Sunday, 20 January 2013

Birthday cakes as performance art

There is nothing like a birthday cake to get the creative juices flowing.

Like any form of art - the b-day cake traverses the gap between the mind of the creator and the actual gestalt of the final art work - and ends up taking a life of its own.

For thine is the Kingdom. 
Between the conception. 
And the creation. 
Between the emotion. 
And the response.  
Falls the Shadow

Looking back on today I see Asha's 12th birthday cake as a kind of peformance art.

With the 3.30 PM of the party starting - the creative juices were not only flowing but positively churning as the 6 AM carving began.  Then over the course of the day the cake took shape.  After getting its final touches - the cake played a brief cameo as candles were lit and the traditional song sung.  Then seconds later the destructive part of the day began as birthday girl had blown out the candles and started carving it up.

At the end of the day, its full glory is only a sweet memory.

Here are the steps this particular artistic performance took:

We had baked the 3 chocolate cakes (using a recipe from the trusty-rusty Landour Cookbook) and had prepared a foil-covered base the night before.  Some pictures for proportion always help too!

Its always a thrill to get the cakes out of their pans and start cutting!  I do the initial shaping on newspaper because they make a lot of crumbs.

At this point the aim of the game is to get the basic shape right - and use as much of the cake as possible.  Its great fun trying to use the odd pieces that you end up with. 

The cake I made this year was 'Cluedo the Cat.'  He was to fit in with the 'mystery' theme for Asha's party and one early idea was to make his tail into a big question mark.

 When the basic shape is ready, you can transfer him to the foil base and make the icing.  I use a simple recipe from the (you guessed it) Landour Cookbook - 1 tbsp butter, 1.5 cups powdered sugar (Enoch helped me grind and sift this) and adding a little hot milk time to time to help in mixing.  Simple food colouring sets up the palette.

When I was a pre-teen and my mother encouraged me to bake I read a simple children's cook-book that told me to ice the sides of the cake before the top.  I religiously follow this advice to this day...

A little milk on a knife can make the rough smooth.  Pity that that doesn't work for all the rough patches of our lives...

Its now a race against time.  Will we be able for finish?  Its almost 2 - guests are due to come at 3.30 and the house is a mess.  But thanks to a handy-dandy pastry injection (for want of not knowing what the contraption is) which our friends John and Nalini gave us earlier - all the final decorations can be but on without too much heart-burn!

And sure enough - the guests start to arrive.  There is some oohing and aahing about the cake and then it is forgotten as the games begin.

But "Cluedo the Cat' has his moment of glory too:

With the strains of 'Happy Birthday dear Asha' still lingering (and the slightly rowdier version which features her being in a zoo and references to certain caged beasts) the candles are blown out and Asha confidently cuts the cake and feeds all and sundry.

The main cake is whisked into the kitchen and cut up and added to a serving of two medu-wadas and a bowl of custard with grapes and banana in it.

At the end of the party - this is what remains.

Cluedo the Cat has not quite disappeared like the Chesire Cat in Alice in Wonderland of whom only his broad smile could finally be seen.

But this piece of art is now being transformed into energy - some of which is being used to keep Asha's friends (and family and herself of course) moving around (or sleeping as it would be) and some is being used to actually physically make them who they are.

How about that for tranformational art?


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