Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Own Wrecked Cake

A fun and interesting article in The New York Times this week cast a spotlight on a website – which turns out to be a blog – called Cake Wrecks (cakewrecks.blogspot.com), by a woman named Jen Yates, with photos and stories of professional baking (mostly icing) efforts that went off the rails. If you’ve ever ordered a cake and had it come out not quite as you’d hoped, this site will definitely make you feel better.

Some of the featured disasters reminded me of the first cake I ever made for a boyfriend. It was Valentine’s Day and I was in college, and while my sorority house only had six women living in it, we had a full-scale kitchen that served meals every night to those six and a few other lucky seniors. But for much of the day, the place was empty, and the kitchen available for discreet projects by sorority members.

So I decided to make a Valentine cake. I had a mix, so the baking part went fairly smoothly, and I got the icing on without incident. And I had bought one of those squirt cans of red icing, with which I drew a large heart and wrote Happy Valentine’s Day on top. All that was left was to deliver it to my current heartthrob.

I hadn’t thought to get a platter for it, and I wasn’t comfortable borrowing from the kitchen, but I found some heavy cardboard that I wrapped in several layers of aluminum foil. I had placed the cake in the middle of my makeshift plate before I decorated it, and when I was done, I carried the whole thing to a corner of the kitchen where it would be out of the way. At least that was the plan. But as I crept carefully across the kitchen with my labor of love, the cardboard bent in half and I watched in horror as the cake slid onto the floor with a soft plop.

With all the time and energy I’d put into the project, I was determined not to allow this misstep to foil my efforts. Carefully avoiding any cake that was actually touching the floor, I scraped the whole thing up, put it back on its flimsy platform, and drew a giant heart with the red squirt can. And I gave it to my boyfriend.

I asked him the next day if he and his roommates had enjoyed it, and he said it was terrific. But he said it hadn’t looked like the sort of cake that one cuts neatly into pieces, so they had simply eaten it with their hands. I was glad to have missed that part.

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