Monday, December 17, 2012


This weekend my house was transformed into a maelstrom of hyperactivity and plastic forks as I paid my yearly penance for failing to count to nine before I conceived my child--AKA Tess' birthday party.

If you'd rather not add the madness of your child's birthday to the roiling stressball that is December, I can't stress the importance of late March/early April abstinence enough. Put up signs. Keep Out. Just Say No.

Anyway, because I failed miserably at basic math comprehension, my daughter's birthday is December 22nd; something I'm trying to atone for before she is old enough to resent me for it. Poor timing notwithstanding, I do love parties, because what is a party if not an excuse to make a great cake?

Tess' birthdays are pretty much the reason that I started making cakes in the first place, and they provide a nice commentary on how much it is possible to teach yourself when you are too cheap to take proper classes. To illustrate this, I offer you a Timeline of Tess' Cakes.

Age two:

Sesame Street, because, of course! These are frightful in so many ways, but as a picture speaks a thousand words I'll try and keep my commentary to a minimum. The least offensive of the bunch is probably Elmo, though Cookie Monster would have taken that title if he were the correct shade of blue. Oscar looks like he was bred from the loins of Hitler and Harpo Marx. I also see that my poor judgment led me to arm wee Elmo with a tiny choke-able nose, which I remember to be Gobstoppers--I'm sure that was appreciated by the other parents. I took pains to use the correct piping tip and then turned around and applied it in a completely incorrect way, causing these guys to look like combed-down versions of their spiky-furred television counterparts. My only saving grace is that everything was in fact fully edible, a concept that I abandoned entirely a year later.

Age three:

Ah, flight of the bumblebees at its finest. At the time of baking, Tess had a burgeoning love of The Berenstein Bears, and I created this Queen Bee cake as a tie-in to her BB themed party.


I know. Marginal at best, but, guys, I was MAD proud of this cake. I piped the whole thing in like, five hours; a Herculean effort that made it okay to slap some paper wings on that sucker and call it a day. Seriously, I don't know why the paper wings, but I do know that my hands were cramped into claws for hours after I finished this. The details leave a lot to be desired--poor thing looks like it was just goosed, what with those crazy black spotted marshmallow eyes, staring in terror at a seething mass of rainbow-colored maggots.

I don't know why I didn't move the cake to a more picturesque location before I took this picture, but we learn as we grow, right?
Age four:

This one is better, but still pretty flawed. I wanted to try my hand at a Mad Hatter topsy-turvy cake, and ended up cranking out this monster, which weighed  in at thirty-five pounds. I didn't have a very firm grasp of the topsy-turvy technique, and the bottom tier looks more pregnant than anything, but still a decent effort. I made the majority of this cake after a Christmas party and I might have been a little topsy-turvy myself. I do like the contrasting pastels, but that's pretty much the only good thing about it. The inside was "Peppermint Patty"--chocolate cake with peppermint frosting. It sounds gross because it was.

Age five:

When Tess was five she was crazy-obsessed with Glee, and her Glee cake was probably the easiest of the bunch. It was huge (you may recognize the size and shape from the checkerboard brownie incident) and I was less of a spaz at fondant, but that's about it for this one.

Age six:

Now we're cooking. This is the famous Batman cake, and I think it's pretty sweet. Tess was supposed to be Batman the previous Halloween, but she got sick the morning of and couldn't go out, so her homemade pink Batman costume was all for naught. We did this cake to make up for it. For once I didn't eff up the stacking, the fondant didn't tear, it was a solid effort all around. Brandon cut out the Batman insignias but I think, and I could be wrong, that I did the lettering, which I am not particularly known for. I don't remember the flavor combo, but since the fondant is black it was probably chocolate something.

Age seven:

We had a helluva task upon us. Tess has developed a deep, deep love for Adventure Time on Cartoon Network, and if you've never seen this show I urge you to locate and watch it immediately, because it is the SHIT. I was stoked to do this cake because Brandon and I are just as obsessed with AT, as is evident by our Halloween costumes:

We were Lemongrab, Princess Bubblegum, and Fiona, for the uninitiated.

There was ample potential for a kickass cake, but the show is such a hodgepodge of characters and colors and trippy acid moments that we had a time trying to figure out what the best showcase would be. Finally we settled on an illustration of the basic AT landscape on the bottom and a smaller version of the Ice Kingdom on top. Then we made the characters, and goodness they are cute:

Finn and LSP


Ice King and Gunter

Princess Bubblegum

Tree Trunks and Pep Butt

Getting them ON the cake was more of a challenge, because most of them have long, spindly parts that don't hold up well. Finn fell apart at least fifty times before I got him to stick, and both he and Beemo lost an arm when all was said and done, but in the end I was pleased with the results.

I love this picture. It looks like LSP is shit talking to Tree Trunks.

Ah, nothing gives me a sense of accomplishment quite like digging through four years' worth of cake pictures. I know that this post has little to nothing to do with literature, unless you count my pithy Berenstein Bears reference, but I also mentioned the Mad Hatter and four different television shows...I think that counts.

On a more serious note, which is a place I hope to rarely go, we had exactly twenty children at the party--the vast majority of whom were first-graders. Spending the day with a nearly identical demographic to the twenty innocents that were lost just the day before was the epitome of bittersweet, and I can't even begin to imagine what the parents in Newtown, CT. are going through. The kids were wild, manic, laughing, wrestling, jumping off furniture, spilling juice, and pounding pizza dough with all of their might, and I cherished every single one of them. I hope against hope that they are able to grow up and bring their own children into a world that is far less terrifying than the one they are living in today.

Happy baking, all. Be nice to one another.

1 comment:

  1. These pictures don't showcase the SIZE of 1/2 of these cakes. The AT cake was massive!