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Just Icing on the Cake, Part Two*

by Roberta McReynolds

The assignment for the third and final class required baking another cake, striving to apply a smoother coat of frosting this time. This would be impossible for one of my classmates; her homework for last week was flawless. The rest of us had plenty of room for varying degrees of improvement.

Im thankful that our instructor, Lori, wasnt required to grade students on skill. As long as the required class fee was paid, success wasnt a big issue. I take that back. She wanted us to be successful enough that we would enjoy it and register for many future classes!

Lori had strongly encouraged us to practice making roses at home. Each of us possessed an instruction booklet with photographs and had seen her demonstrate the process. If youre a good at balancing an icing nail with a mound of soft frosting in one hand and aiming a bag of frosting with a mind of its own in the other hand, while reading a book on the proper angles for each rose petal, you would be on the road to success. Oh, dont forget that twirling the icing nail at the proper speed as you squeeze the frosting bag is beneficial.

I had an adequate supply of leftover frosting from last week to practice my skills. Truthfully, the containers of snow white sugar, meringue powder, and shortening (achieved only by using clear flavorings instead of the cheap, artificial stuff stocked on my spice shelf) and the garish pink concoction sat untouched in the recesses of my refrigerator as the days passed.

I baked my cake the day before class. I decided not to torte the 9"x3" cake into two equal layers. Who would know once it was shrouded in frosting? That also eliminated the extra steps required to add a filling! Then in another last minute stroke of genius; I decided to bake a separate 6"x2" layer. Wouldnt the teacher be impressed with a tiered cake?

I covered all exposed inner surfaces of my cake pans with shortening and wax paper, cut to exact sizes. Those cakes were definitely coming out whole this time! This was a successful idea and also made wrapping the baked layers in plastic wrap far easier. Ive never understood why that material insists on clinging to itself only when I aim to avoid it, yet refuses to stay put when its my primary objective.

Note to self: ask Lori if she conducts classes on the disciplines of handling of plastic wrap. There must be a trick to it I missed while studying geometry during high school, instead of home economics. I possess the ability to calculate the necessary expanse of plastic required to swathe a disk-shaped object in a rectangle of static-charged plastic, but sadly lack the agility to master the action.

The morning of the class I mixed another double batch of frosting, scraping in last weeks white leftover frosting in the process (the pink was jettisoned into the garbage pail, never to be seen again). So what if the goop was a week old? My husband could scrape it off just as easily as he did seven days ago.

I pulled the two frozen layers of cake out and freed them of plastic wrap. The bottom layer was slathered in icing and smoothed out. I plopped the smaller layer on top and worked at getting it perfectly centered. It dawned on me that there was an added bonus to this approach; it would be far easier to create a perfectly smooth surface on the 6" diameter layer, since my frosting knife wasnt long enough to span the 9" layer in one unbroken motion. I felt so clever, despite the fact it was an inadvertent outcome.

One drawback I encountered was keeping the lower edge of the top tier clean where it joined the bottom layer. I couldnt master a flawless 90-degree angle with the frosting. Looking back over the series of events which followed, I sense this was the point where I began to stray off course. Even a GPS system wouldnt have returned me to the original assignments objective once I wandered into murky territory.

The solution to achieving a perfect-looking joint was obvious to me. I decided to add a shell border to cover the seam. While I had the pastry bag filled, I also went ahead and applied another shell border around the base of the cake where it rested on the plate. I admit that not all the shells matched in size and technique, but they covered the worst flaws. I was required to present a plain, smoothly frosted cake at class, but the added shells looked so nice!

Page Two, Page Three>>

*Just the Icing on the Cake, Part One