A PIECE OF CAKE
I spotted a cake in a magazine that I thought my nine-year-old
daughter, Clarissa, might like to make. When she saw the picture of
the cake, she glowed. With a friend of mine a week earlier, Clarissa
had learned how to manipulate my cake decorating set, which I rarely
use anymore. She sculptured borders and roses (of all things!). Might
my cake-decorating dreams, reminiscent of my childhood, be fulfilled
in my little girl whose eyes light up over arts and crafts?
Her creativity flourished the next day as she supervised
Michael, 7, while he whipped up a 9 by 13 inch cake. At the same time,
she mixed a double batch of play dough. Marzipan, not play dough, had
been called for to shape little people to slide and skate on the cake,
but Kenora isn’t a good place to find hard-to-find items, so we
substituted play dough. I finished stirring this hot stiff goop, then
the twosome kneaded it on the table until smooth.
Finally they packaged it away in a tight container for the next
day’s activities. And some activities they were.
On this memorable, second baking day, I transferred the
flat-looking, cracked cake to a wooden cutting board that Clarissa had
lined with aluminum foil. So what if the cake flopped? Icing covers a
multitude of mistakes, and what was to go on the outside was bound to
look terrific (or so we hoped). I cut two wedges from the end of the
cake to form a hill on the top left side of the cake, where eventually
little people would sled down. I then transferred the cake to the
freezer, as I had learned as a teen, hoping this would ease the icing
So far so good. I left them to continue working on their
endeavor, while I called my sister with my slight problem quite
unrelated to cake construction. I told her I had discovered a chart
that says I’m overweight. Me, fat!? My husband says I’m skinny and
I feel fit as a fiddle.
In this state of mind, with the phone nestled by my ear, I
breezed into the kitchen and was horrified to see Michael and Clarissa
energetically wiping food coloring off the floor.
I’m not talking just a little. To make matters worse, my
four-year-old twins had by now joined in the activities. I hung up the
phone as all thoughts of being fat fled for the time being and I
rapidly organized a major clean up.
My fingers, my four little children’s fingers, and some
little feet were colored. Soon the washer swished red water with socks
and leotards. Red food coloring decorated the wall behind my sink, and
one new towel on my stove sported blue spots.
Needless to say, I set a new rule.
Mommy will be around when food coloring is distributed next
I was amazed, though, at the nicely packaged assortment of dark
red, pink, blue and white play dough in little plastic bags. Might
messes be necessary to produce masterpieces?
Later in the morning, they were forming the colorful play dough
into little people. “Mom,
can I make a snowmobile?” Michael asked, although in the end I did
not see a complicated machine on the cake.
“Does she look good, mommy?” Clarissa asked of her little
play dough person.
On a metal tray, they placed a snowman with a red hat and green
arms, two little people on sleds and four little people lying down.
“Why are they lying down?” I asked.
“Until they harden. Then we’re going to stand them up.”
Made sense. I hoped they would stand, then, when they are
A bit later, they slathered white icing onto the cake. I showed
them how to dip their knives into a glass of hot water to ease the
process, as I had been taught when I was young. Clarissa then made a
pond with blue icing, where the little people would eventually skate.
“This is cool!” Kayla, 11, said as she strolled in and
inspected the cake.
Clarissa piped green icing onto ice cream cones to resemble
trees. I was impressed with her ability to use a decorating bag.
While I was still collecting my wits from this busy morning,
Kayla, who hadn’t been part of the hubbub, asked, “Can we make
look-alike dresses or something? I’m bored.”
Bored? Not me. Sorry dear. No more major projects today. One
mother can only do so much.
At noon, I told Clarissa to put the little people in the
recently-turned-off oven to dry, as I had just baked dinner rolls for
lunch. A bit of low heat might dry the playful people quicker.
A few hours later, when I was on the Internet researching for
an article about how many calories a nursing mom of twins is to eat,
Clarissa and Michael came weeping and wailing into the office.
“How could you, mom!!”
It took awhile for the catastrophe to sink in. Finally I
realized that my warm oven suggestion had not been a hot idea, or
rather too hot. I looked in the oven and saw puffed up, bloated little
people, half-baked and fully flopped. I felt awful. Poor dears, but I
couldn’t help but chuckle at the hilarious-looking puffed-up men.
They set to work again, making smaller ones with some leftover
play dough. Easy-going Clarissa said later, “I’m glad they got
wrecked because now we could make them smaller.” The first little
people had been too large, almost as tall as their ice cream cone
trees. Awhile later Clarissa said, “It was kinda funny looking at
those funny-looking people.”
I said to Clarissa, “I might buy you a cake-decorating set on
your next birthday. You’ll be ten and should be old enough to take
care of it.”
She seemed pleased. My daughter appears to shoot off from my
passions, but in her own direction. Isn’t that the enjoyment of
Days later, I pulled out one of my rarely used cake-decorating
books displaying a twenty-five cent garage sale tag on the cover.
Michael and Clarissa both picked a cake they’d like to decorate. A
cottage. Looked like a huge project to me. Even bigger than the last.
You might find me, once again, weary from a cake-decorating binge. They might have more misfortunes as they plug away. Most likely, my eyes will sparkle at yet another photo smiling from our picture book, capturing a snapshot of childhood days that fly by too fast. Looking back in thirty years, I may even remember our joyful and crazy baking escapades as a piece of cake.
is how I remember the recipe from my friend Rosa.
I was a teen, she gave me the decorating set I still use.
generosity and interest propelled me into my cake-decorating career.
cup vegetable oil shortening
cups icing sugar
food coloring of your choice. Depending on the desired consistency of
the icing, adjust the amounts of icing sugar and/or water.
her major undertaking described in the above story,
made the twins a Teddy Bear Cottage birthday cake, using this icing
“A Piece of Cake” was published in our local paper,
received an order for a boy’s ‘hockey cake.’
used this frosting recipe for that project as well.
|© Copyright Sharon Schnupp Kuepfer All Rights
Do Not Copy Without Permission of the Author