Saturday, April 4, 2015


Amanda Bridger enjoys looking in on several baking sites, and is amazed at the beautiful and complicated creations on some, the colorful swoops and swags and layers tottery-tall like Dr. Seuss’ sweetest dreams. She loves seeing the work of people’s hands, and admires all the different aspects of the work and the imagination and skill of the bakers. She especially likes a site called “Cake Wrecks,” and is doubly amazed at the awful and funny and sadly optimistic pieces of other folks’ baking craft, and is extremely awed every Sunday by the intricate and complicated and perfectly-done work of baking artists in their own shops around the world.

Amanda dropped the top of a wedding cake once, flipped upside down in the trunk of the clean-sheet-lined car, and had to run back in and get out all the icing and tips and bags and refurbish the luckily-unbroken tier. And once as she turned a corner in the long delivery wagon, she heard an ominous, heart-lurching thump from the back. A BIG can of pineapple juice intended for the punch had jumped from the top of the bag with its fellows, and landed neatly between Tier 2 and Tier 3 of a Wedding Cake, all set out separately for the delivery, and not a scratch or dent on either one. The can was rolling gently back and forth, bumping the cakeboards, never touching the cakes, but it could have had the devastating effect of a Richter 5 on all those tender layers.

And she cannot imagine presenting anything less than a well-made cake to any client.

Way back when she was first getting started in her home kitchen, she had taken an order for one birthday cake, decorated as a baseball diamond. Normally, she did not take orders during the week, as she had another full time job as well. But she was friends with the lady who asked, and liked the little boy who was celebrating his birthday.

But one birthday cake can involve as much mess and confusion and sifting and frosting as would a dozen, especially in a home kitchen with the children doing homework in the breakfast area and helping cook supper, besides. Not to mention a neighbor's child, a forlorn young girl who magically appeared at the door at suppertime, about three days a week, for her Mama was a nurse, and went straight to bed for a long nap right after her 7-3 shift ended every day.

So the layers were baked, the frosting made, the supper cooked and eaten, and the homework finished. The four teenagers settled at the table for a rousing game of Yahtzee while the frosting and decorating were going on. When the cake was finished, in order to clean the LOOONNNG kitchen counter properly, and to guard the safety of the finished cake from flying mists of antibacterial sprays, and since the table was occupied, the cake was removed to the living room, to the safety of the coffee table.

Had there been a family dog, never would she have put the cake in such a vulnerable spot. Since there was just the one old fat-as-mud ladycat, which seldom emerged from beneath the bed to blink warily in the daylight, and since cats are known for hating sugar, anyway, no thought was given to any danger from that quarter.

During the final counterwipe, a fresh pot of decaf brewing and an easy chair and a nice cozy mystery for resting mind and body in the offing, there was heard in the house an odd sound. Even over the raucous cheers and jeers of the four Yahtzee-heads, came the sounds of "smick-smick-smick" from the living room. All peeked in to see the cat, roused from her hibernation and magically levitated onto the coffeetable, energetically licking second base clean off the field. And a couple of the outfielders hadn't fared too well either, like they'd taken a frantic slide and buried face-deep in mud.

Wide, wary eyes turned toward Amanda. "You ARE going to scrape that off and fix it, aren't you?" the kids chorused, as if rehearsed.

"No, I am NOT!!" was the emphatic answer, as rattling of cupboards, melting of butter, sifting of flour began afresh at 9 p.m. The table of players erupted in joyous yells, as they scrambled for plates, forks, the jug of cold milk. They incised that yukky section away as skillfully as a surgeon cutting a wart, and shared out great soft slices of the cake---and right at bedtime.

Second Cake was baked, cooled, frosted and decorated, finished about 1 a.m., with a thorough sanitizing cycle in the dishwasher for all the little plastic nine.

Amanda’s children have told her for years how much they appreciated that she did start over, not just for the unexpected snack, of course, but that she had standards far above foisting damaged goods onto trusting clients. And the kids are the reason that she spends so much time on other people’s parties, sweeping up the midnight rice from weddings not her own.

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