A few weeks ago I was chatting to my sister about cake, as we do. We were discussing previous cake orders and I mentioned how every toddlers birthday cake I’ve been commissioned to do was for a little boy. I kinda missed pink. Pink and frills and all those other things customers will say they absolutely do not want on a cake for a boy. Not half an hour later, my cousin messaged me asking if I could make a cake that ticked all those boxes.
Her niece’s birthday was approaching and she wanted something Minnie Mouse. I was so excited! These are the kinds of cakes I can’t make for customers because of copyright law, so when someone in the family wants one we can go nuts with ideas.
It’s no secret that I have about 300 fandoms too many. Ever since I was three years old I’ve had my head in a book. Novels have always been a favourite form of escapism: if I don’t have a book on the go I feel completely lost. Every so often a gripping story comes along that spirals quickly into an obsession. An obsession I feel the need to talk about. Constantly. A Song of Ice and Fire, better known as Game of Thrones, is one such obsession.
My other half isn’t so big on reading. Mostly he feels like he doesn’t have enough time to read and never gets around to it. I know dragging him into my favourite worlds via the written word is a lost cause, so when a great adaptation comes along there is much prodding and poking to get involved. He’s endlessly lovely about it, so he always placates me by sitting through it. Often he enjoys it, sometimes he loves it. But rarely does he match my level of obsessive addiction. Until Game of Thrones.
By the time he watched it with me, all three seasons were out. His constant plot questions indicated he was getting into the show, and then randomly quoting his favourite lines. But I really knew he was hooked when he began requesting to watch the next episode until we were watching 6 in a row. And then when he wanted to watch all the seasons over again. And again. For someone who is usually a casual one-episode-a-week-is-plenty kind of fan, it was a huge deal. Now we watch it together all the time and chat about it constantly: it’s become our ‘thing’.
Yesterday, the first episode of season 4 premiered. The wait had been agonising and we were endlessly excited. It also happened that the episode was airing in Australia on my birthday. The occasion called for some celebratory cupcakes.
This last month has been pretty cake crazy, and with a number of family events around the corner it’s about to get crazier. Every time I finish a cake project, another one appears. When I finished the owl cake I was relieved to have a break from impending deadlines, but then the next Link’s Blacklist Project round opened for sign ups. Oops. Maybe one day I’ll be able to return to my own giant list of fan art projects that’s steadily growing my the moment.
Last month I got the opportunity to step away from all that and make a birthday cake for an occasion, rather than an art project. This family had been at the birthday party of another family who commissioned a cake from me. They liked what they saw enough to want me to make a cake for their son’s birthday, too. That’s always an incredibly flattering way to receive a commission, knowing the person has seen and tasted your work and wants more of it.
The idea was as simple enough: they wanted a colourful, two tiered cake adorned with all their son’s favourite toys.
Over on deviantART I joined an art project called Losing Altitude. The project is a collaborate art book both celebrating the beauty of, and raising awareness about the plight of, endangered birds. You can hear more about it and see some of the work by contributing artists by peeking at the Kickstarter.
Over 50 artists from varying backgrounds were involved in this project. As with most art collabs I’ve been involved in, that majority of the art was drawn, though there were a few of us repping the artisan crafts community. Given that I’m an absolute novice at digital art, I of course turned to my strengths. I contributed two pieces to the project, both of them endangered native species. The first was a papercraft of the Helmeted Honeyeater. The second was this cake.
Raptorial birds have always been amongst my favourite critters. I seem to have a fierce love of top order predators in general, but there’s so much to love about them. I’ll spend some time telling you all about these guys, why they’re endangered and how you can help. Then I’ll talk about how I made the cake.
If you’re a fellow Aussie, or have been paying attention to our lil’ continent of late, you’ll be aware of how scorching this summer is turning out to be. Off the back of our hottest year for over 100 years, we’ve delved into a 2014 that doesn’t look much better. In three weeks we’ve already had two major heatwaves. It’s not a huge deal if you have air con. I don’t, which makes the heatwaves much harder to cope through. Last week the room temperature of my house didn’t sink below 30°C at night, and that was in the room we were dedicating all our cooling efforts into. It led to a lot of sleepless nights and exclaiming at 5am, “How is it still 35°C!?”
Needless to say, cooking and baking have been so far out of the question. My diet has largely consisted of watermelon, ice and anything that can be quickly cooked on the stovetop, which is also why the blog has stayed quiet for longer than planned. Too hot to make food, or eat food, or open a curtain to photograph food, or to sit in front of my computer talking about food.
