True confession time here, the Practical Cook loves cake. The Southern cooking tradition is full of cakes, often intensely sweet and involving Cool Whip. In my past professional life, I had the privilege of working with the Cake Mix Doctor. It is absolutely impossible to spend a chunk of your working day talking, writing, and promoting conversations about cake and not do some field research. So the Practical Cook headed to the local craft store and took a class on cake decoration.
For some of you who know me in real-life, this is probably a shocking admission, but yes, I can produce a “Wilton rose” and fold parchment into a makeshift icing bag.
Here’s someone on YouTube to show you how:
If you have time or inclination, I highly recommend taking a class. It was fun, and it’s a great skill to have up your sleeve. (Special thanks to partner in crime Dr. Particular for taking the class with me; they encourage you to sign up with a friend.) Look for cake recipes in future posts, but for today, take what you’ve got, and make it pretty. Here’s how.
1. Work your theme. This is a Little House on the Prairie cake with fruit strip log cabin, plastic figurines, candy sky, sugar grass, and the good old bulldog Jack, who is actually a licorice Scottie from Trader Joe’s.
2. Buy or borrow the right pan. It’s not a hassle when you can provide a castle for the princesses on bikes party. A little sugar glaze, some sparkly purple sugar, licorice in the turrets, and a photoshopped Princess on a Bike flag.
3. Cut-up cakes are your friend. Search for Baker’s Coconut Cut-Up Cakes to see the classics. The Practical Cook’s Mom passed her copy down to me, and it’s a treasured resource. This is a homemade Carrot Cake (recipe now available!). It’s easy to maneuver and contains 1 pound of carrots and some whole wheat flour.
4. Fruit strip art is hip, and requires no icing skills. My favorite trick here is the cherry juice and powdered sugar I mixed to make that bright pink shiny nose. This is just two 8 or 9 inch rounds cut into shapes. It’s the carrot cake again, perfect for Easter, and slightly post-modern.
5. Be unafraid, frosting covers all sins. The cake was slanted, the frosting refused to become smooth, so I went bridal on it. The drop flowers are very easy to make and place, and the bright colors liven up a chocolate cake.
A few ideas to get you started. Obviously, my primary work is kid’s birthday cakes, but the lessons apply to any cake. Add some fruit, some gummies, some jelly beans, and you’ve got a decorated cake. Cut up fruit strips and “draw” with them. Use candies creatively. Cake is fun—there’s never been a better time to play with your food.
Coming up tomorrow, Peanut Butter Powerhouse Snacks recipe. Snack time has never tasted better.
Share a birthday cake idea: practicalcook at gmail dot com