Friday, May 30, 2008

And Then There Was Cake

I guess now it’s time for me to play catch up with cakes. I realized this morning that there have been three cakes I have not posted pictures of. The first was for Sweetpea’s birthday in February. She chose Backyardigans for her parties this year, and her cake was Pablo. (Yes, I did say partIES. As in more than one. She’s probably the only 4-year-old I know that gets a minimum of two birthday parties every year. This year there were two big parties, and two mini parties. Spoiled brat.) Here’s a pic:

This one was the one I did for her party here, though the cake for the party in Wyoming was exactly the same except thicker (two cakes stacked to accommodate more people in attendance.) Being just a character cake, I didn’t really learn a whole lot from this one. Except maybe the re-learned fact that I hate blue icing. HATE blue icing. Although I did find it quite amusing to see a room full of adults with blue lips, teeth and tongues.

The next cake I have not previously posted was for my nephew’s party in March. The one I missed when I was deathly ill (See:
Doctor Obvious). His party was fire truck themed, and I truly was sorry I missed it, it sounded so cute! Here’s a pic of that one:

Huh. How about that. I don't remember putting an exclaimation point at the end. Ahem. As I stated earlier, this is not the first time I have decorated that particular cake, so I didn’t really learn much. I think the only info I took away was that “birthday” definitely has an “h” in the spelling, and that pearl dust works relatively well on whipped icing, but not as well as on fondant. Oh, and that cake sparkles have about the consistency of shredded cellophane, with twice the static cling.

The last cake will require some explanation. May 1st was my boss’s 10th anniversary as a Chapter 13 Trustee. This is especially significant because it seems there has never been a Chapter 13 Trustee in Utah that long. I’m thinking the previous record was like 7 years or something. So, since this was an extra special occasion, I decided a cake would be appropriate. The trouble was, I couldn’t think of any way to decorate it that fit. A plain anniversary cake did not seem appropriate, nor did an office-themed cake, or even a straight up law-themed cake. I was stuck. So I sent out emails to everyone in my address book that knew my boss, was involved with bankruptcy or the law, decorated cakes, or was just plain creative. I asked for any and all ideas anyone may have had for this sort of cake. I must admit, some of the ideas were pretty fantastic, though a few I could have not have used without getting fired. (I have some pretty interesting friends…) As it turned out, the cake ended up being a combination of ideas from at least three friends, plus the added cohorting of three co-workers. The result of a collaboration of minds. I will not mention any names, and will explain why in just moment. They know who they are, anyway. And to all of you who contributed, thank you so much for your suggestions and your help!

So the cake itself will require a little explanation. Here are a couple pics:

It is actually two separate cakes, meant to represent the number 10, for 10 years. It was then suggested that I turn the zero into a pie graph. Actually I kind of have that backwards. I elected to go with the pie graph first, and then someone suggested I add the one to make it a ten. The graph is meant to be my boss’s time at work “distributed on a pro rata basis”. Most who aren’t involved in bankruptcy won’t get that, so, without going too far into detail, a short explanation: a Trustee in a Chapter 13 distributes money to creditors, those people owed by the debtor filing bankruptcy. These days, most creditors get paid on a pro rata basis, meaning there is a pool of money and each creditor gets some of that money based on what portion of the overall debt is owed to them. (e.g. if the total owed is $20,000, and one creditor is owed $10,000, then that creditor will receive 50% of the available funds.) So, in our business, “distributed on a pro rata basis” is equivalent to a household term.

Of course I could not be serious with this cake, so the sections of the pie graph are meant to be humorous or facetious. I think the pictures came out pretty well, but if not, here’s a breakdown:

55.5% - Putting out…fires
10% - Running interference for the…
10% - Jumping through…hoops
8% - Potlucks and Ice Cream
6% - CLE – finding rotten Easter Eggs
6% - Judging Employees’ apparel and appearance
4% - Creating Powerpoints for debtors’ entertainment
.5% - Court appearances

You’ll notice that I have not filled in exactly what the tags say. The reason is because I don’t want a search for those names to pull up my blog. Not that I really think anyone would care, but still. Better safe than sorry. Anyway, I suspect that most people not involved in bankruptcy here in Utah will not get these jokes. But you at least have to laugh at the Ice Cream and the Court appearances. I did.

Before any of you ask, yes, the pie graph is accurately divided. Each section does represent its assigned percentage. I’m apparently not capable of doing it any other way. I actually drew up the graph on Excel and printed it off and took it to Kinko’s. I had them enlarge it so that the graph was exactly the same size as the cake (12 inches in diameter), then had them make 8 copies. I cut out of each copy one piece of the pie. Then I used each copy to cover the cake, and used spray-on icing color to spray in the missing piece. I outlined the sections with decorator’s gel, and Sweetpea insisted that I add sprinkles to the pie graph cake, since I was using them already for the one cake. I typed up the flags with the section percentages and explanations on them using Word and printed that off. Took me one sheet of paper. I them “laminated” the flags with packing tape, and also taped them to bamboo skewers cut in half. I can’t tell you what a wonderful idea this was (thank you to my coworker for that!) as it saved me from having to pipe all of that information onto the cake, or to make flags out of fondant and hand-write it all with Food Writers. Thank you, thank you! All in all it was not really a difficult cake, just took a lot of planning. I broke up the work over a few days, so I only ended up staying awake until 1:00 a.m., instead of my traditional 3:00 a.m.

A few explanations for inside jokes: the largest pie section is based upon all the trouble one particular attorney gives our office. The next largest is due to my boss’s bosses. Their office goes all the way up to D.C., but I think we first answer to the local office. They keep him hopping. On even keel with that is the national organization he’s on officer for. They also keep him hopping. No wonder Court appearances are so low! The overall result is that he very much liked the cake, and laughed out loud at it all. He kept the little signs, and I sent him the pictures of it that I took. So, in keeping with tradition, here are the things I learned with this cake:

1. Kinko’s charges a lot more for enlargements if you have anything bigger than 8 ½ x 11.

2. Spray-on icing color runs on white chocolate buttercream frosting.

3. It is possible to get a bad can of spray-on icing color. It is helpful to test all cans purchased at a time when a visit to the store of purchase to return bad cans will actually still be possible prior to the time delivery of the cake is due. (i.e. test the cans while the store is still open, and not the night before)

4. Sometimes even inside jokes are not so inside.

5. Spray-on icing color will turn the inside of your nose blue. Or green. Or red. Or brown, if you’re using multiple colors.

6. Triple chocolate fudge cake, filled with milk chocolate ganache, and covered with white chocolate buttercream frosting can create a love-hate relationship between the cake maker and a large group of female co-workers. (Hey, it’s fat-free, right?)

7. Sweetpea is as OCD as her mother when it comes to making things match.

8. Ebay is a fantastic source for retired cake pans, especially when they’re needed in a BIG hurry.

9. It is better to experiment with expensive ideas/ingredients when someone else is paying for them.

10. Even men can be flattered and impressed with something special done solely for them.

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