21. Bake a Wedding Cake

Let's just get this out of the way, I will never be on Ace of Cakes. In fact, in the completion of this challenge, I probably committed a minimum of ten violations of the code of cake ethics. Beginning with the fact that I used a mix, extending to the fact that I bought pre-made frosting, and probably topped off by the fact that I did not successfully frost without the presence of crumbs.

Here is how this began. My amazing husband and I have been married for seven years. We decided to have a few friends over for a pig roast to celebrate our completion of those years. Seven years that included some of the most beautiful miracles, and the most painful losses. We thought a party was well deserved. I thought it would be fun to bake a wedding cake. I knew I wouldn't be able to recreate the one we enjoyed on our wedding day, but I thought I'd create something equally memorable (even if it were for all the wrong reasons). Side note: I completely forgot to get my husband an anniversary card. I am still hoping that the labor I put into this cake will count for something.

So, how does someone who has never made a three-tiered cake before begin to understand the inner workings of cake construction? The world wide web, of course. Thank God for this amazing resource! I studied a few different methods before embarking on this challenge, and felt prepared. Michael's craft store has an entire section devoted to cake making and decorating that I made good use of. My purchases included three different sized cake pans, a special tool for levelling the cake before layering it, cardboard to separate the tiers, and two 4.5 lb buckets of butter cream frosting. Did you get that? A total of 9 pounds of frosting went into the construction of this cake. This is both beautiful, and disgusting.

After stocking up at Michael's, I made the split second decision to stop at the grocery store, and rather than purchase the ingredients to make the cake from scratch, I bought boxes of Duncan Hines. Six boxes of Duncan Hines cake mix, to be exact. Here's my justification, I have made cakes from scratch before. I have made frosting from scratch before. I have hastily frosted said cakes, and left them in the pan for consumption. This challenge was less about the baking, and more about the construction. So, mixes and prepackaged frosting it would have to be.

Making a cake of this size is a multi-day procedure. I broke it up like this, I baked one day, frosted and built the next, and refrigerated until the party/unveiling. After spending three days with a cake, the last thing you want to do is eat it. This is the basis of my new diet plan. I am going to spend days and days with my food, and then perhaps I won't want to eat it so much. What I'm saying is, I didn't actually taste the cake ever, but I'll have to take the word of my nearest and dearest, apparently it was tasty. Again, this was not my chief concern.

I am the most annoying type of perfectionist. I like the idea of perfection. I would love to aspire to perfection. I am often hard on myself for falling quite short of perfection. However, I am far to lazy to put the effort in, and I know this about myself. Therapy is in progress to tackle this ever important and consistently emerging issue, but it was in full effect during the cake construction. While I meticulously followed the directions of frosting and stacking the layers, I was having crumb problems. I have the same problem with butter. I always am dragging the crumbs back and forth. Instead of taking a break and researching how to make my frosting crumb free, I kept my eye on the prize and frosted away. Once the three tiers were in place and I stood back and looked at my work, I told myself the truth. That. cake. is. ugly.

Without even a second thought, I grabbed the keys and drove to Michael's for embellishments. Since it was a Hawaaiin themed party I found the most Hawaaiin looking fake flowers and a little Hawaaiin bride and groom. When I arrived at home, I made quick work of magic-ing up some fine looking embellishments mostly in an effort to hide the ugliness of the cake. The result... hilarious:

Remember that I said that people thought it was delicious (many thanks to Duncan Hines, and the Butter cream frosting manufacturers). Luckily, I had nothing to do with the pig. Because the pig, was nothing short of amazing on all counts. And because I had nothing to do with making it... I ate a lot of it... and it was tasty!

Next week, I am going to make a complete and total rear end of myself at laughter yoga.


20. Knit Something - for real this time.

Am I a knitter? I've been called a knitter, and I have felt like an impostor. To me, knitters can actually knit. I mean beyond just a knit and purl stitch. They can follow patterns and put together something that resembles clothing. Up until now, I have only followed a pattern to create hats and scarves. Okay, to be truthful, I have never actually made a scarf from a pattern. So, do you see what I mean? I am a knitting impostor.

I love to knit, for many of the same reasons that I love to vacuum. There's something extremely satisfying about seeing progress. As a knitting project comes to fruition, it is such a fulfilling feeling for me. It's also a nice brain vacation. When I'm knitting I am almost in a meditative state. For that time, however long or short, I am quiet. For a dramatic, quirky, busy minded lady like myself, these moments are treasured. After our daughter died of SIDS, knitting helped me retain what was left of my sanity. With each stitch, I saw that life continued. I was continuing to create in through this significant loss. If it was all I could do, then it was enough. But I've grown leaps and bounds since those sorrow-filled days, so this week, I decided to stretch my knitting abilities.

I deliberately chose a pattern for a baby, because babies are small. This means knitting projects for babies are small. I should also mention that while I love the progress of knitting, I need the end result to come quickly, as in a few days. I don't know that I am the type of person who could knit a plus sized adult sweater. I think the suspense would drive me crazy. So, baby clothes are small, and take little time and money (relatively). I found an easy pattern online (I love the internet! It's so easy to find things for free) for a baby girl jumper, and got going with my needles. (Here is the pattern for those of you who would like to follow along).

Pardon the profundity here, but this is my truth: Knitting is like life. We are given a whole mess of circumstances and it is ours to tend to the pattern, and modify according to our needs as we weave and stitch what becomes our story. Pay special attention to the part where we modify according to our needs.

I printed out the pattern. I read the pattern very thoroughly to be sure that I knew all the steps, and that I could actually perform them. I memorized the pattern so as to be prepared for whatever I may encounter during the construction of my creation. I was ready. I took this journey very seriously. As I began, I started to realize that certain parts of the pattern weren't working for me. I didn't love the way it looked, or maybe I wasn't sure the sizing was just right, or I just didn't feel good about my ability to execute the plan. So I tweaked. I thought hard and I tweaked. I made up different arrangements, and added and subtracted as needed, took a couple of short cuts, learned from some mistakes, applied some other skills I've learned from other projects, and in the end, I am pretty darn proud of the result. It is not perfect by any means, but I probably see the flaws more clearly than the loving eyes of those who will receive the gift of my work.

A private note to my babymamas who are expecting girls: Spoiler alert - you will each be receiving one of these jumpers. The good news is, now you know how much each stitch means. You can be confident that your little girl will be cloaked in the trial and error of a woman who has made a lot of mistakes, and applied skills I've learned from many areas of my life. I hope I can be a good example for those little promises of our future.

Okay, so the finishing touches haven't been added quite yet, but this will give you an idea of what I am so proud of:

Would I call myself a knitter? Not really. Not yet. I'm sort of a three trick pony in the knitting department. The point is, maybe I strayed from the pattern a little (a lot), and maybe I didn't do it exactly like an experienced knitter would, but a learned a whole darn lot from it... and that's beautiful... to me.

Next week, in celebration of my seventh wedding anniversary, I am going to attempt to construct a three-tiered wedding cake, and then serve it to people I care about.

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