Category Archives: adventures

you’re not the only one…

so this month, back in August, pastry live, had a 3 day event comprised of seminars, workshops and competitions all for the glory of sugar and chocolate. not sure what bug got in my bonnet, but i decided to throw my hat into the ring for “the art of cake” competition. they had a pretty cool concept – take your favorite artistic inspiration – art, artist, or time period – and translate that into a sculpted cake creation. piece of cake! not. at. all.

first of all, we had to submit both the artistic interpretation and cake flavors for the tasting cake waaay ahead of time. not so great for a procrastinator. or maybe that was great, since it forced me to get my butt in gear early. i decided that since the competition was taking place the same weekend as the occasion for the 50th anniversary of jamaica’s independence, i would select a jamaican artist.

whenever i visit jamaica, i spend lots of my time at my aunt’s house in new kingston. not too far from her home is emancipation park, and central to that park is the bronze statue by artist laura facey – redemption song. at the time it was unveiled, there was quite the uproar about the nekkidness of the man and woman. i mean, di people nuh hav on no clothes! controversy aside, it is a larger than life piece that always speaks to me about the steadfastness, determination, perseverance and pride of the people of jamaica.

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Laura Facey’s Redemption Song

i decided i was going replicate he and she out of modeling chocolate, never mind that i had never used that medium before. you mean it’s not a good idea to try something brand new, when going into competition?

fyi, modeling chocolate is basically melted chocolate and corn syrup, which magically turns into a malleable chocolate clay. it’s different that fondant. very different! it required a whole new set of tools. introducing the newest member of the not a crumb toolkit (drumroll) – a hair dryer! it totally helps to soften the surface of the modeling chocolate so that it is easier to smooth and sculpt.

anywhoo, back to the fantastic inspiration. i didn’t just want to do 24″ of people (that was the height requirement), i thought that would be boring and too simple! (if i had known how much work sculpting he and she would be, believe me, i would have totally only done the people!) mad props to laura facey for making he and she 20 feet tall! my likkle 12″ people almost killed me! from start to finish, they took about 12 hours to complete.

i wanted some color, and representation of the land of wood and water. i looked no further than the artisans of wassi art. they make the most beautiful pottery. it’s handcarved and handpainted, and gorgeously colorful and vibrant.

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Wassi Art Vase

what happens when you combine pottery and nekkid people…

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Jamaica Independence Cake

not too shabby right? i want you to know that at turns during the creative process, i was filled with pride, self-loathing, nausea and delirium. and apparently short-term memory loss, because i didn’t take a single picture until it was done. sorry!

i mean, this competition was not televised, and didn’t have $10,000 prize money, yet i was nerve-wracked! i mean, how do the food network challenge people do this?!

on friday, august 3rd, i headed on over to the summit at perimeter, to set up my cake. there were 8 other competitors, some local, and some not. all of the cakes were awesome, and a testament to all the fantastic things you can make out of cake, sugar, fondant and chocolate. there were piped, carved, and handpainted cakes. all in all, it was a confectionary gallery d’art! once i saw the work of all the sugar savants, my nausea returned with a vengeance! and because the folks at pastry live are so kind, they wouldn’t reveal the winners before sunday afternoon. sigh.

i returned on sunday with my mom in tow (the DH stopped by on friday to support and help ease my nerves). spoiler alert – i didn’t win. ūüė¶ my mom was kind enough to point out “you’re not the only one who didn’t win.” thanks… i think? jamaican parents have weird ways of reassuring you. in any case she was right. i still didn’t feel better about not being the only loser, but felt pretty good about my first foray into the world of competitive caking.

fast forward five days – i get an email from pastry live. inside were the judges’ scores from the competition. i mean, the competition is completely over, but guess who stops by for a little visit? my nausea from the weekend. talk about an unwanted guest! at any rate, i finally got up the courage to look, and guess what! i came in 4th out of 8! and i think that is pretty darn awesome! gold, silver, bronze… tin? DH says 4th should at least be copper. either way, i don’t care. I think I did damn well. Well enough to brave gastrointestinal distress and try again next year!

 

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leap and the net shall appear

ahem…can i have your attention please? i just quit my job. handed in emailed my resignation and hit send. there is no turning back, no saying, “my bad. i didn’t really mean to quit.” so i’ve taken the BIG leap of faith, and officially have begun to panic. currently in freaking out mode. (breathing into brown paper bag right now. in… out…in…out)

whew. breathing better now. so what led to this decision? over the past few months ok, year, i haven’t done the greatest job for my cake compadres, or for my boss out there in corporate america. my focus was so divided, and i felt like i was being pulled in several different directions. truthfully, i felt a lot like the dog that lost its head (see the post “the massive fail”). it made me realize that i can’t serve two masters, and since i am the master of my fate and the captain of my ship, i’d rather kick the corporate master to the curb!

