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Adventures in Cake Decorating

I am no baker.That is I'd by no means put myself forward as a cook at all, unless you'd call making spaghetti and browning minced-meat for bolognaise sauce culinary achievements.However, there's something about special occasions that brings the frustrated pastry chef out of me and sends me galoping into the kitchen, my head jammed with intricate cake decorating ideas.

It all started when my wife was approaching her thirtieth birthday. I decided to mark her entry into her fourth decade by baking her an amazing cake.I imagined her admiring gaze as she watched me pull this monstrous cake from the hidden depths of our under-used oven.By this time I was so keen to get started that I had to force myself to calm down, sit down, and get my ideas down on paper.I began to sketch a few decorating schemes in red pen on the back of an envelope in time-honored tradition, and eventually decided on a colossal triple-layer chocolate gateau with an enormous suspension bridge spanning a river of blue icing and a little plastic model of our family car perched in safety on top.

I'd like to be able to say that my cake decorating ideas usually come out as gorgeous as I imagine them, but Im just not so good at being economical with the truth.In this case, the lovely triple-layer chocolate supension bridge cake decorating fantasy turned out as three limp, amorphous layers, crisp at the edges and doughy in the middle, featuring a delightful San Andreas fault running through the centre, as if there had been an earthquake in the oven.It tasted alright but it looked like something that had been salvaged from its own private earthquake.

So when my son's birthday came around, I resolved to try again.On this occasion I decided to plumb for a less imposing single layer cake swearing that I would sit tight and wait for the cake to cool before even thinking about decorating it.I reckoned that by waiting I would avoid the fault lines that had swallowed up the bridge and family car in the adventure on top of my wife's cake.Instead of cooking up intricate cake decorating ideas on the back of an envelope like a power-possessed architect, I resorted to a basic design that would be difficult for even me to make a hash of.Really, it's one thing being able to come up with tons of great decorating ideas, but quite another to pull them off.

I made the body of the cake and let it cool down according to the promise Id made to myself (and according tothe instructions on the box).It took all my will-power not to dive in brandishing my trusty icing spatula.

This time, Id chosen to frost with chocolate fudge icing and top it off with my own sketch of a lamb in the centre, which was meant to resemble the cuddly toy my son sleeps with at night, ringed with 5 candles.I figured if I held my natural cake decorating flamboyance in check, the cake would come out okay.And it did.Until I attempted to transfer my creation from the kitchen counter to the fancy plate I'd prepared, lost my balance and dropped it.The result resembled the aftermath of an earthquake, including fires and distraught wildlife.My wife commented on the 'natural disaster theme' that ran through my cake decorating repertoire, which was funny, I guess. At least they both had a good laugh.

I rescued the candles, but the lamb was badly singed and, sadly, did not survive.


About the Author: Eoin Beckett is a freelance writer and editor. He writes both short fiction and non-fiction for both online and print publications. Although he stems from Ireland, since his teens he has lived in countries all over the world and has forgotten many - but not all - of the Irish songs he grew up with. He currently lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark.
There is more to get your teeth into at Eoin's Gourmet Cooking Class site.




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