As some of you might have already guessed, I bake for a living. And on the most part, I love it. I love getting into the kitchen, putting butter with sugar, adding in flour, and churning out delicious cakes and pastries. Although I trained more in the art of Classic French pastries creating delicate looking dainty desserts, I find that my preference leans more towards rustic, comfort cakes – cakes that evoke a sense of childhood, the kind that you hanker after at the end of a bad day, the ones that are full of fat and butter!
Whenever customers ask for recommendations, I often suggest Chocolate Chocolate Cake for the chocolate lovers, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese frosting or Banana Walnut Cake with Peanut Butter frosting for those who prefer something fruity, and Cheesecake for those who are after a richer form of indulgence.
More recently, there are those who look towards more modern classics – combinations such as Earl Grey Lavender, and Orange Poppyseed. And these, I have come to decorate simply and tastefully. I enjoy baking these kinds of cakes too and keeping them minimalistic in form because I prefer to follow the train of thought where less is more.
So we come of the kinds of orders that have me screaming ‘NOOOOOO!‘ in my head and nodding ‘Yeah! Sure‘ to my customers. Perhaps it is because of doubt that I might not be able to execute the cake to their level of expectation, or mine for that matter, that I question why I even took the order. And I often agree to do the cakes at a price that I usually later realise was probably far lower than I should have quoted. But I take it all as a learning curve for myself in trying to build up more confidence for the cakes that daunt me.
These cakes tend to be fondant 3D cakes as well as cakes that require some form of design. Think: Children’s cakes. The upside is that the amount of satisfaction I get from them when they are done is far greater than from the ones that I am much more comfortable doing.
I remember earlier in the year when I was asked to bake a cupcake with 5 different Marvel comic figurines. I had to handmake all of them with fondant. I got myself into this little fix simply because I didn’t think through all the work I would have to do before agreeing to make these cupcakes. This is exactly the reason why I often end up taking on the cake orders I dread – I open my mouth much faster than my brain can process the information.
But I put my head down and got to work on the figurines. One at a time. Looking up pictures of those that I’ve never heard of before since I don’t follow Marvels very much. To those who are seasoned, they could have probably made these with their eyes closed. Me? I set aside a time frame to complete at least two a day just before the cake was to be ready. And to be honest, I was rather proud of myself when it was completed. Sure, the figurines weren’t all perfect, but they at least looked like what they were supposed to look like. And it gave me immense pleasure to see the entire cake come together.
More recently, I was tasked to make an Owl Cake and an Elephant Cake for a little girl’s 2nd birthday. The cakes are relatively simpler to make than 3D cakes, but while fondant work is something I don’t do on a frequent basis, I have never even touched on these buttercream-designed cakes before. I knew how to do them in theory, but wasn’t quite sure how they would turn out in reality. And we’ve all seen those Pintrest vs Reality photos now haven’t we?
I’m pretty sure that most of us have certain areas in our line of work that we enjoy doing more than others, but I guess part of life involves pushing ourselves that little bit more in the ones we enjoy less. And that, inadvertently helps us to grow. In this case, I really wanted to make sure that my animal cakes would end up looking like the animals they were supposed to look like. I had to cross-reference a few different cake designs and prepare my material beforehand. I also made sure that time was on my side in the case that things didn’t quite go as planned and I would have to make another.
I didn’t have to.
And while these are still not my favourite cakes to look at in my portfolio, I’m pleased that they turned out the way they did. Aaaand even more pleased to hear that the little girl loved them. That’s what counts at the end of the day no?
Right now, I think I’ve managed to find a pretty sweet spot in my balance of cake orders. On the most part, the cakes I do are more straightforward to make – basic sponge, flavoured accordingly with frosting and minimally decorated. And once in a while, I get thrown what I consider to be a curve ball where the cake requires a lot more time, effort, and patience. While I don’t think I have a flair for making them (contrary to what my momma thinks), I cannot deny that all that work is more than worth it when the cake is done, is received with delight, and is eaten with relish!