the end of one year and the beginning of another, tend to make us reflective and contemplative. it felt like now was the time to take that immense leap of faith. of course that felt a lot better before i hit the send button! as i looked for a piece of clip art to illustrate the jump into the unknown, i came across this quote:

“leap and the net shall appear”

and just like that the pressure in my chest eased enough for breath enough to sustain me. this will be very difficult, and i’m sure that the panic and worry will come and go, but right now, at this specific moment in time, i am excited about what comes next. i’ve opened my hands to receive whatever the new year brings. i’m incredibly energized about having¬† the space and time to be creative, to get better at my craft.

to my fellow entrepreneurs, my holiday wishes for you, are much success, enthusiasm, prosperity, and perserverance for 2011. leap on!

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unmasking unveiled!

now that the last box of cake display stuff has been put away (sort of) and i am emerging from my thanksgiving turkey-induced tryptophan haze, i can tell you all about my experience at the unveiled wedding event in atlanta on november 14, 2010 (www.unveiledweddingevent.com)!

first of all, i must say that i had a great time! the wedding guys put on a FABULOUS event. they take their time to create a vision for the whole event – this year? zen! i suppose i shouldn’t put an exclamation point behind zen… let me try again.

zen…ohm (picture me sitting in lotus position. on second thought don’t picture that. i’m not as flexible as i used to be)

matthew & bruce, the wedding guys (www.theweddingguys.com) provided not a crumb! with a tremendous opportunity, by inviting me to provide the display cake for their reception rotunda. i got a look book with all of the textures, trends, and inspiration that had spurred them forward. i took from that book two main ideas – bamboo and water. my cake concept = zen garden fountain. i’ll share the cake process in another post. i want to share the behind the scenes of getting ready for a bridal show.

there’s a few things you must understand:

  1. there’s always more than you think. no matter how many lists you make, you will forget something. hopefully not the cake (i didn’t, but anything is possible ;)). no matter how far in advance you prepare, you will always be dashing and ripping and running at the last minute. no matter how much you do, there will be more to get done, and don’t forget murphy’s law – whatever can go wrong will! case in point, me breaking my cell phone the friday before the show. grrrrrr.
  2. there is always chaos before the calm. sometimes there’s chaos before the chaos, but one should be optimistic that the chaos is somewhat organized.
  3. you never get the opportunity to record the before, during, and after. hence, my personal paparazzi, jeremiah wallace of j Wallace Photography. thanks jerry for being a photojournalistic phenom!

how things went down

in the weeks leading up to the show, i started making lists (what to bring), drawing diagrams (which cake/table goes where), and stressing out my plastic at home goods, tj maxx, and amazon.com. in the end, i had a living room full of stuff. it took 2 vehicles and 3 helpers to get all of the stuff to the ga world congress center. lucky for us, the wedding guys are really smart; so smart that load in and set up are the day before the show! yay!

unpacking the stuff

it took us about 2 hours to get to a point where we could stop for the night ( i still needed to finish the display cake!). that included chatting with some of the other vendors, and enthusiastically debating the precise placement of the tables.

that’s me, my mom, and heidi murphy (nat’l sales director, unveiled) talking about my shopping prowess. that bird figurine was $6 at kohl’s!

that would be one of the wedding guys, matthew trettel, and i discussing the laundry list of things left to be done. see me ticking things off on my fingers?  i ran out of fingers and had to use them each several times!

the end result of all of all of the plotting, planning, prepping, and positioning? a great display and wonderful fun, lots of new friends, fantastic opportunities, and lots of scheduled tastings with brides! special thanks to the wedding guys and the unveiled atlanta team! see you next year!

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the successful fail

much has been said about failure. we’ve got lots of cliches designed to make us feel better when we screw up royally. you know – “if at first you don’t succeed…”, “nothing beats a failure but a try!”, “let’s learn from our mistakes…”. yeah, yeah, yeah. what those cliches don’t say is how much it really sucks when things don’t work out the way you envisioned them.

this past weekend karin, from this wife bakes, and i collaborated on the mother of all groom’s cakes. it was, in a word, stupendous, marvelous, fantastic. ok that was three words, but it was definitely all of those things. a 2 ft tall 3-d sculpted bulldog for an omega psi phi, complete with gold construction¬† boots, spiked collar and chain leash. see!

the before

the beautiful bulldog

and this was before all of the little details had been added, like his back two feet, laces for the boots. he was a gorgeous 70+ lbs of of yummy chocolate and vanilla cake, strawberry cheesecake buttercream and rice krispie treats. he also lost his head.

