Where Did I Go Wrong with My Chiffon? Part II

Betty Crocker likes Calendar Cakes. As in, go check the calendar, surely there must be some reason to decorate a cake coming up. It’s Fall? How about a fall leaves cake? A Columbus Day cake? Halloween cupcakes?

Those are all lay-ups. Bet you didn’t think about making one for homecoming (so what if you last graduated from somewhere 13 years ago?), a Pumpkin Cake, a Harvest Cake or a Festive Cranberry Cake. Now let’s go for the deep cuts: an Autumn Chrysanthemum Cake (bonus: the chrysanthemum is made from carefully sliced orange gumdrops!) or a nice Steamed Orange Pudding?

Then there’s Winter. How about an Eskimo Igloo Cake? Oh, come on, it’s fun!

Other cakes in the Winter category are the Clock Strikes Twelve Cake, the Confetti Cake, Valentine Cake, the Lincoln Log Cake and the Shamrock Designer Cake. There is another cake for St. Patrick’s Day called Lime Ribbon Delight, which calls for “miniature white clay pipes” for decoration. Yes, let me run down to the basement and get those miniature white clay pipes I’ve been saving just for this moment.

Christmas is in a category of it’s own. The heading of the Christmas section is actually “Christmas – The Fifth Season.” Is that like Christmas – The Fifth Dimension? Because it does seem as if the entire population of America slips into another dimension right after Thanksgiving and stays there until about January 6th. Just writing about it makes me feel anxious.

One of their Christmas suggestions is the Della Robbia Cake. Della who? That’s what I thought until Betty explained that it was “inspired by the work of the 15th century Florentine sculptor whose name it bears.” Huh? We went from Eskimo Igloo Cake to one inspired by an artist from the 15th century? This might be Betty’s attempt at truly trying to offer something for everyone – a xenophobic take on Eskimo culture for the rubes and high art for the more cultured among us.

You might think we’ve reached the end of what you can celebrate with cake. WRONG. We haven’t even talked about bridal showers, baby showers, weddings, christenings, the Mortarboard Cake for graduations, the Reunion Cake and… Wait, this is kinda cool:

Election Returns Party Cakes!! I love their expressions.

Elephant: Hey, do I need to get outta here before all hell breaks loose?

Donkey: I dunno… But here comes a woman with a knife and she looks pissed. Tuck in your trunk!

Finally, there’s a section called Cakes For The Connoisseur. That’s right, everything up until now was for beginners and posers. This section is for truly spectacular cakes. “Soft candlelight, romantic music, a bouquet of flowers – the ideal setting for the cakes in this chapter. Any one of these deserves such a carefully planned background; each is a masterpiece worthy of star billing for your most elaborate entertaining.” Basically, this is no longer a dress rehearsal.  If all your lofty plans for greatness have already been dashed – here’s your last chance. Redemption through cake. “You’ll be an artist in your own right, once you have created a connoisseur’s cake. And your reputation as a hostess will soar!

That sounds terrible. All you get is more people wanting to come over to your house to eat cake.

The stuff in this section just can’t live up to the hype of the opening paragraph. You’re expecting to see something truly outrageous and life-changing, like Black Hole Cake or Anatomy of a Hummingbird Chiffon but all you get is Baked Alaska, Versailles Chocolate Torte (just add French; it’s fancy!), Easy English Trifle, Icelandic Terta, a Calcutta Curry Cake… Then there’s the Artist Inspired Cakes. Van Gogh Sunflower Cake, Sugar Plum Fairy Cake, Swan Lake Cream Puffs…

It makes me sad. I can’t help but envision someone taking this book seriously; sweating as they try to make cream puffs that look like swans while believing their guests will think they are the perfect hostess/ artist. But the dinner party turns into a drunken free-for-all. Guys smoke cigars and make the little swans say dirty jokes before pulling their heads off and smearing cream on their faces. Too much bourbon.

In the end, it seems as if it could have been a very thin line between being the fun, entertaining and ingenous hostess and being seriously depressed by the tedious taks of shaving Brazil nuts or getting your sprinkles to stay within each diamond shape on your Picasso Harlequin Cake.  Maybe it was something to keep the mind busy so it wasn’t just spinning during the long afternoons, remembering the artists you learned about in school, how much you enjoyed art history, how you planned to travel to France, write for a newspaper and study primates.