Our family has always dreamed of crafting those extravagant cakes like the Food Network highlights.
Some of the kids invested time on 4-H cake decorating units.
A 4-H project manual builds basic skills so unit one zeroes in a simple icing, a couple of tools, and a one-layer cake with the goal to exhibit the best project at the county fair.
The cake part proved to be a problem for daughter number one, 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 but it was like trying to hide Mount Everest under an ice cream cone. No champion ribbon that year.
Daughter number two was the creative sort stifled by the rules for the unit. When she was required to form a mat of frosting stars, she didn’t understand why the cake couldn’t show through. It would be like hiding the tuba in the marching band.
No blue ribbon that year, either.
Our son, at age 10, signed up for cake decorating and even went to a workshop where he and 25 girls learned the fine art of placing stars of frosting on waxed paper. This, of course, made absolutely no sense to him except he licked clean the frosting 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, I’d let him do the cakes.
And 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. Imagine a lava flow sliding across his design.
The lava-icing flow continued until he got the cake to the fairgrounds. His frosting border resembled the outline of Texas.
No blue ribbon that time either.
But he didn’t need any cake decorating classes to take over the birthday cake tradition in our family. I had once served crumbs molded like the foothills of Colorado with icing drizzled over the top. I had hoped for a puppy shape but that didn’t work out either.
So I had no cake decorating tradition to enforce.
I let him take care of the birthday cakes.
I was in charge of licking the bowl.