I don’t even know what to say here. Actually I’ll start with a warning - if you’re reading this with children, or are in an uptight sort of work environment, or are uptight yourself, maybe save this one for later.
This week, I’m keeping with the theme of being out of my comfort zone. Way, way out of my comfort zone.
So very far out of my comfort zone, in fact, that when my client asked me to make this particular birthday cake, I originally said no. I have never carved a cake like this (or any cakes for that matter), I haven’t the faintest idea how to decorate it, and boy does it not fit in with my typical aesthetic. I started off by suggesting some alternative cake designs that I would be more confident in making, but the shaped cake was pretty important to my friend. Oh, did I mention that my client is actually a friend? One of the darlingest women on the planet and I hated telling her “no” to begin with, so when she gently insisted, I totally caved.
Also she threw in a little word grenade of, “it’s for my father’s 70th birthday.”
I’ve never met this man, but apparently this hand gesture holds a lot of significance.
I immediately set to work and sketched my own hand with some adjustments to make it more masculine (short nails, more width to each finger and the palm itself, etc.) to use as a guide for carving and decorating this cake.
In the last two weeks, I have made some pastry related assumptions when it comes to my friends, and after these conversations, I’ve come to realize that I should clarify some of these. The one I will focus on today is in relation to this cake. After I finally agreed to make a carved cake in the shape of a middle finger, my friend asked for it to be a white cake with buttercream. Take a peek at my menu and you’ll see that I don’t offer white cake. I asked her if vanilla cake would suit her needs since I actually have a stellar vanilla cake recipe that has made plenty of clients very happy, or if she needed me to test out a white cake recipe if it, too, was of particular significance for this birthday.
She said of course it was ok, and actually that’s what she thought she was ordering. Then it dawned on me that people outside of the cake making world don’t always know that there’s a difference between vanilla cake and white cake. So here it is, your tip of the week: always choose vanilla cake.
Or don’t. It’s cool. But at least you should know what the difference is so you can make an informed decision about your cake choices. So here’s what’s up. Vanilla cake (or as it is sometimes called: yellow cake) has all of the deliciousness - whole eggs, butter, sugar, flour, and vanilla (I use an additional secret ingredient, too, and it makes all the difference!). It’s rich and delicious and yellow-ish because of the butter and eggs. White cake only uses egg whites to allow for a lighter color and a fluffy texture. Sometimes the butter is also switched out for shortening in a white cake to enhance that color effect. In my opinion, the switch is not any tastier and I couldn't care less about the color so I definitely don't think it's worth it. In pastry school, my chefs always taught us that we eat with our eyes first, and while I agree with that - appearance is important for pastries - I will eat an ugly cake but I will not eat a cake that doesn’t taste good. So overall, my preference is first for the cake to taste good, and second to be visually appealing.
Ok, here’s where you should definitely stop reading if you’re with kids or at work or if you get offended easily. 😬
Just before I finish almost every cake or pastry order I make, I’m hit with a strong surge of imposter syndrome/self esteem issues/absolute hatred for the piece I’ve been working on all week, which usually ends in tears and many proclamations that I’ll never amount to anything and I can’t believe I’m wasting my life like this. You know, typical Millennial stuff.
Usually I reach out to someone close to me to talk me off a ledge, and this time I chose my Man Candy™. (I don’t know why I do this. I grew up in an environment of tough love, and have definitely surrounded myself with people who practice that same philosophy, so I should know better by now. But I digress.) I sent him a photo of the cake and told him that I was struggling with it and was afraid my friend was going to hate it. Instead of reassurance and warm fuzzies, I got this text exchange:
I then cried for 20 minutes.
I wish I were kidding about that. Once I finally pulled myself together, I texted my friend who ordered the cake and told her that I would completely understand if she hated the cake decorations, but I could attest to the fact that this cake is delicious because I’ve been snacking on the scraps of it all day. She reassured me that this cake was for entertainment purposes only and that whatever it looks like would be just fine. (Now THAT’S the kind of support I need in my life!) So I boxed up the cake and delivered it to her house for the birthday boy.
Her dad was not there, but her siblings were. They took pictures of the cake and laughed because they totally agreed with my Man Candy™ that the middle finger on this cake did in fact look like a d*ck. I was mortified, and dying on the inside, but it made them laugh so hard that I guess in this once instance accidental phallic imagery was a good thing.
After all of that, she texted me to let me know that her dad thought the cake was hilarious, and that they loved the taste of it, too. #WIN
I guess all of those tears were for nothing. Would you agree? Leave your comment below!
Happy eating, y’all!
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