Whenever I am doing a photoshoot, I always start with a vision. I don’t mean to sound like some kind of patronizing artist, dramatically fluttering my eyelashes and looking at the ceiling as if I have some grand idea that no one else does. No. I just like to daydream. And then I like to make my daydreams happen. I make them happen with the magic of props (usually things found around my house) and my camera. I’m pretty good at this part and I go to great lengths to make my vision happen. Sometimes I go too far and it kicks me in the butt.
Like my latest tea party shoot for Victoria Day for Alphamom. You guys probably think I bang out crafts in an afternoon but the reality is that it takes me several days. One day of planning, one day of shopping/gathering and usually graphic designing and one day of shooting. This is actually an aggressive schedule and I’m always happy when it works out. When it doesn’t work out I lose money. Bad. Like working for less than a dollar an hour bad.
So it’s in my best interest for thing to work out.
This week I had a vision of tiny pink cakes for Queen Victoria’s Royal Birthday Tea Party. I love pink cakes and I love things that are tiny so put them together and I’m squeeing all over the place. I figured I could just make the cakes. I love to decorate cakes and I can throw a mix together usually. I figured I could do it. How hard could it be?
I bought two vanilla cake mixes from Trader Joe’s and went to town. I figured I’d want the cakes pretty thin so I only filled my cake tins with an inch of batter. Then because I’m smarter than a house cat I baked them for half the time. Half the batter, half the time, right? Hah! Baking is a science and nothing is easily halved like that. My cakes burned and they were not even. I also have an electric oven that is possessed by poltergeists so things didn’t turn out so well.
Aaaaaand maybe I should mention that I cannot follow directions. I mixed all my ingredients and then wondered why my mix was so mealy. Then I noticed that I had not added the two cups of milk that my recipe required. So I added them in later.
That meant my batter didn’t mix completely properly. The milk sloshed over the sides of my mixing bowl and the bottom of the mixture was thick glunk. Did I make sure that I mixed it thoroughly? Of course not! I like to wing things and baking is tedious. I don’t have time for such carefulness. I poured my batter in my pans and sort of pushed it around with a spatula.
Let’s take an inventory of problems:
1. uneven cake
2. burned edges
3. cake is very spongey
But I was not dissuaded. I got my little round cookie cutters that I bought especially for this project and cut my little cakes. I evened them up the best I could with a serrated knife. They sort of looked cute. I thought at this point that icing would cover a multitude of sins. That’s one good thing about photoshoots. It doesn’t have to taste good. I just has to look good.
Jokes on me.
I wanted the icing to be smooth. Like a glaze or what you would see on cake pops and petit fours. You know: cute little tea things, all smooth and dainty with maybe some iced flowers or some white polka dots. I even bought a new icing bag, new couplers and a new tiny icing tip for the job. I was so excited for the decorating part.
The first go around, I made my glaze too watery. I poured it onto my spongey cake like lemonade, soaking it like a strawberry shortcake in milk. It was very very sad. I thought I took a picture of that mess but I guess that one only made it into my snapchat story. Then I thickened my icing up and stuck my cakes in the freezer for an hour, thinking that harder cake would keep the frosting on the outside and not soaking in so much.
You know what happened? As the cake defrosted my icing kept sliding off of it. It was avalanche city on my cakes. Tiny little skiers were fleeing for their lives. I tried to smooth the icing around with a knife but that turned into a crumbly mess. I know I could do a crumb coat or something. I’ve watched enough cake baking reality shows to know about that but these cakes were so little, it was like trying to ice a mud ball that was crumbling in my hand. Maybe there’s a reason there are no tiny pink cakes on the internet that perfectly match my vision. Maybe it just cannot be done!
And that is how my tea party came to be catered by the local grocery store! Some visions die hard, in the car with tears and a plastic take-out container from the bakery.
Here are a few outtakes. My models say it tasted good. So there’s that at least. Too bad I don’t care about that.
Stay tuned for the alphamom post. In spite of my catastrophe in baking, the shoot turned out pretty well! Phew.