The party is today at 4pm but I finished yesterday. I'm glad. This give me a chance to enjoy my hard work for a while before we take a knife to them.
So here they are. Jordan's:
Jordan's took about two hours yesterday to complete and Isaac's took most of the afternoon. I'll walk you through it.
The first thing I did, obviously, was cover it in a thick coat of buttercream. Then I could tell you that the look with the black went exactly as I planned but it didn't so I won't pretend it did. My original plan was to cover half the cake in fondant but every time I tried to attach the half circle it screwed up. I tried, literally, four times to reroll out the fondant and attach it but every time it cracked and slid and was a general pain in my ass. After I got tired of screaming "shit!" I finally figure out that I simply wasn't going to make it work right so I did what you have to do sometimes, I punted. I used the baking pan as a guide and cut out the half circle for the top. Then I made two different sizes of stripes and adhered those. You know what? I liked it better than having solid black sides. It added a lot of interest as you turn the cake or walk around it.
Next, I placed the flowers down the center line between the white and black and then I rolled the fondant balls that I made the other night in pearl shimmer dust and arranged the border.
I had never really planned beyond that so I messed around and figured out the black dot border and the design for the white side and then finished with Jordan's birthday message.
Again, the first thing I did was cover the truck in buttercream, then I worked blue food coloring into a big chunk of fondant. That's a hell of an upper body workout to get that coloring worked completely into the dough, let me tell you. Then I rolled it out and covered the truck, made a few seams and had a couple of little mishaps.
To fix the seams and the one mishap on the front fender, I trimmed the fondant neatly, brushed the edges with water, and used a gumpaste flower tool to smooth the edges together.
Then I covered the back hitch portion in black and fixed the seams in the same way. And then....and then that's when I forgot to take pictures. I go so involved in decorating the camera completely left my head. Basically all of the decorations are made out of fondant that I colored and rolled out or fashioned like playing with playdough. The one exception is the antennas which are white florist's wire. One little tidbit is the running lights. Gene was very impressed with how perfectly round they are. I cut them out with a straw and then had to blow into the other end to get them to pop out. Worked for me... And lastly, the wheels. Since I'd accidentally shortened the perspective on the truck, I made the wheels all half wheels and then piped grass around the bottom as if the truck were sitting in grass up to its undercarriage.
Whew! That's done. Now all I have to do is clean the bathroom and make potato salad by four and we're set.
By the way, THIS is why I can't decorate cakes very often anymore. I get asked a lot why I don't bake anymore or if I can just do a cake now and then. Besides the time factor of working a full time other job at the hospital and a part time job of writing, my hands and the cost are why I don't decorate for a living anymore. Just from working a few hours yesterday the backs of my hands swelled up to where you cannot see the knuckles, and my palms and inner wrist hurts like crazy.
The other reason I don't bake cakes anymore is financial. Unfortunately, I don't live in a market for cakes this elaborate. I love to look at the cakes of Collette Peters or Sylvia Weinstock or to watch Duff of Charm City Cakes on The Food Network (Ace of Cakes) and I think with practice I could do that. Maybe that's my ego talking but I think I could (with practice) and I know I'd sure enjoy giving it a shot. But that kind of cake work is extremely time consuming which means it costs more for me to recup my investment in labor. In Springfield, MO, especially 10 years ago when I had my business, people loved the complex cakes and gumpaste flowers from the magazines and TV shows, but I didn't have many clients who could afford for me to make them. There was also an element of ignorance there too. I'm not being insulting. I mean, at the time, gumpaste flowers and cake sculpture were very new to this area. As a matter of fact I knew of no bakery that did either one and there's still, ten years later, only one I can name for sure that does either and I'm not sure they do the cake sculpture. So people were used to getting regular cakes and buying them at grocery store or local bakery prices. Sure, Collette, Duff, and Sylvia can pull down thousands of dollars a cake and God Bless 'em for it but we're just not a big market for parties quite on that level. I'm not saying no one in Springfield can afford it, but as far as I know, there still isn't a market for a steady flow of cakes that upscale. And hey, that's fine. I understand completely. I couldn't afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a kids' birthday cake either. Wish I could but hey, I'm only a respiratory therapist, you know?
Most of the people I baked cakes for were lovely people, and since most of my customers were also my friends or friends of friends, I did give away a lot of gumpaste flowers for nothing and I did spend hours and hours on a lot of my cakes just for the joy of it and for the experience. I knew that the people I was baking for couldn't afford to pay me what it was worth and most people were usually very kind and appreciative, BUT there were a few bad apples, a few people who expected something great for nothing. A good example was that one wedding cake I told you about a while back (click HERE) where the bride acted like I was getting rich on her cake even though I had to buy $15-20 worth of plastic stairs I never used again, drove it 45 minutes out of town, and the cake design had a specialty piped heart that had to made ahead of time out of special frosting. When all was said and done I made slightly less than minimum wage on that cake but she honestly believed and told me that I ripped her off on the price. She's an example of one of the bad apples I remember and think of when I do elaborate cakes, a person who had no concept of what was involved and didn't care.
Just as an exercise in breaking down what's involved, I counted up that I have about 7-8 hours worth of labor in Isaac's truck cake. Most people in this town would have paid me $25.00 for it, maybe $30 if they were feeling generous. Anything more than that to most people would seem unreasonable to pay for a cake, any cake to feed 24 people. So let's do the math on that. Food cost is usually about 30%, so 30% of that $25.00 is $7.50. That's just my cake and frosting ingredients. Then add another $2.50 on for the boards the cake sits on and the box it's delivered in (and that's if I get them both at wholesale prices, not at a party supply store which would be twice that). Now we're up to $10.00 in materials. So that leaves me $15. Divide $15 by 8 hours. Who do you know who would take a job for $1.80/hour? I guarantee you that one bride who was so hateful to me wouldn't have.
So now let's go the opposite way. In reality, if I added up my expenses on the truck cake,not including electric, base equipment, or anything like that, just cake, frosting ingredients, and cake boards, and then added in per hour what I make, let's say as a respiratory therapist which is not being rich but not working minimum wage, that cake would cost, minimum, $160.00. I rounded up by 32 cents.
Hey, if I could have found a hidden stash of people willing and able to afford to pay $200.00 a pop for a kid's birthday cake, I'd have gladly stayed in the business longer (if my hands had been up to it). Wouldn't that have been cool? But unfortunately, I have bills to pay and insurance to buy like everbody else, so instead it's just a fun hobby I play around with for my nieces and nephew and occasionally by taking cupcakes to work for my respiratory family or for the hospital Relay for Life bakesales. We all have to work for a living but hobbies are what make life fun.
I cannot wait to see Jordan and Isaac's faces when they see the cakes. I'm like a little kid myself. I can hardly sit still. I always loved making kids' birthday cakes the best. Weddings are where the money is but the kids' cakes rule! Some of my happiest memories as an adult are walking into a house with a cool cake and having some kid's face light up. On their birthdays, they live so in the moment it makes me and has always made me joyous to be a part a child's birthday. Tomorrow I'll post pics of them with their cakes and maybe even video too.