Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pointillism and Pastry

It occurred to me while I piped the thousandth too-red-for-a-lizard-tongue icing star onto a little triangle of cake, that I might make better use of my time.  I was decorating a leopard gecko cake for my cousin's son's tenth birthday and going way too far with the birthday boy's cake request:

"Can you make it look like my pet gecko, Echo?"  Cute.
"He's yellowish/tannish with spots all over."

At this point, I have spent more time with this lizard cake than I ever want to spend with any real lizard.  I first had to determine if my cake making obsession could accommodate a hairless creature with lots of craggy clutchers (difficult to get frosting on those toes, or whatever they're called).  Also, as any given post on Cake Wrecks demonstrates, "yellowish/tannish" cakes often end up in the poop category.  And I don't care that no one is paying me to bake them a cake, I don't want my shit to - even accidentally - look like poop.

So, I put my dormant brain to work on this one and did some reconnaissance on the Internet.  You know how they say, "measure twice and cut once" in construction circles?  Well, the same thinking applies in the very intricate process of homemaker cake baking.  Since leopard gecko cake pans are not a dime a dozen at baking supply stores, plus, because I'm cheap, I had to find a picture to work from, create a pattern, and cut a frozen cake.  Voila!  Red neck cake pan!

I settled on a stylized cartoon of a leopard gecko printed on a coffee mug.  Mostly because it was cute and less poopy looking than pictures of the real thing.  After the kids went to bed, I got to work and opted out of a domino game called Mexican Train with my husband and his parents.  I consider that game a feel-bad, low-strategy time suck, so I was happy to avoid the three hour game session due to emergency cake decorating.  But maybe that's because I always lose....

While piping away, I realized two things about my technique of choice.  One, it's slow as all be and that is likely why real bakers who are trying to pay actual bills don't pipe millions of frosting stars on their cakes.  It slows down cake production to the point of bankruptcy!  So smooth is best, people.  As if you didn't already know that.

I also realized that my piping and attempts to create an ombre effect (hello, Martha Stewart!) in the transition from white lizard underbelly to black speckled top, I was engaging in rudimentary pointillism, a recognized painting technique, exquisitely developed in the 1800's by French impressionist, Georges Seurat.  I referenced his work before, in describing an equally mundane experience in my life.

So my point, and I do have one, as Ellen Degeneres would say, is that I may be able to eke beyond self ridicule here.  This cake business can 1) save me from other dreaded activities, 2) actually see completion because I only work from deadlines, and finally, 3) constitute actual artYep, I said it (art), in that louder than you might think inside-my-head voice.  

So what's the verdict, is there a poo vibe?  Also, never mind the gray raccoon tail.  I interpreted the shading in the graphic image too literally.   Remember, art is a process.  That's the point, right?

P.S.  The cake was served to people who know a thing or two about geckos.  Turns out, the ginormous gray plume serves as some kind of food storage camel hump that's supposed to be gray.  So, it's about science, not art.  Or survival, maybe.


Anna See said...

Good for you! I would never have survived this process. I like quick and easy, and half-assed.

There is absolutely NO POO VIBE, promise!

Andrea said...

That is a-mazing. You are a true cake goddess--and artist. My one attempt at cake art was a race car cake for my son's third birthday. I used "natural" food coloring, which only resulted in very very pale pastel shades; the chocolate cake crumbs got all mixed up in the icing; I had to mix four batches of frosting until I got enough; it took me three hours (good thing I started at 6 a.m.) and only looked kinda "meh." Ever since I stick a party-themed toy on a plain cake and call it good (though I can still mess that up, as my stabilized whipped cream started to turn to butter and I had to play off the twins' dinosaur cakes as representing oozing tar pits. Oy.)

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

I wouldn't want anyone to eat that if I had made it. It's gorgeous!

All of my cakes turn out looking like poo. If poo were pink. She always wants pink frosting. It's a skill, making pink poo.

Allyson said...

So cute. I love it.

And it also reminded me that I have to do a cake for a birthday party on Sunday. Ack.

jeanette said...

Definitely art. At least, the fact that you are artistic and therefore can make a cake that looks entirely like a gecko is consoling me given that i slap frosting on like antibiotic ointment.

anymommy said...

The confluence of art and science. And cake. I love it.

Allison @ Alli 'n Son said...

I think it looks great. I'm so impressed.