Buttercream Dreams

My daughter and I have signed up for an entry-level Wilton cake decorating class in June. Provided at least two other people register for the evening session we prefer, I may be close to learning how to ice a cake evenly. When I was my daughter’s age, I iced a friend’s birthday cake, and her mother asked me if I was paying a pink tribute to the mashed potato mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

I shied away from learning the Wilton method in the past because I thought that I might be better off being bad at icing cakes than learning passé or gauche techniques. I imagine that someone in America made a cake shaped like bell-bottom Levi’s Action Slacks and decorated it with a tiny star tip to reflect the tight polyester weave of that fabric. Last week I bought some large Wilton icing tips and was just thrilled with the results. Maybe just maybe this is the clan who can help me decorate a cake decently.

A dear friend of mine dug into the Wilton hobby twenty years ago, and she lent me her class books and the fantastic 1997 Wilton Yearbook. When I think of the late 90’s, I feel like this era happened about five years ago. These catalogs remind me that my sense of time is warping. 1997 really was 20 years ago, and my daughter, who already ices a cake better than I do, was minus four years old.

Before I close, I will share some shots of these catalog pages. By the way, I love aged catalogs. When I worked at a department store, I’d study the store’s past catalogs whenever customer traffic evaporated. I learned that the store had offered a hookah bong by mail order back in 1977, with the advice, “filter with water or liquor for a smoother smoke.”

The bong could have paired well with the clown technique below. This method must be more responsive to trends than I suspected. While you can learn to make buttercream mountains on top of cupcakes nowadays, back then creating a 3D figure was part of the class:

I hoped Robert liked chocolate. The script on this cake looks positively funereal:

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I need this cat pan! I ordered it off Ebay, and my daughter and I hope to ice cat cakes in several versions based on our favorite shelter cats:

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All that is missing is tobacco, or else one could have birthday cake candles to represent all three players in the unhold ATF trinity:

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I don’t remember that the 90’s were so baroque:

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