This week’s obsession: A Sh!tty Situation
Well, I guess I can no longer avoid the elephant in the room. I really didn’t want to talk about the worldwide pandemic on my blog but it seems it’s unavoidable these days. Rebels, we are in a tight spot. A shitty situation, if you will.
The virus itself is something to be extremely worried about (it’s not just killing people over 50 - it’s taking out healthy younger people, too, so make sure that you take precautions so that you yourself don’t suffer from it, so you do not take up precious space in the hospitals, and so you also don’t share it unwittingly with everyone you breathe near/on before you realize you have it. HEADS UP: there are some extremely close talkers out there. They absolutely don’t know who they are and I think it’s time we start calling them out in the interest of public safety...), but also we should also be concerned by the realization that our healthcare system is extremely inadequate, that the shut down of many Americans’ jobs who truly cannot afford to be out of work for even two weeks (but will most likely be out longer) will cause even more damage than the virus itself, and that Americans are committing bizarre yet continuous acts of hoarding toilet paper. I mean, what the frack is that all about people?!
Because of that last one, there was a cake artist who created an exceptionally poignant cake in the shape of a lush, fresh-out-of-the-package sized toilet paper roll, and I thought it was HILARIOUS! I wanted to do my own rendition of it last week, but National Panda Day happened which is exceedingly important (plus I wanted to ignore the pandemic and was hoping it would be gone by now. HA!), so I deferred. Then people started tagging me in photos of this cake on social media and sharing it with me on group texts and I decided that even though I bought extra fondant to be able to recreate this cake for my blog, I just couldn’t because it’s too overplayed. (In case you can’t tell, I am absolutely one of those people who won’t do something that I was planning to do simply because someone told me to do it. I HATE being told what to do!)
But then again, no one actually told me to do it. They just made sure that I saw it. As the most recent person who sent me a photo of the toilet paper roll cake said, “at least we are all thinking about you.” Which is incredibly sweet, and an excellent reminder that we should put ourselves in the mind frames to be positive and grateful for the things we do have right now. And I am so thankful that people look at a toilet paper roll cake and think of me. Plus this cake idea is absolutely hysterical! Soooo... I decided to recreate it after all. Of course I had to put a little twist on it with the crown (aka CORONA in Spanish), because toilet paper is king right now, and we all seem to be worshiping it like it will deliver us from evil. SIDE NOTE: It won’t.
However, I want to let you in on a little secret. This isn’t an actual cake! This is called a dummy cake, and it’s made out of styrofoam. That’s right, I chose to not bake more cake right now because I still have a literal HALF of last week’s panda cake still sitting in my fridge (I was only planning to make a 6” round cake for the panda, but then my man candy decided to have a pool party as a last hoorah before we committed to social distancing, so I upped it to a 9” cake [if you know anything about cake sizes and portions, you’ll know that it’s a huuuuuge difference] because he invited probably 15ish people. And some of them really like cake! Unfortunately the morning of the pool party - after I baked my 9” cake layers - there was a confirmed case of COVID19 on the island and all but 3 people [wisely] declined to go to the party to keep themselves safe. Hence the rather large amount of leftover cake.) and I felt it would be wasteful to bake more cake for this week (also I’m getting concerned about my waistline with all the quarantine snacks I’ve been consuming, and having another cake around would be bad news bears).
So this week I chose to do something I had been planning to do for a while. I repurposed the top tier of one of my previous dummy cakes to make today’s toilet roll cake. I scraped all of the decor off the foundation layer of fondant and cut a 6” disk of white fondant for the top. I used a round cookie cutter to extract the center circle and filled the space with a brown fondant disk to represent the cardboard roll. Then I wrapped the tier in a fresh sheet of fondant and melded the edges together with a fondant smoother before carving all the individual sheet indentions into it by hand. Last, I cut off most of the excess fondant that I wrapped the cake with, and then tore the edge to make it look like a real sheet of toilet paper. I added the crown much later just to make a statement.
Now, you may ask why dummy cakes are even a thing. Good question! I’ve done several dummy cakes in my career - the first one being in pastry school, which allowed me to practice multiple decorating techniques such as covering a cake with fondant, border placement, and stacking.
I took this dummy cake home with me on the L (Chicago’s public train system) after school that day and received multiple stares of disbelief because the cake was sitting out in the open on my lap during the train ride home, but I was so tired that day that I was leaning my face on it. Finally some guy broke the silence (most people don’t speak to strangers in Chicago. It was the weirdest thing for this Southern belle to show up in a city where no one even acknowledges each other, much less strikes up a conversation.) after staring at me for quite some time with, “ok I have to ask, is that thing real?!?” He broke the tension that I didn’t even realize was there because several other people laughed, or breathed sighs of relief, or chimed in with, “yeah I was wondering the same thing!” and other questions that made me laugh. I was able to assure them that it was in fact not real and that I was not about to deliver it to someone after putting my face and bare hands on it!
I created another one a little over a year after I graduated when I took an advanced cake decorating course with Chef Marina Sousa in Chicago. After completing the class, it took a lot of persuasion but I got to take this cake onto the airplane with me and was able to display it in the French pastry shop I worked in. Because I used real fondant, gumpaste, and isomalt, it smelled like a real cake and tricked people into thinking that it was real.
I’ll never forget hauling it through the airport in my arms and receiving MULTIPLE marriage proposals from guys who somehow all used some version of the same line: “You already got the cake, we might as well get married!”
But more importantly, since this wasn’t a real cake it lasted for quite a long time. We were able to feature it as an example in the cake shop for over a year so that others could see my capabilities, and so we didn’t have to spend time making a new, elaborate cake every week for display. Hence another great reason to make dummy cakes.
And then of course there was this gorgeous little thing that I made last year for my branding photo shoot.
She got to star in several of my photos because she’s so photogenic :)
I chose to make a dummy cake for this branding session because having a real cake wouldn’t matter for the set up - my clients can’t taste my marketing photos. All that mattered is that it was well decorated, which I certainly think it was. Plus I was able to start working on this cake far in advance of the photo shoot, which freed up my time to make last minute deliciousness like macarons and tarts.
It seemed to show up pretty well in the photographs, too, so this dummy cake served its purpose! I am sorry to say that this cake is no longer in existence though, because this is the cake that I disassembled in order to make the glorious King Toilet Paper Cake.
Now we’re back to this toilet paper cake. I chose to make it a dummy cake so as not to waste food in these uncertain times - another great reason to make a dummy cake instead of a real cake: no waste! Especially since I can’t really go out and share it with anyone right now and I do NOT need to eat any more cake than I already have. Plus in all honesty, I don’t think I would want to eat a cake that looks like TP, anyway. So now I’m going to be grateful that I already have plenty of cake supplies including a dummy cake base that I can repurpose and will hopefully get to use some time to test out other decorating techniques.
Do you have any technique suggestions or questions about a technique that you would like to try yourself? Leave me a comment or email me at RebellionBaking@gmail.com and we’ll discuss!
Until then, please stay safe in this shitty situation, wash your hands, and be smart about the consequences of your actions.
Happy eating, y’all!