you ask? Whether it’s from leveling a cake or carving a cake, I usually put the carved pieces on a plate and set them off to the side and they are usually gone by the time I am finished crumbcoating. People wander through my kitchen and the pieces eventually disappear. My husband has designated himself the CTO……..Chief Tasting Officer.
Back to the car……
Megan’s friend, who had requested the cake, was having a 60th birthday party for her Dad and he has a car that is very special to him and, could we make the car into a cake? She sent us pictures that she had taken from every angle of the car; front, back, side, even details of the license plates front and back. We studied and studied and studied the pictures. I knew from the beginning that if my carving wasn’t accurate, the detailing would be what pulled the whole thing off.
The cakes were stacked and ready to go. All the girls were here to help advise. Serrated knife in hand, I got to work. Slice, carve, cut, cut, slice, cut, carve, carve, slice, oops, glue that back on with some buttercream, carve, slice, carve, step back and look at the angle, slice, slice, carve, cut look at the picture of the car, cut, carve, slice……
It took about an hour before I was satsified with it and ready to crumbcoat, and it was one of the hardest things, ‘cake-wise’ that I have ever done. I crumbcoated it, covered it in black fondant and handed it off to Megan.
With her usual Megan cake-magic, she brought the car to life. I have to say that I wasn’t completely happy with my efforts, the body should have been longer and the overall proportion wasn’t quite right. My husband, who is our ultimate critiquer, kept saying, “It’s alright, there are so many curves and angles on a car that it’s hard to get it right.” Well, that made me feel better (do you recognize sarcasm when you hear it?) I knew what he was saying in his husband-language was, “It’s not quite right, but it’s okay.”
I knew, though, that none of that would matter once Megan worked her detailing magic.
And, boy, did she ever! She spent hours painting tiny license plates, shaping tires and wheels, and putting rearview mirrors into place. I had wished, in some ways, that I could have gone back and re-done the whole thing from my end. I think that I could have done a better job. I lacked the confidence that I needed to boldly carve with abandon. I was too careful. I should have gone more with my gut feelings about proportion, but there was no time to rebake the three separate cakes that I had stacked together. Maybe I was being too hard on myself, but then, Megan and I are both perfectionists.
In the end, we delivered the cake and the client loved it. It wasn’t perfect but the client was happy and that was all that mattered. Megan had saved the day with her detailing.
I knew she would.