Something about ‘My Greatest Cake Successes & Biggest Mishaps’
I refuse to label anything in my life as a "failure" because truly where we are deemed to have "failed", we really only have been gifted a lesson to learn. How hard is that notion to swallow and accept?! When we find ourselves in the midst of despair and believe we have screwed up exponentially, most of our instincts are programmed to connect what has happened with negativity. It takes much work on oneself to be able to reach the point where despite the pain of a situation, you have the ability to take a step back and find the lesson. I am committed wholeheartedly to this journey in my personal life but also my professional.
By nature I am the ultimate perfectionist. I'd get a B+ in school and I would have epic meltdowns, I accidentally mix a white sock in with the blacks load and I'm ticked off, I'm exhausted after a long days work but I'll still scrub the stove to within an inch of sparkling. These are just a few examples of the ways in which I am extremely hard on myself for not achieving perfection..I'm working on these mundane things though because really, I know you'll find this hard to believe but..the white sock did in fact survive..and so will I.
Of course part of being successful at my craft is having that element of perfection as a prominent part of my personality. Sometimes it becomes a curse, particularly at 3 in the morning when I've entirely stripped and re-iced a cake because of a tiny indentation I just couldn't stand. Most of the time however, it gives me the strength to sit for hours intricately piping, the bravery to take on challenging designs and ultimately the ability to create masterpieces that my customers adore.
I have an unique connection with every Cake I do, however its no doubt the bond is stronger with a few in particular, purely based on my doubt of if I could actually reach the point of presentation.
One in particular that truly tested my limits and was an extraordinary challenge was the 'Tour de France' cake. The cake itself was no trouble, it was the customers actual competition bike which they wanted replicated out of sugar that was the challenge. It was the intricate construction of the bike parts, the chains, the wires, the metal that all are meant to intertwine seamlessly that was absolutely torturous to perfect. I had about 4 attempts to which the profanities were dripping out of my mouth thick and fast, I was becoming increasingly frustrated and it was the only instance I've ever thought to myself "I don't think I can actually do this - I think I'm going to have to call the client and let her know". When the reality hit that consequently by giving up it also meant disappointing a long-standing, supportive customer, I instantly switched into survival mode. I picked myself up, threw all 4 attempts in the bin, poured myself a glass a wine and started again.
Placing the finished, shiny Sugar Bike on that cake was as proud of myself as I've been throughout my journey to date. It wasn't the biggest or tallest cake I've ever had to do, but it was the one that forced me beyond my usual comfort zone. It tested my resolve, my bravery and determination.
With all successes however, it is inevitable that spontaneous road blocks occur. I am no exception to this rule. I did experience a moment when I was adamant I had failed, and it probably took me a month to get over it and realise, it too was an opportunity to grow.
For those of you who are not aware, humid weather is like the devil coming to visit for Cake Decorators. As soon as the humidity hits the air waves, it causes a condensation to form on Hard Iced Cakes once removed from the fridge. The difference in temperatures is part the problem, though the humidity is what causes the cakes to essentially sweat. I've had some cakes look as if I've hosed them down, this is a frustratingly unpreventable problem and if there are any scientists out there, please create a formula for a Hard Icing that does not condensate. In my early days, before I was fully aware of the temperament of Hard Icing when combined with humidity, I had an order for an Engagement cake, iced in white icing with all black detail. The night before I intricately piped a beautiful black Florentine piping across the whole cake. After a few hours' work I popped the cake carefully into the fridge, confident that it looked great and was virtually ready for delivery the next night.
The morning of, I woke early, what a blessing that turned out to be, and took the cake immediately out of the fridge, this is custom to let the cake come down to room temperature ready to be eaten. I left it on my bench whilst I went to the supermarket, the gym, and ran a few errands, probably a good 4 hours. What I came back to was an absolute disaster. Being a hideously humid day, the cake had sweated so much that all, and I mean all the black piping had run down the cake, leaving behind, well, I guess it could be best described as a black mess. What was my beautifully crisp, sharp, perfect white Iced cake was barely a glimmer of its former self. As you can imagine I went into shock mode, barely moving an inch for a good minute, I wanted to get back in bed with the intent to restart the day all over again. It was an either sink or swim situation...the fighter in me decided to swim.
I immediately decided it was absolutely no use trying to salvage the black mess that was in front of me. I decided to start from scratch using foam blocks. I was in total flight mode, it was incredible, I did about 10 hours of work in 4 hours from pure adrenaline. I knew what I needed to do and it simply was not an option in my mind to leave my customers' cake table empty on their special day. Whilst it all worked out in the end, I learnt a hell of a lot from that situation, not only that humidity and black piping should never meet if possible, but more importantly about myself. I had the ability to really hone in on my determination, and use my fear as a driver not a road block. It was a very telling experience for me and has given me the confidence to believe in myself and know that whatever mistakes I make (and there will be plenty) I will just handle it.
I'll leave you with one of my favourite and appropriate quotes;
“Let go of the attachment, keep the lesson” ~L.J. Vanier
Happy baking, creating and eating.