Wednesday, May 13, 2009

CAKE STANDARDS

I’ve been enjoying looking in on several baking sites, and am amazed at the beautiful and complicated creations on some, the colorful swoops and swags and layers tottery-tall like Dr. Seuss’ sweetest dreams. I love seeing the work of people’s hands, and admire all the different aspects of the work and the imagination and skill of the bakers. I even love a site called “Cake Wrecks,” and am doubly amazed at the awful and funny and sadly optimistic pieces of other folks’ baking craft.

I dropped the top of a wedding cake once, flipped upside down in the trunk of the clean-sheet-lined car, and had to run back in and get out all the icing and tips and bags and refurbish the luckily-unbroken tier. And once as I turned a corner in the long delivery wagon, I heard an ominous thump from the back. A BIG can of pineapple juice intended for the punch had jumped from the top of the bag with its fellows, and landed neatly between Tier 2 and Tier 3, all set out separately for the delivery, and not a scratch or dent on either one. The can was rolling gently back and forth, bumping the cakeboards, never touching the cakes, but it could have had the devastating effect of a Richter 5 on all those tender layers.

And I cannot imagine presenting anything less than a well-made cake to any client.

Way back when I was first getting started in my home kitchen, I had taken an order for one birthday cake, decorated as a baseball diamond. Normally, I did not take orders during the week, as I had another full time job as well. But I was friends with the lady who asked, and liked the little boy who was celebrating his birthday.


But one birthday cake can involve as much mess and confusion and sifting and frosting as would a dozen, especially in a home kitchen with the children doing homework in the breakfast area and helping cook supper, besides. Not to mention the neighbor's child, a forlorn young girl who magically appeared at the door at suppertime, about three days a week.

So the layers were baked, the frosting made, the supper cooked and eaten, and the homework finished. The four teenagers settled at the table for a rousing game of Yahtzee while the frosting and decorating were going on. In order to clean the LOOONNNG kitchen counter properly, and to guard the safety of the finished cake from flying mists of antibacterial sprays, and since the table was occupied, the finished cake was removed to the living room, to the safety of the coffee table.

Had there been a family dog, never would I have put the cake in such a vulnerable spot. Since there was just the one old fat-as-mud ladycat, which seldom emerged from beneath the bed to blink warily in the daylight, and since cats are known for hating sugar, anyway, no thought was given to any danger from that quarter.

During the final counterwipe, a fresh pot of decaf brewing and an easy chair and a nice cozy mystery for resting mind and body in the offing, there was heard in the house an odd sound. Even over the raucous cheers and jeers of the four Yahtzee-heads, came the sounds of "smick-smick-smick" from the living room. All peeked in to see the cat, roused from her hibernation and magically levitated onto the coffeetable, energetically licking second base clean off the field. And a couple of the outfielders hadn't fared too well either, like they'd taken a frantic slide and buried face-deep in mud.


Wide, wary eyes turned toward me. "You ARE going to scrape that off and fix it, aren't you?" in chorus, as if rehearsed.

"No, I am NOT!!" was the emphatic answer, as rattling of cupboards, melting of butter, sifting of flour began afresh at 9 p.m. The table of players erupted in joyous yells, as they scrambled for plates, forks, the jug of cold milk. They incised that yukky section away as skillfully as a surgeon cutting a wart, and shared out great soft slices of the cake---and right at bedtime.


Second Cake was baked, cooled, frosted and decorated, finished about 1 a.m., with a thorough sanitizing cycle in the dishwasher for all the little plastic nine.
My children have told me for years how much they appreciated that I did start over, not just for the unexpected snack, of course, but that I had standards far above foisting damaged goods onto trusting clients. And the kids are the reason that I spent so much time on other people’s parties, sweeping up the midnight rice from weddings not my own.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is your little-sis and I totally think I was the beneficiary of the first two bases - having excised the "cat-slober" from the other half....

racheld said...

Hey, There, TEXAS!!! Glad you could drop in!

'Twasn't you at that particular time, but we DID share a lot of trimmings and leftover buttercream, didn't we?

OnrushPam said...

Rachel, this story made me laugh out loud brought back a flash from my past.

My 2nd cousin, Yvonne, is just a couple of months younger than me. (Her mother was my grandmother's youngest sib, born after her mother was already a grandmother.)

Every summer, my twin sis and I would go spend a week at Yvonne's and then Yvonne would come spend a week with us. Yvonne's family were devout Southern Baptists (unlike we heathen Methodists) and most Sundays there involved a potluck "dinner" on the church lawn after services.

One Saturday evening, we helped my Aunt Willetta make a gorgeous coconut layer cake for the next day's festivities. Shortly before we were to depart for church, I discovered their toy poodle up on the kitchen table, greedily licking all the coconut and frosting off that cake!

Aunt Willetta deftly snatched the cake and trimmed off the yukky parts, grabbed a bowl and whipped up more frosting and made it almost good-as-new! I thought the solution quite clever and we three girls giggled all during the meal.

When I told my Grandma Little about it (the other side of the family), she was horrified! She wouldn't have let us eat that cake, never mind serve it to folks at church. Much of what you write often reminds me (fondly) of my Grandma Little!

racheld said...

Good thing it wasn't one of your greyhounds!!! Always good to hear from you, Pam.