April was a busy month for me. My son turned eight and I had to bake a cake for his birthday. Like always, I wanted to squirm out of the deal and just place an order with a professional baker (you see, I get all jittery with baking cakes at home for occasions) but he would hear nothing of it. He said that since I had made a pretty one for his sister's birthday he wanted something special too. Now, knowing that my son could come up with the most complex of designs I set out my conditions before hand and asked him to pick something simple. I secretly decided to make a simple chocolate cake with some buttercream frosting but as always the man coaxed me into pushing my boundaries and trying my hand at fondant again. "Again??! I exclaimed with some eye rolling and head shaking. I wasn't going to be killing myself over rolling stubborn fondant again I said. My feeble protests fell on deaf ears and instead of showing some sympathy he asked me to make the figurines (cake toppers) too! He said we could always buy the plastic ones if my handmade ones flopped. Ok, so that sounded reassuring (or so it seemed at that moment - I didn't know if I was getting complimented or not) and I started my online research in order to finalize a design.
For those of you are not familiar with it, 'Inside Out' is an animated movie revolving around emotions of a young girl. Each of the five personified emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear & Disgust) play a role in the movie. It is a wonderful movie that you must watch together with your little ones as it is a great way to teach them about how different emotions control our behaviour and if we don't control them, can play havoc in our lives.
I decided that an 8 shaped cake would be the best bet. Then the little boy popped in with some ideas. He wanted an 'Inside Out' themed cake. I had mixed feelings. While the idea seemed doable I wasn't sure how I would pull off the whole thing with my routine schedule. Since my weekdays are packed with housework and extra curricular activities for the kids, I had to plan ahead and start making the cake toppers much ahead of time. A good ten days before the birthday I went around supermarkets gathering ingredients and tools that I would require for my mission. My baking angel#1 Trevilla chipped in with a lot of info as I went along picking stuff. She was baking a cake for a family occasion too, so it was fun having someone on board a similar adventure.
A ton of Googling later I realised that I would overshoot my schedule if I didn't time everything to a T, I was already late and cake toppers required ample drying time if you didn't want them crumbling under their own weight. Lesson learnt too late. Anyway, not the one to give up midway I trudged along.
Here's how I planned to bake my cakes
Fondant to make the figurines: Store bought 'Bridal White' and 'Apricot' coloured fondant (to make the face of 'Joy' that required
Fondant to cover the cake: Homemade marshmallow fondant
My schedule was something like this:
Tuesday, 26th April: Started making the first out of the five cake toppers. The first of the 5 toppers, Joy was a complete disaster. I had made a trial figurine that looked hideous and so I looked for a better tutorial on YouTube and finally found a bunch of them here
The next 4 toppers were done over the next couple of days as some of them needed some resting time before the rest of the limbs could be fixed.
It took me a whole day (on a Thursday) to bake, fill, frost and cover the 4 chocolate cakes. Despite the fact that I am used to baking cakes I was jittery about assembling them. All throughout my friend Cherie was with me on the chat in a combat mission :-) She helped me tackle all the 'logistics issues' and somehow with the help of my hubby the cakes were assembled, safe and sound.
This time around rolling the fondant was a breeze. It was quickly done for the first stack of cakes but the second one was a pain as I rolled it out too thin. When you have an 8 shaped cake to cover you have to be careful to roll out both pieces of fondant in equal thickness or you will have a cake that is slightly lopsided. Anyway, every experience is a learning.
Friday, 29th April, the day of the party started early for me. I finished my housework early and started working on the final figurine -that of 'disgust'. Like I said before, I felt I should have planned much ahead and finished making the figurines beforehand. Anyway, without much choice I went on to finish it by 11 am as scheduled and the proceeded to make the 'memories' (the little coloured balls). With the help of the birthday boy the decoration was completed by 2 p.m after which I took the time to click some pictures at home (something which I couldn't do for my daughter's birthday).
At the end of it all, I got many compliments for having accomplished this task. I was mighty pleased with myself because I had never thought I could make a cake with handmade figurines. I am glad that my hubby pushed me out of my comfort zone and try something different. I know that the figurines could use some more practice to make them look neater and better but its all about giving this job ample time and patience. I wish I had taken a picture of the cake after it was cut but that didn't quite happen. I will share the recipes of the cakes and the fondant soon.
While I always knew about the effort that goes into cakes that are covered with fondant and decorated with handmade gum paste art and appreciated it always, my respect has increased a thousand fold for all those cake artistes who dabble with it on a daily basis. So the next time you feel like haggling with a home baker for the price of a cake, stop! There is a lot that goes into creating that final piece of art that wows your guests. Money can only partially quantify the effort, patience, time and care with which the final product is given to us.
Today as I look back at this cake experience I think I was more calm and composed in comparison to my first cake adventure but did end up run around like a headless chicken a day before the birthday party. Reaching out to my very personal 911, my angel#2 Cherie
who is a professional baker in Bangalore was the best decision ever. A gazillion Whatsapp audio messages later (try this feature, its fun!) I was heading somewhere. I encountered many challenges such as the ganache not setting on time as anticipated and not having a cake board to move the second round cake onto the main cake board. But the lessons learnt from my previous cake escapade
and the fact that Cherie was with me the entire day, mitigating every problem in a very systematic way was the saving grace. It is during times like these that I count my blessings and thank the Lord for giving me such generous and helpful friends. If someone goes out of their way to spend time with you, to help you, to make sure you don't lose face or have a breakdown, then celebrate them, bless them and cherish them forever for they are the guardian angels who live right in our midst. Thank you Cherie & Trevilla!!
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