we traveled to the lovely ventana’s for the setup and on the way his head started to sag. no worries. we’ll just make a couple of adjustments and we’ll be good to go! the first fix still looked fab due to our quick thinking. however, we soon realized that the cake was going to be a massive fail. first clue? when his head continued its downward descent. second clue? when his chest exploded all over the table. that is no exaggeration… the only thing keeping that cake upright was my hand on his head and my stomach against the edge of the table. at that point all i could think was that i had managed to ruin a very important part of someone’s very important day. i did not cry…yet. we managed to salvage the head, chain, dog bone, and two of the boots, clear off the table and display what was left. the remaining cake was carted off to the kitchen to be served later with dessert. you saw the before. here’s the after.

the after

the aftermath

all i wanted to do was curl up into the fetal position and die of embarrassment. then to add insult to injury, i cried all over the groom when he and his lovely bride told us how beautiful the body-less dog was. not my best moment, as i stood blubbering all over him and his fancy tuxedo. how much worse can it get!

god has a way of teaching you and showing you things in what you perceive to be your darkest, saddest, worst, most horribly humiliating moments. a couple of funny things that happened that night, aside from the dessert debacle:

  1. prior to the dog dying, i almost knocked him off the table, which although it would have been a more spectacular ending, would probably have had me searching for the nearest sharp implement to use to take my life.
  2. me blubbering all over the bride and groom. hey, at least i wasn’t hysterical.
  3. me and karin standing in the middle of the reception hall with  huge chunks of cake innards in our hands waiting for rescue and divine intervention.
  4. me proclaiming that the dog’s ass (pardon my french) was still in perfect condition, and we should just turn it around! not my best idea… it’s not like no one would notice the gaping hole in his midsection.
  5. going to retrieve the box of cake remnants karin had hidden in the stairwell so the bride and groom wouldn’t see it, and finding a wedding guest eating the cake out of the box on the floor and proclaiming,¬† and i quote, “this is some damn good cake”. who does that! apparently he did, and it was yummy!

i learned a couple of lessons on saturday night. the first is that whenever things are going too smoothly, disaster is lurking around the corner. the second, we all need to have a humbling experience, or two, or three to keep us, well, humble. the third, nothing and no one/dog,  is exempt from the laws of nature, in this case, gravity. third, people are good. period. the bride and groom were so gracious, and kind, and understanding! i mean, i cried all over the groom who comforted me!

you may not know that i run this business in addition to a full-time job. it’s been difficult, trying to achieve balance, keeping myself and my relationships healthy, all the while¬† reaching for my goal of world cake domination. the biggest lesson i learned from this experience is that i cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends and in the middle, and not expect for things to fall apart and catch fire. in failing, i’ve gained so much – new perspective, renewed energy and determination. so i’m coining a new phrase – “the successful fail”. while i don’t wish misfortune on anyone, i hope that your failures will be as succesful as mine!

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stomping at the savoy

every now and then i get an opportunity to run free and wild. last week back in october (see how long ago i started this post. smh. i’ve got to write more often!) i had the great pleasure of creating a display cake for the pi alpha omega chapter of alpha kappa alpha. they were having their annual fundraising dinner and dance benefiting their ivy and roses scholarship fund. last year the theme was motown…

this year the theme was the harlem renaissance. there’s SO much from that era, but i was totally inspired by the glamour, the glitz and the bling ( i swear this year i am going to retire that word!), as well as the art deco architecture and design. i kept thinking about the cotton club and the savoy ballroom, so this is what i came up with

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woo hoo!

so i don’t usually use phrases like woo hoo! but i think that what i’m about to say warrants such exclamation. i am borrowing the phrase from my friend karin over at this wife bakes because it is so apropos. wait for it….

one of my cakes will be appearing in the april edition of get married! magazine. world cake domination here i come (rubbing my hands together in glee!, minus the maniacal laughing)! so in approximately 3 weeks you’ll be able to get your hands on a copy at barnes & noble, target, cvs, walgreens, kmart, books a million, kroger, & borders. you thought i was joking about the world domination… nope!

i suppose you want to know what the cake looks like… i’ll never tell (singing in that creep voice like the girl from that movie)! i wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise… i will say this; think french country meets morocco meets new orleans – turquoise, red, silver and fleur-de-lis. that’s the only preview you’ll get!

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i’ve BEEN ready for my close-up

so i said i’d keep you posted on when and where my get married! interview would air… there have been lots of changes and big things happening. get married! has switched stations and is now aired on WEtv, every saturday morning at 9:30am, and has a new format and host, founder stacie francombe. so with all the flux and frenzy, my interview (or at least a piece of it) has found a new home on http://www.getmarried.com

being no stranger to the world of hollywood (smile) i knew that my 20 minute interview had the potential to be come 2 seconds after a visit to the editing room. the fates were with me, because after cutting and cutting, there’s a fabulous 20 seconds of me in Cakes 101. brides and brides-to-be, please tune in for great advice about how to choose your wedding cake baker, find inspiration, and put plenty of your personality into your wedding cake. enjoy! here’s the link!
Cakes 101 on www.getmarried.com

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