I guarantee I can make you the perfect cake. Not just a delicious cake, or an overly expensive looking cake – I’ll make one you’ll have to love because it will reflect you as an individual. It’s a pretty rare talent, the skills for which took me years of playing with various sugary substances to acquire. A single cake can take more than ten hours work, spanned over a few days to finish. I know it’s time well spent once the cake it eaten, completely gone – then it is visual art and edible art, all the more memorable for its ephemeral nature. I’ve made a wedding cake that combined whimsical humor with earthy beauty, a match for the bride I’d never met in person. Family, charity, friends, friends of friends – I’ve made cakes for them all.
The only person I’ve refused to make a cake for is myself. If the personality determines the design, then what cake could be easier than my own? It’s not a lack self awareness that stops me, but an overwhelming amount of knowledge. A cake for myself would have to be ultimate, all-encompassing; anything less would leave me unsatisfied. Just to imagine it is a daunting task….
First off, flavors need to be chosen. This means, as always, hitting the recipe book shelf. Sitting on the floor surrounded by open books, it’s hard to not get wrapped up in all the possibilities. Half an hour later I’ve decided – chocolate “cloud” cake layered with chocolate mousse and ganache for the outside. This flourless cake has one of the most impressive batters I’ve found; with carefully beaten eggs providing the structure. It’s a recipe that’s as mesmerizing scientifically as the taste is. With these choices, the chances of a large sculpted cake toppling over before it’s even done are high, but that’s alright. My cake will be risky and delicious.
As for design, the most important piece of information is the occasion. A graduation cake seems fitting – something to celebrate my experiences thus far and recognize the drastic change college years will bring. I mull over what could represent me in such a way, and the cliché “story of my life” comes to mind. The cake will be a vertical stack of books, each volume represented a different stage in my life. The subtle humor in this seems fitting, so very me.I start stacking the cakes, reaching a foot high block, and then begin to roll out the fondant to cover the cake. It takes a few hours just to carve the ridges down the side of the stack that look like book bindings and then get a piece of fondant to stay over the whole thing. Even after years of practice, fondant can still require a few tries until it is just right.
Now the the cake is a blank series, waiting for me to fill in the book titles along the binding. I start at the bottom, where the books are large and very thin: “1995 – Ruining Brother’s Chances of Being an Only Child”, “1998 – The Quiet Child Who Won’t Stop Eating Onions”, “1999 – Learning French and Figure Drawing at a Really Weird Montessori School”. As I move up the stack, the books become smaller, but thicker: “20__ – First Family Death”, “2003 – Santa’s Not Real!?”, “2004 – Ruling the School in Fifth Grade”, “2005 – The Awkward Stage Begins”, “2009 – The First Cake”, “2010 – How to be a Good Camp Counselor”, “2011 – AP Classes Eat Time”, “2012 – Applying for College”. The top book will be a kindle, the newest addition to my personal library. Innovation is admirable, but tradition has it’s place in every cake. A graduation cap will be the topper.
The main cake is done, but there is still the hardest work ahead. I fashion some open books out of rice crispy treats and fondant, ready to reveal some of the more important aspects of my life. They’re scattered haphazardly around the stack. With modeling chocolate, I begin sculpting figures to place on the open pages, to bring the books to life. There are two dogs, the loves of my life, pulling themselves out of one book towards a treat. There’s a book with rudimentary figures of my family on top. One book is about home – a replica of my school on one page and my house on the other. And there’s a book with a filled bookshelf on top, just in case my love of literature wasn’t clear enough. With this, my cake is complete.
When there is a cake that transcends into the field of art, I see beyond it’s physical form to the person the cake is made for. This may seem like a stretch – who wouldn’t be doubtful that a pastry could reveal so much? – but it’s the infallible premise on which my cakes are made. Even this hypothetical cake portrays so much of who I am. The ironic part is that it may be as short-lived as any real cake. I expect the experiences of the next few years will leave me a wiser, changed person. So, I’ll leave finally making my own cake to a day when it can be an even grander representation of who I am and will become.