A Cake for the Gala

So. Wow. For several months now, I’ve been planning a special cake for the Centrum Writer’s Conference Gala fundraiser. The premium desserts at their annual fundraiser are a big deal, raising a great deal of money for the writing community. It’s a HUGE honor to be asked, and I’ve been taking it very seriously for months. I’ve been fiddling with cake recipes, adding various elements, (the theme being Enchanted Forest), changing my mind often. As the deadline nudged in, in what can only be called a fit of creative suicide, I sent the Centrum people a write up about my dessert for their program.

“Title: Petit Cafe au Chocolat
The cake itself is a 12″ chocolate cake layered with raspberry and chocolate mousses, a chocolate/hazelnut crumble and topped with a chocolate mirror glaze. Elegant chocolate trees and red currants surround a small clearing (the cake top) where mini-French patisserie are being served to forest guests around a chocolate cauldron of raspberry coulis.”

I thought I had it pretty nailed down. My ingredients were in hand, my methodology very well rehearsed in my mind. I plotted out my to-do timeline and made allowances for the fact that I’m straddling two kitchens these days between my old house and new. Two days ago, I dove into the prep. I was ready.

Then, with 50 minutes before I needed to hit the road with the finished cake, my mirror glaze, the last component before decorating the top, FAILED. Instead of pouring in a shiny stream around the frozen mousse cake, it glumped like a sticky tar pit, barely making it over the edge before stopping in its tracks.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to hyperventilate in slow motion? Or take a breath in a vacuum? A strange high pitch scream accompanies the experience. Afterward, I sat on the floor in a stupor for some time, my carefully laid plans for the top of the cake draining out of me until there was nothing left in my brain.

I don’t remember standing up. At some point my hands began to poke at the chocolate glob, testing its viscosity, hoping for a miracle. And somehow one came. I actually transmogrifyed into my youngest daughter in 1st grade, the summer we decided to paint lamp shades. That wonderful day, she fearlessly and randomly stuck things on her lamp shade that were illogical and didn’t match, while her sister carefully stenciled things in neat patterns on hers. Yet it was the crazy lamp shade that was the triumph that day, a source of great inspiration to me for many years.

In this strange state, I began to reach for cake components I’d tried and abandoned, but still had in the wings. I glued things on with leftover mousse, knowing it made little sense. My carefully laid plans were toast. It was just me and the cake in the enchanted forest of “WTF”.

I’d forgotten how invigorating it is to get out of my own damn way.


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