Thursday, May 23, 2013

More birthdays...

I had a very special cake delivery yesterday.  But first, a little history.  In my former life, I was a Planning Supervisor in the Media Dept. at The Martin Agency, a leading agency in the US.  In this position, it was my job to select and  negotiate with magazines, TV networks, newspapers, radio stations, websites, etc in order to maximize my client's budget and the percentage of target audience reached.

Although I resigned over 3 years ago, I still keep in very close touch with several of my co-workers, as well as some of the sales representatives from the various media outlets.  My rep from Food Network magazine reached out a few weeks ago with a special request.  She asked me to make a cake...a birthday celebrate the 100th birthday of the American Cancer Society, who is a client of The Martin Agency.  You may recognize the slogan "Proud Sponsor of More Birthdays" and the celebrity-endorsed awareness and call to action messages that are pervasive in media right now.  The team at the Agency is responsible for that and has done amazing work for the organization.  I was asked to make a cake in honor of the big birthday, to be delivered to the Agency as a surprise for the ACS team and the Media Dept.

My goal was to give this cake a "birthday cake" feel, but incorporate several of the current campaign images. As I was doing my research, I came upon a striking piece of artwork that was created for the organization and inspired by the "more birthdays" theme.  This painting was done by Masha D-yans, who created this "for everyone who's ever wished for clean air.  The American Cancer Society's fight for smoke-free laws is helping make that wish come true".  You can order posters, wrapping paper and e-cards featuring this image at

I decided to attempt to replicate part of this painting onto the bottom tier of the cake..hand painting with food coloring and adding texture with cut outs of the white stars and red flowers.

Additionally, I wanted to incorporate the tagline "Finish the Fight" with a bunting that would adorn the top of the cake.

The cake flavor was crowd-favorite White Almond Sour Cream with Vanilla Buttercream and Vanilla Satin Ice fondant.

The delivery of this cake was so bittersweet...getting to surprise some of my favorite people, rewarding and honoring all the hard work that they do for this client. But also a reminder of how much I loved working there, not only for the culture-changing work that comes out of those doors, but for the amazing family that I gained while there.

I heard afterwards that photos of the cake and the team gathered around the cake were shared with the client and other former colleagues as well as posted on The Martin Agency Facebook page.  In addition, I received this email message today. "Your cake was the best cake I’ve ever eaten….the icing, fondant  and cake (very moist) absolutely delicious!  My past experience with fondant has been I don’t eat it…but yours has a wonderful texture and taste.  Wow…its dangerous…I could eat the entire cake.  I love the almond flavor..its my favorite."  My heart is swelling with happiness.

Advertising is a tough business and to keep things in perspective, we often had to remind ourselves that we were not curing cancer.  Hoewever, in the case of The Martin Agency and ACS...they are helping to do just that.  Hats off to TMA and the American Cancer Society for all you are doing to "Finish the Fight".

Confectionately yours!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Far East Fusion

This past week, one of my closest friends gave me one of the biggest challenges of my caking career thus far.  Not so much from a construction point of view, but rather, a design request unlike any other.

Her husband was turning 40 and she asked that the surprise cake incorporate many of his favorite things.  Here's the list...speaks Japanese and loves the culture, plays acoustic guitar, fishes, fave band is the Black Crows.  Holy cake...where to begin?

Well, the guitar part seemed to be the easiest, I was pretty sure that I could create one of fondant and modeling chocolate...and of course, I had to find a way to include Japanese writing.  I then started to peruse various images online...starting with Japanese landscapes and ending with Japanese fish tattoos.  Things were starting to take shape in my head and I became excited to try a couple of new techniques.

The top was a 6" round, onto which I used a transfer technique to hand-paint a fish from a tattoo design that I found.  I traced the fish onto parchment using a food safe pencil, gently held the parchment against the dried fondant, and retraced the back of the image. The fish outline was faintly transferred onto the surface of the cake, where I then went over it with food coloring and a very fine-tipped brush.

I then found the Japanese lettering for "Happy Birthday" and painted that vertically in 3 places.  Last was the black crow (shown in the last photo) and the guitar on top, sitting amongst a spray of Cherry Blossoms. The guitar is 100% edible, except the strings, which are made of fishing line.

For the bottom, I wanted to create a Japanese landscape and was very excited to try an airbrush technique on the fondant.  I covered the 8" tier in yellow fondant, then cut a circle of parchment to act as the sun.  I used shortening to attach the sun template and then lightly sprayed with red and orange edible paint to create a twilight effect.  Once dried, I removed the parchment to reveal the yellow sun.  I then drew some templates and cut some chocolate images to create Mt. Fuji and several pagodas, which I highlighted with white food coloring and silver Lustre Dust.  All of this was applied to the cake and then I drew Cherry Blossom branches using an edible pen.  Those were topped with delicate flowers.  I love the scene that these elements created and feel that the airbrush effect makes it look like so much more than a cake.

Marilyn says that the birthday boy and guests loved the result and were so touched by all of the personal references.  They also loved the White Almond Sour Cream cake with Vanilla Buttercream, always a crowd favorite.

Thank you, dear friend!  Can't wait for you to assign me my next cake adventure!

Confectionately yours!