These delectable little treats are what I made for our office Christmas party. I made 36 of them, one for each member of staff attending the party, plus two spares in case of in-car damage. As gorgeous as they (sort of) look, and as clichéd as it sounds, there were copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears that went into their production. (For any colleagues of mine who are reading this, I assure you none of these bodily fluids actually went into the cakes themselves.)
The Agony Part 1 – Blood
I was lucky enough to have my Mother staying with me while making these cakes, and not being so lucky as to have a dishwasher, I had to do many, many dishes, repeatedly, and so was grateful to have Mum there to dry them up. Until… she dropped a kitchen knife, point downwards, onto her foot. And it was one of those devilishly sharp, Japanese-made Global knives, which struck her rather too obligingly at the base of her big toe. Needless to say I had to dust off my recently renewed First Aid skills, not to mention my First Aid kit. As we Aussies of a certain generation like to say, her foot bled like a stuck pig and I had a hard time keeping my curious but recalcitrant Ragdoll kitten away from the blood all over the floor, while trying to apply pressure. Thankfully we avoided a Sunday spent in an A & E waiting room.
The Agony Part 2 – Sweat
It took me the better part of two days to get these cakes finished (including multiple changes of plan after unplanned disasters, and many rest breaks for aching joints), and both days coincided with a sudden weather change in Perth from Winter to Summer. Yes, I know there’s meant to be a season in between, but as most Perth-ites (Perthians?) know, we were gypped out of having Spring this year by the weather gods. It suddenly changed from nippy mornings and daytime rain to baking temperatures and extreme humidity. So I did my best not to sweat my way through that adventure, but have to admit to quite a bit of mopping of brow.
The Agony Part 3 – Tears
At the close of the first day, having baked quite literally for hours on end, and having laboriously plugged mini fruit cake holes with marzipan, I did a test run of covering a mini cake with sugarpaste, and found I could not live with the lumpy imperfection of it. I was quite deflated, and looking around my kitchen and dining room, both of which were covered in dirty dishes and gazillions of mini cakes, I began rehearsing semi-plausible reasons to give to my boss as to why I could not deliver on the promised offer of Christmas cakes for all the staff at the party.
E.g. my Mum accidentally severed her foot, my kitten drank human blood and we had to arrange a midnight vampire slaying, the Maylands gun shop was out of silver bullets and I had to fashion a crude furnace to melt down the family silver … you get the picture. But seriously, you need a really hot fire to melt those candelabras. Anyway, I had a little cry, as you do, and decided to tell the truth and then face about three months of eating mini fruit cakes for morning tea at work – risky, because the alcohol levels were pretty high in those little suckers!
Come morning I had resolved to salvage the situation by trying a different approach to the icing. If rolled sugarpaste wasn’t going to cut it, I would try using Royal icing made to look like custard/sauce dolloped on top of the faux Christmas puddings. A quick experiment looked hopeful but my packaging plans were ill-formed and I needed a Plan B. So I dragged my poor, foot sore and perforated Mum out to Coventry Village for more icing sugar, with hopes of spotting a Plan B, (and my Secret Santa gift). I found both. In the picture you can see that each cake is sitting in a striped ice cream cup. Perfect!
It was five in the afternoon by the time I had finished icing the cakes and cutting out squillions of Holly leaves. Yes, squillions. This picture proves it.
And that wasn’t all of them. Two per cake meant I needed 72 of those little bleeders! With mother despatched on the evening train back to Bunbury, I started on the Holly berries. Three per cake = 108 BERRIES! By the time I had stuck everything on, glazed the berries with a homemade glaze that DID NOT WORK (thank you VERY much to the person who posted a hopeless recipe for homemade confectioner’s glaze on the internet), and had cut out 36 pieces of cellophane which I had to tape over each cake, it was midnight and no amount of homemade glaze could stick my eyelids open. The ribbons were destined to wait until morning.
In the morning I spent about 45 seconds trying to tie a silver ribbon onto a round ice cream cup, before said ribbon became a new kitten toy, and there the agony came to an end.
The Ecstasy – finally!
The only thing that made it vaguely worthwhile – although I can truthfully say I will NEVER make a lot of anything EVER again – was the site of all those little Christmas pudding cakes sitting lined up in a wicker basket, coupled with the knowledge that they were appreciated by those colleagues who received them.
Merry Christmas to everyone at CLD – you are a great bunch.
- Things That Go Lumpy in the Night (obsessivecakedecorating.wordpress.com)