Forward by Sophie
You have to love a home made birthday cake. They are an embodiment of time, you can almost see the clock ticking past midnight as you look at them. I love the detail, the transience and most of all the need to buy and entire packet of musk lollies for that all important doorknob.
Here is Lish the queen of cakes with her first artist in residence post.
How lovely is this Artist In Residence – thanks for having me.
For my first week I’m not going to put pen to paper but rather icing to cake. Next week will be present-art. This is past-art.
I’ve always liked baking cakes for friends and family but not just a cake that celebrates the milestone of the person but one that celebrates the marvel of that person as well.
And not just the marvel of that person in a static cake covered in marvel-making sprinkles but in true action-figure hero style with things that move or light up or bite or shake or bounce or surprise.
I was working at Questacon when I first discovered comedy cakes. We were doing a workshop on how to engage kids in science and technology through hands-on workshops on pneumatics and hydraulics using nothing more than a couple of syringes (‘sealed for your hygiene’ without the pointy bits of course), some plastic tubing and milk cartons. You could make things, pop-up, push-out, flip open or squirt stuff!
The following day, I was to make a cake for one of my students who did a science show called ‘ The Exploding Custard’ Show. To keep the cake relevant I decided I would make her a ‘Exploding Custard Cake’
Simple …. Cut hole in cake, make trap door which lifts using simple syringe machine. Birthday girl sees fabulous use of technology and comes to take a closer look and blow out candles. In the trap door, hidden by a jungle of jelly snakes is another tube connected to a syringe full of runny custard. Push syringe, custard squirts directly into eye. Everybody thinks it is hilarious except person with custard in their eye and all is forgiven with jelly snakes!
I burnt out of cake baking after I burnt off my eyebrows during the afore-mentioned ‘Fastest Cake in the World’ where I fired a scone out of a cannon (Why is it the fastest cake in the world I hear you ask ….one second it was there, the next it was …SCONE!). I also met my future husband with this cake and without those eyebrows felt I should quit while still a head.
I got back into it when I had little humans to celebrate.
The first one I made for Sammy was a broccoli tree cake. He ate the broccoli and we ate the cake. Perfecto.
Second one was more butter icing as a tractor and no interactivity apart from eating.
Third was more butter icing but a brilliant digger cake with lots of rubble to push around, letters in tim-tam block being moved around by machines. Excellent considering I was working out of a hotel/motel kitchen!
Then there was Millie.
Millies 1st was her favourite toy from the Toy Library …the ‘Rocking Slug’ . Those eyes explode but the slug was structurally unsound and was twixed in twain!
Sammy’s 4th Birthday was ‘The Polar Express’ which had carriages full of fun things but this was the last straw for the butter icing in 40’C heat at the beach.
Millies 2nd Birthday – Big into bouncing we made a bouncing cake. Jaffas were dropped from a great height, onto the spring-board and landed in the freshly made ..butter icing. Brilliant all around. Totally age appropriate and one of my better ones due to limited moving parts!
Sammy’s 5th, Treasure Chest with discoveries of treasure (If you are a rabbit)
Millie’s 3rd Birthday is a ‘Furry Toadstool’ cake where a little furry fairy pops out from the doors with some clever pneumatics, smoke and mirrors!
Sammy’s 6th Skull Cake … having discovered the wonders of roll-out icing, there is no turning back. I can cover just about anything in that stuff.
I’ve also done a few ‘adult’ cakes … meaning cakes for adults not adult themed!
Michelle, a dynamo of the highest order got a ‘All Singing All Dancing Solar Powered Birthday cake’ which actually worked. It sung happy Birthday when plugged into the choir.
Bec’s was themed around her love of getting her kit off at any inappropriate opportunity. This was a cake that could be undressed, the icing clothes thrown to the crowd to reveal underwear and pixelated ‘bits’.
There have also been a few exploding cakes in there and a few that haven’t been funny enough to mention
So, while I wouldn’t say I’m artistic I think I have it in my head. With some planning, an engineering husband, some kid free time and lots of icing it does become a nice artistic moment.
You just have to remind yourself not to eat all the icing off-cuts.