C is for Cakes and Cookies - #atozchallenge 2024


Letter C
Cakes and Cookies 

I have always enjoyed being in the kitchen, and baking more than cooking. When I was starting out as a young adult, I made a point to invest in things for my kitchen, as well as obtaining different types of books to support the baking and sugar related interests as much as possible. 

Thankfully there are Public Libraries, thrift stores, yard/garage sales, Freecycle, and clearance/discounted options for those of us who are not always budgeted for much. 

Additionally, when I was starting out back in the mid 80's, we didn't have internet like it is today, so the Public Library was like a second home, and not just for these things.

One of my efforts in cake decorating back then was this Cactus cake, and as it happens that at least one picture still survives, I am able to share it here. 

This Cactus cake happened after watching a week of Colette Peters of Colette's Cakes on one of the daytime food and home related TV shows. 

I immediately went to the local library in search of her books, and found a couple of them, with one of them having the Cactus cake in it. I did not have the ball pan at the time but had the other items on hand that I needed to attempt this cake. 

I made use of two oven safe Pyrex bowls to bake the cake parts. The decorations are both buttercream and royal icing. The cake sits in a newly purchased planter with crumpled up graham crackers or cookies for the soil. At one time I had a picture of this cake in front of other plants, and I would share it like that to see if anyone could really tell which one was a cake vs an actual plant. :)

Many other dessert items, not just cakes, have been created and enjoyed prior to and following the cactus cake, without any pictures being taken. There was even a short run as a Cottage Food Business, where I was creating gift baskets with baked goods for a couple local businesses and individuals. This was around the same time that I made the Cactus cake or possibly prior to that. Of course, only a handful or so of the pictures that were ever taken, seem to have survived over the years.

Possibly over a decade after I made that Cactus cake, I had the opportunity to take some Wilton Method Courses, and thought it might be a nice way to get some hands on icing flower knowledge and fill in some gaps where fondant and gum paste were concerned. 

I think we had already eaten too much of the Wilton Method Course I cake before I realized I had no pics or at least no decent pics to share. It was a Winter type of theme, light blue with white, some snow flakes that had sparkles I think... Maybe an odd choice  based on the fact that I was living in Florida but it was December. 

I do have a picture of the Wilton Method Course II cake, which I left in the carrier on purpose because I was concerned to move it too much, and mess up my icing more. I was not careful enough when I removed the lid of the carrier, but overall I think the cake was a good effort.

Here is the Wilton Method Course III Cake that I especially loved. Still actually. Surprisingly, I am not really a hat person but I enjoyed creating this cake so much.

I don't really love the fact that I forgot to remove it from the cake carrier before taking the pictures, or that I am missing the rest of the pictures, that show the bow, ribbon, and flowers up close. 

I also don't love that I am missing the pictures for the Wilton Method Course IV gum paste flowers. I think it was the best work of all. This included a Tiger Lilly and some other flowers, created  with gum paste, all wired together very nicely, which I placed inside a decorative blue glass vase.

I was hired to teach the same Courses soon after finishing the Wilton Method training. While I didn't get to teach for more than a year and a half approximately before things starting moving in a different direction, for both the craft retailer and Wilton, I have to say that it was one of my most favorite jobs. 

I really enjoyed seeing the happiness in my students faces when they would learn and create cakes or flowers for themselves as part of the courses. I would definitely consider teaching again, provided life supports the work. 

Of course I would probably still want to bake and make flowers even if I didn't teach or run a business of some sort, it's very enjoyable. I find that creating has always been extremely therapeutic for me, no matter what I am working on. 

It also feels good to share or gift baked goods to others, and I have created and gifted cakes and cookies to others in the past for different occasions. When I was more equipped and budgeted to do so, I was also registered with a few cake related charities in the past, and even ran a local chapter of one for a short time.

A couple of the cakes I have made as gifts for others can be seen in the pictures below.

The first is a Slytherin House (Harry Potter) cake for someone celebrating her 21st. This was a friend of my youngest daughter. At the time that we were all connecting or communicating more with each other, I did consider both her and her mother to be friends of ours, and was happy to create the cake for her. 

It was a triple chocolate cake with Chocolate Liqueur mixed in the cake and icing. The cake was covered in fondant, the snake was fondant, and the shield which took about a week or so to create was all gum paste. The snake, writing, and delivery of the cake was contributed by someone else but everything else was me.

The next gifted cake that I have a picture for, is this Minecraft cake that was done for a friend = family member who was also celebrating his 21st. The young man's father, who assisted with the above cake a bit, also contributed to the figures in this cake.

The cake, which is made up of vanilla and chocolate cake, buttercream icing, some rice cereal treats, wrapped TNT - licorice style candy, chocolate rock candies, molded candy gems, and blue gelatin, was mainly created by me.

In addition to the above cakes, I also gifted many cookies over the years, which required lots of planning and acquiring of not only ingredients but also packaging, scheduling, designing, and long days. 

One year I created and gifted over 200 cookies. I think I took about two weeks from start to finish. It was lots of work but it was so awesome to be able to accomplish it and everyone enjoyed their edible gifts.

The following are surviving pictures of some of the cookies that were gifted to other family members, friends, or band mates and co-workers of the contributing individual that was mentioned above. 

Snowmen without hats, having modeling chocolate, royal icing, and edible ink, all ready to go into a decorative box and gifted to the intended recipients.

Snowmen with hats, having modeling chocolate, royal icing, and edible ink, all ready to be boxed up and gifted to their intended recipients.

Christmas Trees, some are modeling chocolate, and some are dipped royal icing with sprinkle or hand piped d├ęcor added. All ready to be boxed up and gifted to their intended recipients.

Christmas Stockings with modeling chocolate, in progress pics...

Also one last picture, I found recently, that better reflects a Florida Christmas Tree perhaps????

Though I would like to create more cookies and possibly some smaller cakes, I would need to rebuild the supplies and practice more, especially in icing / hand piping related skills. It's been a few years at least since I have done any of it and it's also difficult to do without the bags, bottles, and other necessary items right now. I will try to find some alternatives to work with.

There's some likelihood I will work with gum paste again, or explore cold porcelain some possibly, even if I don't get back to cakes. I think I work better naturally with gum paste and fondant, and mainly always looked forward to making sugar flowers. So possibly some type of clay, edible or otherwise, we'll see...

In later years, pre pandemic, I have also enjoyed working with modeling chocolate for my cookies as an alternative to royal icing but had also successfully dipped many cookies vs hand piping them. 

I have recently learned about Rolled Buttercream and would like to give it a try, and I have seen some Isomalt work that looks to be awesome for cookies or gingerbread houses too. Of course, my kitchen being emptier than it once was, is an issue, and it does take time to rebuild based on the current minimal budget. 

That's it, and I hope you have enjoyed this show and tell of some of my past efforts. It's  a long post I know. They probably wont all be this long, lol. I do appreciate everyone who stopped by to read and hopefully admire my efforts. 

Thanks again for visiting! I hope you have a wonderful day or night, and will visit again tomorrow for the next entry, Letter D, in this challenge.


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