When a food critic turns the poison pen on herself

A&R’s Tiffany blue wedding cake November 26, 2009

Filed under: Wedding cakes — crummb @ 2:42 pm
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Here’s the thing about making wedding cakes. Baking and decorating a 9/7/5-inch three-tier is like tackling Mount Everest right there at your kitchen table. But once it’s conquered and displayed at a big venue, it can suddenly shrink into a blink-and-you-miss backside pimple.

Case in point: the cake I made for my cousin Ricky’s wedding last week. The venue was One 15 Marina Club in Sentosa Cove, and it was the first time my cake was to be cut on stage in a grand ballroom.

Ricky’s fiancee Amy said it was a “small” stage so the cake wouldn’t look out of place. And as I was hauling my cakes out the front door to the car, it sure had the heft that befitted the occasion: The thick bottom tier, which itself was made up of two tiers to reach 6 inches in height, was so heavy that I had to stop twice to take breathers.

But once I got to the ballroom, the cakes instantly shrivelled up to look like last week’s muffins. It wasn’t because the stage was huge. It was because there was a cake-cutting table there, and sitting on it, a gargantuan, skyscraping fake cake covered in fake fondant and fake roses. To complete the blinding visual assault, it was topped with an enormous nest made of fake twigs and fake birds.

I asked the banquet manager to remove it so I can place my cake in its place. And he went blank for 5 long seconds.

“Take the fake cake away?” he said, looking at my shrivelled muffin, then looking back at his aviarius masterpiece. What he was really saying was, What? You want me to replace this magnum opus with that zit of a cake??!

“Ya,” I said, defending myself meekly, “I have three tiers.”

“Oh,” he said, and, with a slight frown still attached to his face, removed the jacuzzi-sized foam monstrosity.

I proceeded to assemble my cake. Once completed and placed on the table, it was only one-tenth the size of the ginormous tweeting wonder. If you’ve ever wondered what it felt like for David to face the mighty Goliath, just ask my cake.

But when it was cake-cutting time, at least Amy and Ricky were able to run the knife down a real cake, with real buttercream and real fondant — and not some insipid slit pre-cut into a foam block.

Call me old-fashioned. But when it comes to wedding cakes, nothing beats the real thing — backside pimple or not.



Cheesecake pops November 18, 2009

Filed under: All-occasion cakes — crummb @ 3:51 pm
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finished sprinkle 3I admit. When I first learnt I was pregnant earlier this year, I sent a few upward missives that went: “Lord, please give me a son this time round.” My firstborn E is a girl, so out of the purely selfish reason of wanting one of each, I wanted my second to be a boy.

Just think of it. I will have a daughter to dress up and bake pretty cakes with, and husband Z will have a son to skateboard with and do all those smelly things that boys do. And at first, all signs suggested that we would enjoy this idyllic, life-insurance ad configuration.

My aunt, who has a track record of accurately predicting the sex of a foetus by using some mystical formula involving the mother’s age, month of conception, etc, swore it was a boy. We have friends who “just have a feeling” that it was a boy. Even the wonton noodles auntie in my office canteen, with just one glance at my front-tilting bump, was sure of it too.

Then we found out the baby is actually a girl. And, wow, nothing prepared me for the tide of disappointment verging on disapproval that followed when we broke the news. My aunt, looking like she had just bitten into something rotten, told me I should “bok” (gamble) again and hopefully hit jackpot the third time round. When I told the wonton noodles auntie that I actually quite like having another girl, she said, with her back turned towards me: “As long as you’re happy lorhh. It’s okay lorhhhh.”

Everywhere I turned, people above the age of 45 would console me, saying “It’s okay lah. These days, boys and girls are all the same”. But, funny huh? If boys and girls are really the same, you never hear anyone saying this when you’re expecting a boy.

I, for one, have totally embraced and am loving the fact that I’ll be having two girls. First, you save lots of money by recycling the clothes. Second, if our new baby is anything like her older sister, we will have a pair of mild-mannered, well-behaved, neat and tidy kids who will not turn our home into a crime scene on a daily basis.

Third, and on to the real point of this post, I will have twice the opportunity to make the cutest, prettiest cakes all year round.

I mean, check out these adorable cheesecake pops I made as goodie bag takeaways for E’s birthday party two weeks ago. Would a birthday boy have appreciated the heart-shaped sprinkles or the pastel-coloured non-pareils? I don’t think so. When he becomes a teenager, he will look back on the birthday photos and accuse me of instilling in him an unmanly penchant for pink and polka dots.

If I had a son, every special occasion cake I make will have to factor in boy colours and emblems. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a cake shaped like a blue tractor looks all that appetising. A dinosaur cake? Sure, I can make one. Just don’t make me eat it.

But with two girls, I will have at least two birthday cakes to make a year, festooned with flowers, flounces, ruffles in all manner of lemon-yellows and rosebud pinks. Already, I am having soul-lifting visions of my two girls in cute little aprons, helping me in the kitchen with the whipping, kneading and washing. What absolute bliss.

Having said all this, I’ll wait till I pop in January before I celebrate. Imagine the back-paddling I’ll have to do if the ultrasound scans turn out all wrong.



Lollipop Garden Cake November 11, 2009

Filed under: Birthday cakes — crummb @ 1:22 pm
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bday cake

For my daughter E’s first birthday last year, I came up with the idea of making a mini bundt cake tower. For one whole year since then, I’d had this question niggling at the back of my head: What clever cake can I come up with next year?

In the end, her 2nd birthday came last week and I found myself doing the ultimate loser thing: I copied a design from Martha Stewart. Why? Because this cake is just the cutest darn thing I’ve ever laid my eyes on.

noelle and cake

I mean, look at it! It has colourful lollipops stuck all over like little flowers, and even frilly grass creeping up from the sides. Forget about being original, man. This is one copy-cake I wanted to eat.

But mind you, mimicry is an art.

There was a  lot of walking back and forth between kitchen and balcony – where there was direct daylight – before I could colour the buttercream the exact same shade of green as the original.

And I’m a little embarrassed to say that it took quite a few teaspoonfuls of green colouring to achieve it – so much so that I was afraid our guests who ate it would look into their toilet bowls the next morning and wonder if they had overdosed on vegetables.

There was also much fussing over the size and colours of the gummies that were to be skewered with satay sticks and stuck on the cake. I even went out especially to buy the right sized leaf piping tip so that my grass sheaves would look nothing short of perfect.

The verdict? When E’s de facto godmother C first saw the cake, she cried: “It’s just like the real thing!!” And my husband Z, no doubt inspired by the piped-in muzak we always hear in supermarkets, proudly declared to his friends that I am a “cover artiste”.

Me? For someone who has never bought a fake good in her life (never bought a branded good either), I’m totally pleased about my counterfeiting prowess. If I were a city, my name would be Zhen. Shenzhen.