Saturday, August 1, 2009

PART I: The Race Against the Clock

7:30 AM: Turn off first alarm.
8:00 AM: Turn off second alarm. Go back to sleep [obligatory]
8:08 AM: Wake up, get out of bed, turn on the coffee pot, get dressed.
8:53 AM: Leave for the cake shop.
9:02 AM: Arrive at the cake shop.

9:06: Retrieve family tree cake from the back. The woman would be in at 10 o'clock to get the cake, so I came in early to finish it up on time.
9:09 AM: Add the mostly-hardened fondant plaque w/ photo at the base of the tree:
9:14 AM: Review notes on the names and placement for the tree. The birthday woman [now a great-grandmother according to the family tree] had seven children, most of which were married once [or twice] and had several children who also have children, so the tree was extensive and complex.
9:19 AM: Begin arranging the fondant name tags to match my notes.
9:23 AM: Realize that this is going to take too long and I should just start putting them on the cake and figure it out as I go.

9:27 AM: Realize that a few tags stuck to the metal pan and broke. Also forgot 3 people. Re-make these tags.

9:41 AM: Done putting tags on. The top-right corner is a bit unknown - I was a bit unclear about some of the names - who was a son, a husband, or a brother, so I'll ask the customer when she comes in.
9:48 AM: Drawing lines in icing to connect all the names [crossing my fingers - hopefully no one gets a spouse or sibling they didn't know about].

9:51 AM: Mixing up color for the border.

9:55 AM: Quickly putting the border around the base of the cake. Accidentally smudge the top of the cake in my haste. Cover this and other nicks by adding more brown "tree" swirls over them.

9:59 AM: Quick border on the photo plaque. Glance at the clock, sweat, panic a little.

10:00 AM: Deadline passes, no customer.

10:06 AM: Add some quick writing [definitely not my finest] and a rose in front.
10:09 AM: Breathe a sigh of relief, cake is done except for the names to add and arrange with the customer's guidance.

10:11 AM: Photograph the cake.

10:12-10:19 AM: Clean up the absolute mess I made on my table in the past hour being all frantic.

10:21 AM: Customer enters and is thrilled with the cake. Added the final names in the questionable corner and she quickly checked all the others - everything seemed to be in order. She appreciated the time we took to do a truly custom cake. It was a great reaction because she hadn't picked it out from a book [not that there's anything wrong with that], but she really didn't know what to expect and she was honestly happy with the result. So yay! The cake in its nearly-finished stage:
After this, I settled into my routine of dotting a wedding cake. Though after I was done, Joan realized the ribbon was supposed to be pink, not white. Easier to make that change than something like the icing work:
I'm reading a great book called 'Heat' by Bill Buford, who is a writer but willingly became a kitchen slave / apprentice in a NYC restaurant so he could learn the ways of food and cooking. The book is all about his experience and insight and as he is a writer, there are some excellent quotes. In one of his first nights as a line cook, he struggled to get the fish grilled correctly ["I broke many fish... twenty-one had been ordered, but thirty-nine were cooked], but by the second night "I seemed to be getting it - such is the miraculous pedagogy of relentless repetition." And it's so true - by doing the same things over and over again [Swiss dot wedding cakes anyone?], you have no choice but to get better. So if repetition is truly the key to success, let's see how my second Dora in two days turns out ...

... tune in for Part II.

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