These last few months have been quite an adventure! What started out to be my September newsletter “All About Birthday Cakes” is now, due to extensive travel and touring, my “September/October/November” Newsletter! But that’s just fine because my deeper message is all about “going with the flow” with full expectation that doing so often changes your plans!
September sailed into October, which slid right off the page into November, and as the weeks in Ireland, England and Italy flew by I realized I was just going to have to surrender into the moment and not stress about it and relinquish my pre-defined demands and expectations. And since it just so happens that making cakes, if approached in this same style, is a perfect way to practice expanding one’s creative parameters and master the art of transforming ‘mistakes’ into new opportunities! So here we go!
I turned 58 on September 14th, which got me thinking of my lifelong passion for whacky cake decorating. I’d never really done much baking from scratch except for my foray into baking really good homemade bread back in 1981 when my son was born, until I was eating a loaf or two with breakfast every morning and it wasn’t so good for my waistline so I had to cease and desist.
But giving birth to a child insured me the right to create at least one whacky birthday cake per year (the child is well into his 30’s now). I have always been quite superstitious that one MUST have cake on one’s birthday and no matter how depressed or unhappy you might be and even if it’s just a piece of cinnamon toast you MUST put a candle in something that at least vaguely resembles cake and make a wish! This is mandatory.
My son Ernest was just turning three and he was nuts about trains so I made him a “train cake” with little boxcars and pinwheel cookie wheels. I got so into it I even went so far as to hang marshmallows on clear fishing line from the ceiling in graduated lengths to look like puffs of smoke!
Please note that the “other Mothers” can have varying reactions to unorthodox cake decorating ideas. Just remember brilliance is often ahead of its time! My only rule is that I like to make sure that the whole thing is edible, decorations and all.
I’ve always taken the reckless abandon approach when constructing my cakes often using cake mix and store bought icing so I can get to the fun of decorating! Depending on the plan (and I use that word very loosely) I usually bake two or three cake mixes with oblong sheet cake pans and then cut and paste with icing. I’m not afraid to bake up a big blob of cake and start sculpting away. In certain cases a big round stainless steel bowl is good for rounded shapes, etc. Forget the box instructions for baking time when you go this route. Just poke the thing with a long knife until it comes out clean (hopefully without burning the outside edges). The thing is, although it’s easy enough to buy cake pans in all pre-molded shapes, it’s much more fun and dangerous to use hunks of cake and icing and fashion something that way.
Another cake that was a favorite was the “Electric Guitar Cake” which featured lollipop string turners, licorice strings, and volume knobs made out of rollos and red hots. I think Ernest was turning seven for this masterpiece. You’ll notice perfection is definitely not part of the goal here. I barely had that thing slapped together in time for the other kids to start arriving for the party! Speaking of kids…how young was I! Wow. Time flies.
Just be very brave and hack away (see reckless abandon) realizing that most mistakes can be adapted and sometimes they are happy accidents. It’s so much like songwriting! Sometimes I’ve even just cruised the aisles of the grocery store looking for interesting edible things I can hang on a cake and let that help clue me in to what the cake is going to end up being.
One of the most challenging cakes I ever had to come up with happened the year Ernest announced that he wanted to go vegan. Being as superstitious as I was about needing something to stick candles in, this really had me stumped me at first. And then I started thinking about how I could create something really gorgeous (sugar-free, wheat-free, salt-free, and additive free) with colorful veggies, which I surrounded with lovely green cash for garnish! See? If you just stay open to it Creativity will never let you down!
There are many other cakes I dug up from the past that you can see here in my “Birthday Cake Gallery”!
Such as the crazy skate park cake I made for Ernest’s 30th Birthday:
And the super creepy clown cake when Ernest turned 14!
Then there was the super cute “Club House” cake for Ernest’s 6th Birthday!
I want to leave you with my latest creation which marked the first birthday of my grandson Atreyu! As you can see he was quite happy with it! I found “kit-kat” candy bar sections worked great as the “black keys” and for the white keys I dipped some long crunchy crackers in white chocolate. Rollos again were the perfect volume knobs and then just touches of color with red-hots and icing dabs. I worked on this until way too late the night before and, Ernest laughingly pointed out to me the next day, “Mom, you only have one “D” on this keyboard!” Ah well….as I said…nothing is perfect! Thank goodness it got eaten up before the kids noticed!
For my website this month I’ve featured one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever tasted which I had while staying with the Trimbles in Drumbo, Northern Ireland. It’s Helena Trimbles “Pavlova” cake. Pure heaven! It may be my favorite that I’ve ever eaten. Helena Trimble is truly a masterful baker and makes this one from scratch! Check out the recipe !
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