Archive | April 2013

A Tale of Two Cakes

I love American Idol. I think I have watched every season. One of the things they always tell singers is that it seemed like a karaoke performance, implying that it was less than a show performance. Similarly, consider the difference between high fashion runway models and catalog models. As I was watching Idol the other night, I started thinking that there is a similar comparison in the cake world. I know that I have judged cake shows and, at least once, written “this would make a lovely cake for a bridal show.” I am betting that people don’t all see the difference between a display/bridal show cake and a competition cake. My friend Barry Dickinson asked me to write this blog to help folks understand.

A competition cake is supposed to show off the best features of your design and decorating skills. It is supposed to take longer than a regular cake order for most people. It often shows off advanced skills that no one pays you to do. It isn’t necessarily something you would do for a real event because almost no one would pay you enough to do that design. These cakes are fantasies. They are your dreams, your visions, your secret artistic desires.

A display cake is one that you know you can and will replicate many times in a very quick fashion. It is more commercial. It is production oriented. The designs are “dumbed down” so that they can be created efficiently for a profit.

A bridal show cake is similarly designed…for immediate visual impact from a distance, which can be reproduced easily on busy wedding weekends. While the designs might be impressive and detailed to a customer, we know that piping large scrolls with a tip 3 can be pretty fast. They might take longer than a birthday cake, but they still must be a profitable design. This necessarily limits what you do.

I often think of display and bridal show cakes as something you look at from a distance, like a full page in a magazine. They look amazing and really catch your eye, but if you go closer, you don’t usually get a whole lot more detail. The competition cakes, however, when done right, draw you closer and you keep noticing more details. It takes numerous photos to do the cake justice. It may need to be viewed on all sides or from different angles to take in everything that is special about that cake.

The next time you design a cake for a competition, think to yourself, is it runway or catalog? Can one photo capture all the details? Have I unleashed my full decorating potential? If not, bring the cake anyway. As I discovered at the last show, once in a while a display cake just might be done well enough to be a winner.

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Picture Perfect

A dear friend of mine works for Young Life. YL had a seminar about how social media was making people feel bad about their lives because they only saw the perfect Instagram photos their friends would post. I thought about that for a while and realized that all of us who concentrate on happy, upbeat posts might be sending an incomplete message.

Mike Elder wrote a series of blogs called Fake it til you Make it. It kind of woke up the decorating community to the fact that we post our successes, rarely our failures. His blogs resonated with everyone. I’ve tried to be really honest with you guys in my blogs and tell you about the trials I faced in my baking life. But are my Facebook posts as honest? Maybe not.

When we see people cooking the perfect meal, taking the perfect trip, making the perfect cake, whatever…somehow it seems to make us feel a bit envious of their life and bad about ours. But the fact is, that the Instagram photos and Facebook posts are just like dust jackets on books. They show you the what the author wants to show you. Behind that dust jacket is the real story.

If I let myself, I can get really sad that friends of mine are doing things that I am not. I can wish my house looked like theirs, my abs were as tight as theirs, my teaching schedule as world bound as theirs, my family as picture perfect as theirs. What I have to remember is that the picture simply shows one perfect part of their life. No one really seems to have it all, at least not at the same time. They might be teaching in numerous countries, but be going through a divorce or be unwillingly single. They might have perfect abs but be going through a major financial crisis. They might have a huge house, but hate their job and wish their children would behave. They might have any number of health, relationship or financial problems.

There’s probably even someone who has thought my life was perfect or envied the good things I have posted. I want to be clear. I focus on presenting happy, encouraging, upbeat posts and try not to complain. But my life is far from perfect. People always tell me how lucky I am to be thin, but don’t forget that if you take my body, you have to take ALL of it. You get asthma, leukemia, adrenal insufficiency, hormone replacement, thyroid replacement and arthritis in the back. You get to have 10 prescriptions to keep up with. You have a doctor for everything. You have awesome surgery scars all over your belly. For each happy part of my life, I could show you the flip side.

You see, there is always more to the picture. Don’t let a moment in a photo change how you feel about you. Don’t let anyone’s success on one thing change how you feel about your journey. Remember, only you know your whole story. Show the world whatever you want, but don’t forget the human side to all of this. Instead of posting on someone’s timeline, give them a call or send them a text. Reach out to the real person, not the picture. Don’t let social media take away your social interactions. It should enhance your life, not undermine it. The dust jacket is only the surface. Get into the novel and you will see what is real. And, hopefully, find a way to feel blessed about the good things in your own life.

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