Lately, I’ve been trying to get a lot of things out of my system. A few toxic people, absolutely, but also some things I’ve wanted to try to see if I’d be any good at them.
(I wish I could get this UTI out of my system. Does it ever fail the first day of vacation some THING happens to put a damper on it? With the help of some antibiotics, it should be leaving soon. I hope. It’s somewhat limiting my vacation experience…)
So one of the things I’ve wanted to try is decorating a cake with fondant. When I decorated Zombiegirl’s Mad Hatter cupcakes last year, fondant saved the day. That was really cutting and pasting pieces like a puzzle, so I didn’t feel it really counted. I had dreams of tiered wedding cakes with sharp angles and drape-y elements hung like magic. My mom was a cake decorator- she made my first wedding cake- but she worked strictly in icing. I watch all the cake shows on HGTV and always thought “I could do that…”
So when one of my coworkers asked if I would be in on Thursday because it was our manager Bill’s birthday, I volunteered to bake him a birthday cake. He didn’t want anyone to know it was his birthday, but since he’s such a nice guy, I couldn’t let him NOT have a cake. Since he’s a big Civil War expert, I researched and Googled and thought the perfect cake would be a Rebel Hat cake.
Until I realized that the Rebs were gray, and the hat was this weird squishy shape. Gray is not the most appetizing color for cake icing.
MR suggested I drape a flag over the cake. Okay, that sounds really easy, but would my coworkers get upset about a Southern Cross draped over a cake? Not exactly politically correct.
MR, being a Civil War fanatic/expert himself, told me to look up the Bonnie Blue. It was Florida’s flag during the Civil War era, and the confederates adopted it as their first flag. Perfect- blue with one white star. I could totally handle that.
I was planning on a double tiered cake, each layer being chocolate and yellow cake with my (newly) homemade mulberry jam in between. Frosting with piped borders and then the fondant flag draped over it should not only be delicious, but would please Bill to no end.
I should have known that the best laid plans ALWAYS go awry.
First, I worked from home the day before so I would have a little extra time to decorate. It turned out I was really busy that day and didn’t get as much time as I wanted. that, and the mistakes I made led to a very late night.
Second, the day I decided to decorate was the first hot day of the summer, so all the jam made a beeline for the edge of the cake, over the side and tried to escape off the plate. No amount of coaxing would get the jam to stay on the cake, so I scraped it all off and mixed it with chocolate pudding. Now, before you say “Ewww”, fruit and chocolate happens to be a very popular choice in wedding cakes and when I tried this, it actually was really good. I slathered that between the layers and stuck it in the fridge to set.
Third. I made a ton of frosting while I was fighting with the filling. When the cake was cold enough, I started a crumb coat of frosting around the layers. Because it was so hot, after a while the frosting started sliding off the cake. I threw it back in the refrigerator to set, again. When it cooled down, I tried frosting it but the heat won. There was no way I was going to be able to transport a frosted cake on the LIRR, then the subway and the walk to work and expect it to survive.
Plus, I found a dog hair in the frosting. I guess that would be the fourth thing that went wrong.
Now, dog and cat hair is a food group in my family. We’re used to picking it out of our food and placing it like a fish bone on the side of our plates. Grossed out, surely, but used to it. Others, I’m sure, would not be too keen on picking dog hair out of their slice of birthday cake. I’m terrified that something coming out of my kitchen will be hairy and I’d be deemed unclean. Even though no animal is permitted in the kitchen when I’m cooking, I’m still scared. So when I found the hair in the frosting and realized transportation may be a problem I ran to Michael’s and bought two boxes of fondant.
Cool, I thought. I get to play with fondant!
I colored and rolled and cut and draped and wrote (with edible markers, which don’t really work, btw) Happy Birthday, Bill and Deo Vindice which was used by the Confederates and means “With God as our Champion”. Even with the heat, the cake came together nicely and more importantly, stayed together nicely during the long commute to work.
Bill was surprised, and knew exactly what all the references on the cake were. He reached up at one point and grabbed a hat off the overhead file cabinet and plopped it on his head. I knew what it was, but all my other co-workers thought it was a Dallas Cowboy’s hat.
Happy Birthday, Bill. I’m rolling up my fondant experience and stashing it away forever. I got that out of my system- cake decorating was Mom’s thing, not mine!