MARK’S ARTICLE -- April 24, 2010
“Piece of cake? Not so easy.”
I used to know cake. Considered myself somewhat of an expert. I’ve made a bunch. Chocolate with chocolate icing, white with chocolate icing, bundt with no icing and upside-downs with funky fruit toppings.
I’ve made layered, sheet and cup. I was the cake man. At least, I thought I was. No more. No, no more. From what I’ve observed of late, I don’t know cake from Cairo. (No idea. It just came to me.)
Cake’s cold light of reality first shown after Big Al invited me to go visit a bakery, owned by the wife of a friend. Al said it was free cake night. I told Al that he was mistaking a timeshare scam with free cake night. Happens to a lot of people.
Al assured me I wouldn’t be asked to buy a thing. His actual words were, “You idiot. Do you wanna come or not?”
If it’s cake and it’s free, I’m there… unless it’s a wedding or something where I hafta dress up. I just hate to dress up. Many people have been kind enough to point that out.
I didn’t have to dress up for free cake night. Al and I just entered and stood in line for cake. All kinds of cake. And, coffee! I kept waiting for someone to drag me into a room to discuss investment schemes. It didn’t happen. I credit my appearance for that.
The bakery is on 105 west, before you get to the lake, and it’s called “cake.” At least that’s all the sign had on it. Might’ve been in all caps – “CAKE.” I later learned that the official name is “Sweets to dream on.” I don’t know how you dream on sweets, but I didn’t care, ‘cause it was free cake. Thought I mentioned that.
Turns out, Brad Meyer wrote an article about the owner of Sweets TDO, Ana Hartwell. Brad did the story because Ana was to appear on the Learning Channel’s “Ultimate Cake Off.” My first reaction was “Ultimate what off?” Believe I said it out loud, too. The article didn’t mention if Ana and her team won the Cake Off, because the episode had yet to air.
Well, it’s since aired, and I got to watch it with Ana and her friends and family. Al said I was invited ‘cause I made such a great impression on Free Cake Night. Al is bilingual. He speaks both English and Sarcasmish.
I was the least bit hesitant to attend Ana’s Cake Off premier until Al told me supper would be provided. With free cake.
Well, long story beginning to drag, let me just say that while watching the Cake Off I witnessed some cake spectacles that left me flabbergasted. The stuff people can do with cake! Ana and her team were competing with two other teams in LA who were each designing and making cakes to honor firefighters at one of the LA fire stations.
Ana and friends ended up winning the thing with a 500 pound cake shaped like the inside of a house, with a fireplace and a boy inside holding a fire hose that moved back and forth. Oh, and the boy’s dog was next to him nodding its head. And, smoke was coming outta the fireplace!
Ana beat one team that constructed a high-rise of cake that had a helicopter on top. I think it was on top. The copter blades turned and everything. Another team made a life-size cake fireman sitting with his back against a firehouse wall. A little fire truck rolled outta the firehouse. And, it was a cake truck! You could eat the thing… just not the wheels and engine. And, you could even eat the fireman. Spooky, if you ask me.
It took ‘em ten hours to make the cakes. All the while the hosts of the show were talking to the teams and playing games with ‘em and urging them to get upset with each other. They didn’t say they were doing that, but I could tell they were trying to start a cake fight. Viewers like it when contestants go at each other. I don’t know why.
But, like I said, Ana’s team won. Won $10,000. I considered it not enough for what all they had to do. You couldn’t get me to make a 500 pound house, boy, dog, burning fireplace cake for under a couple mil.
I thought Ana’s spectacular cake accomplishment was just an isolated occurrence till I talked to a friend at church. Carol Dreesen showed me a copy of Rachal Ray’s “Every Day” magazine that had featured her daughter, Angela, and her bakery. Turns out Angela is a McCullough graduate who scored big in the cake making business. She owns Blue Note Bakery in Austin.
A photo of one of her creations was right there in the magazine. I found Blue Note’s website and broused through pictures of hundreds of unbelievable creations. Once again I was flabbergasted.
Apparently, the days of slapping together a cake and serving it to guests are over. You now have to be an artist, engineer, architect and sculptor. In other words, talented. That’s not me. Because of that, I’m now ashamed to even make a cake. Oh, I’ll eat ‘em. Especially when they’re free. But, I can’t compete with what’s out there.
Nowadays, cakes are made to look like anything you want. A bucket of crawfish? I saw one on Angela’s website. And, you can eat it, bucket and all! When I think back on the birthday cake I made for Larry, the one with his likeness drizzled out on top, well, I want to weep. Mark the Cakeman? I don’t think so. No more. No, no more.