February 4, 2010
I recently was asked by a friend to bake three different birthday cakes for a party she was hosting. Three different people, three different ages and three different tastes.
If you have been reading my blog you know that I love to bake. I bake a lot. And I even sometimes sell what I bake! It is a funny thing to take something that is a hobby that you love doing for yourself and your loved ones and turn it into a business, however small that business may be. I enjoy the process of baking, but even more I think enjoy making things for people that I know will make them happy. So I put a lot of work into these cakes. And I think they were really appreciated. My friend emailed me the next day to tell me they were a big hit at the party and a great conversation piece.
One of them was a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. It's a great recipe from my baker/partner Tom and it has walnuts and spices and comes out very dense and moist. The frosting is the best part: loaded with cream cheese and butter and flecked throughout with orange zest to give it a little color.
I colored some of the frosting with some edible orange decorating powder and piped some little carrots. For the leaves I used parsley and for the numbers, I had some fruit jelly candies on hand left over from Christmas and I cut an orange one into strips to form the number 35. I loved the bright orange color and I'm sure they tasted good too!
For the next cake, for my friend's husband, she requested his favorite kind of cake: vanilla with mocha buttercream frosting. I had never made a buttercream frosting but thought I could just add a little bit of espresso and some chocolate to plain buttercream and it would do the trick. Not only did the color seem great but it tasted so good. Yes, I licked the bowl.
I kept the decorations simple and masculine for him, piping chocolate ganache dots and just the numbers. I may have added a few squiggly lines here and there at the last minute after I took the photo, but left it pretty sparse. She said he loved it.
The last cake was requested as well: red velvet with cream cheese frosting. I'm not gonna lie, this one was decorated by Tom who is an excellent cake decorator and helps me out from time to time, thus the more frilly piping and perfectly executed borders. But it turned out that this cake was for a girl who likes frilly things so it all worked out in the end.
While this was a paid assignment, I enjoyed it as much as if I were making a cake for my family or my best friend. I think that's the key to making quality products that people will love. If you'd make something with love for your favorite person or yourself, why would you make it any differently for a customer?
I'm making a cake and some cupcakes for a dinner party this weekend for my friend's birthday. I know she'll love whatever I make for her, but I'll enjoy the process just as much. I'm thinking coconut-vanilla cupcakes or chocolate-buttermilk cake with raspberry filling.... mmmm