So when my cousin asked me to make a Mike Wazowski cake for her son’s 3rd birthday, I said I’d keep an eye on the forecast and let her know. We were blessed with a relatively cool week the week she needed it, so I said it would be no problem. I baked the cake, carved it, covered it in ganache and let it set overnight, ready to be fondant-ed up the next day. That’s when the forecast changed.
This is the last cake from the month of cake madness. This is Grug cake requested for a kids birthday party.
I doubt anyone not from Australia will have any clue who Grug is, and even a lot of the Australians amongst you may not remember him. I’d, admittedly, forgotten all about him until I was asked to do the cake. Grug is a character from a series of illustrated children’s books written by Ted Prior. Though there have been no new books published since I was a little kid, you can still find them amongst the kids book section of most any book store or supermarket.
A few months ago, a friend of mine asked if she could commission me to make a cake for her birthday. I was, of course, incredibly excited to be given the task and promised to save the date. Little did I know at the time how insane November was going to be for commissions, but I was fortunate that they all fell on different weeks and I didn’t have to turn anyone down.
I know this friend through Uni. We did our Zoology undergraduate degrees together, and we also started our Zoology Masters degree at the same time. When she first asked me, I had no idea what sort of cake she was going to ask for. But when she later approached me with the idea, I figured I should have known. While all of us Masters kids have a passion for every animal, great and small, we all have our groups of fauna we navigate towards. We tend to think of ourselves as being in two groups: the terrestrial and the marine halves. Her passion, and her research, is marine biology, so I perhaps should have guessed that her cake would be along those lines.
As soon as she asked me for not only an octopus, but a blue-ringed octopus cake, I was practically bouncing with excitement. Given that I was on a tram on my way home from work it probably wasn’t the most appropriate time to become hyper, but I was thrilled at the chance to try it.
Once the excitement wore off, though, I had to work out how the hell I was gonna make this thing. Realism presents an exciting challenge, but it also terrifies the living daylights out of me. To the point I tend to actively avoid it in most forms of art I try. When you’re going for a stylised or cartoon version of something, you can get away with a lot. But when you’re aiming for realism, it becomes so much easier to miss the mark, and so much easier to pick out every fault.
This cake is another of the commissions I was working on last month. I was contacted by the family of a little boy for who I made his first birthday cake. I actually couldn’t believe an entire year has passed since then. I still think we’re in April most days.
After a bit of back and forth we worked out a design that would suit the occasion and I got to work.
Depending on which corner of the world you call home, Catching Fire is either out or about to be out. Here in Aus, it came out today. I have to wait until tomorrow night to see it. If you’re wondering if I am going moderately insane having to wait an extra day, then yes. Yes I am. I am so excited I am quite literally bouncing. A lot.
To celebrate, I decided to make some Catching Fire themed cupcakes. Not that I need more sugar in by vicinity right now, but I couldn’t resist.
Having only seen the trailer (more times than I am going to admit) I thought I’d go for cupcakes that were symbolic of certain characters, rather than trying to depict actual objects from the movies as I’ve done in the past. I also wanted to do it in the least spoiler-ey way possible for those of you who haven’t read the books. So all these cupcakes mostly depict things we’ve seen in the trailers already.
The saying ‘it never rain, but it pours’ has never felt so appropriate for me as it has this last month. While I’m more often approached for quotes, it is actually quite rare that someone (outside my family, at least) commissions me to make a cake for them. But this last month has been nothing but commissions. I’ve spent all my spare time in the kitchen staring at cake and icing, crafting things of someone elses imagination. It’s most of the reason I’ve been so terrible at getting back to all your lovely comments and emails lately, something I keep promising myself every morning I will catch up on.
I’ve had to set aside my list of fan art cakes and such I have planned, but it’s been a fun change. It’s wonderful when someone entrusts you with the task of bringing to life the cake that exists in their minds eye, something that it for an important occasion, something to share with all the people they hold dear. It’s equal parts nerveracking and I never quite stop stressing until I see their overjoyed expressions, and even then I still panic. I’ve got a heap of cakes to show you guys over the coming weeks, alongside the usual recipe posts, so here’s the first one.
The family this cake is for is one I’ve made cakes for before. They were one of the first people to ever commission a cake for me. For their son’s first birthday I made them this jungle cake for their private celebration and this one for the larger birthday party. This year he was turning three and they approached me about making another cake for him. This time he was old enough that they were able to ask him what he wanted, and he answered straight away: a race car.