Blue ribbon cakes…or not

If you’re not familiar with 4-H, you have missed one of those incredible opportunities for training and crazy stories.

Because we’re in a rural area, our kids completed several 4-H projects in their careers.

bad-cakeBut the most interesting was cake decorating.

The Food Network has nothing on some of those extravagant cakes displayed at the state fair. Fortunately, our kids didn’t see those works of art before they signed up.

A 4-H project manual builds basic skills so unit 1 zeroes in a simple icing, some simple tools, and a simple cake.

The cake part proved to be a problem for daughter #1, who baked her show cake the afternoon before it had to be entered. When the edges of the cake wouldn’t release from the pan, she solved the problem by cutting away the edges.

Most of the cakes entered were 8” round but hers was more of a 5” lumpy. She slathered on icing in an attempt to hide the lumpy. No blue ribbon that year.

Daughter #2 was the creative sort and felt stifled by the rules for the unit. When she was required to place touching stars of frosting, she didn’t understand why the cake couldn’t show through. A lot. And why she couldn’t make the cake look like a diorama of the earth. No blue ribbon that year, either.

Our son, at age 10, insisted he be allowed to take cake decorating and even went to a workshop where he and about 25 girls learned the fine art of placing stars of frosting on waxed paper. This, of course, made absolutely no sense to him except when he licked clean the paper after the workshop.

We found out later that he signed up so that he could be in charge of the family birthday cakes. He figured if he’d finished cake decorating 1, I’d let him do the cakes.

And presumably lick the frosting, too.

His show cake came together on a hot summer day with frosting that needed a lot more sugar than he put in the bowl. He didn’t quite pour on the icing but you get the idea.

His design drooped by the time he got the cake to the fairgrounds. We’re talking blue lines and yellow stars turning into dripping green blobs. I still wonder if his judge stifled a giggle or a technical foul upon seeing the entry.

No blue ribbon that time either.

What he didn’t know was that he didn’t need any cake decorating classes to take over the birthday cake tradition in our family. After I had served up a birthday cake one year that looked like a heap of crumbs molded like the foothills of Colorado instead of the puppy pan it had come from, I was in no position to hold onto the cake-making tradition.

I let him take care of the birthday cakes.

I was in charge of licking the bowl.

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