I have seen and eaten many delicious cakes in Tenerife. I have the Red King, the Blue King, and a bean so need another Christmas cake next year to try for the Green or Yellow King if my teeth survive the endeavour.
I have made and decorated my own Christmas cakes in the past and was virtually dismissed or rather frozen out of a cake-decorating class long ago. I could not bring myself to put the newly learnt sugar-paste roses under the lid of the white, Royal-Iced basket and take it home from Christmas. Pastel roses just didn’t seem Christmassy any more than the white basket. So I gilded the basket weave and stuffed in lots of bright marzipan fruits, mistletoe and holly leaves. The teacher was not amused but the other students on the course expressed wishes that they had done the same. Unfortunately, it was not the first time I had been unconsciously rebellious at a cake-decorating class!
In my young days, it was usual to live at home until you went to college etc. and I was no exception. Looking back, how lucky I was because my Mum did all my washing, ironing, cleaned my room and cooked for me. I was rarely required in the kitchen except to wash up and couldn’t cook until I was about 25.
Early in my marriage the necessity for culinary skills became apparent as my husband could only manage burgers and frozen peas. Phone calls to Mum led to a bit of a zest for learning. It didn’t last but this, in turn, went much further than generally required, so eventually, bored with producing the daily fare, I joined a cake decorating class. Ambition abounded.
At first, we had to practise how to make our own baking paper icing bags, assemble equipment, colourings, flavourings, a wooden hand beater and nozzles galore and each week we had to take a large home-baked cake of a particular shape. Mine never seemed to rise like the others but I beat the Royal Icing as fast as I could for the full twenty minutes and used a secret cocktail stick blob when the icing bags split during fine applications. I ate so much white icing and sugar paste washed down with apricot jam and marzipan.
The fine, white icing course was useful but dull. Many patterns, baskets, leaves and flora were produced but how I longed for some colour! The sugar paste flowers were all pastel roses, again dull to my fauvist tendencies. The marzipan fruits were much more fun but mine were always huge and I couldn’t get the idea of the delicate items in little sprays of basketwork and ferny leaves. Chunkiness was my trademark.
One week we were asked to make a sponge in a pudding bowl and buy a china lady’s bust with hat to stand on the upturned sponge. It was to be a crinoline lady and we were to learn how to create icing frills. My aunt directed me to a shop, which specialised in confectionary supplies and I selected my ‘bust’. I chose the lady with the cloud of white wig under the large apricot satin hat with the black, ostrich feather trim. She had an apricot jacket with a large white lace collar and tiny black buttons. Beautiful.
At the class we turned out our sponges…mine was rather larger than most having too enthusiastically chosen our biggest Pyrex bowl and the bust was dwarfed on the top, even more so with a covering of jam and sugar paste to create the skirt. We each had our own table and started our frills after the demonstration. I concentrated so hard that I bit my tongue….lots of skirt to do! It seemed logical to choose the same colours as on the bust and hat. I worked so hard and suddenly the teacher called us to bring our efforts to the display table. My embarrassment was as deep as the shock on the faces around me. The table was a fiesta of delicate frilled ladies in pastel shades and mine was like the wicked fairy, the misfit, in brilliant black and orange. Nobody spoke until the teacher breathed deeply and concentrated firmly on our frilling skills. There was little comment as we got our coats and I felt like the rebel. If only my bust had a comb and mantilla and wasn’t an 18th century courtesan!
I have iced many cakes for celebrations since and have tried hard to cope with ‘small is beautiful’ and develop the much-loved pastels. But next week I can really let go: a football stadium cake for a 60th birthday. As long as I choose the right team colours…
Monica and I only met since our time in Tenerife but we are of an age when much of our youth or early married-life was spent doing similar activities. When I received this article from her, the thoughts came flooding back. Evening classes learning how to sew, make Christmas crackers, cook and of course decorate cakes. These I made for birthdays and Christmas when my children were small. My younger daughter found she has a talent for cake decorating and images of some of her cakes are used in this article. Fortunately, these days fashions have changed, the bigger and brighter the colour the better and anything goes.