Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cake for a Cause

Close up of the Top of "The Gift of Hope" Cake

It's been a while since I've decorated a cake. Most of my cooking/baking time has been focused in other areas lately. I was very excited when I received an email from the school asking for students to take part in a cake decorating contest for a special place in Boston called the Hope Lodge. The Hope lodge opened 1 year ago as a free place for family members of cancer patients to stay while their family member is undergoing cancer treatment in the Boston area.

The American Cancer Society, as part of a new initiative called "Celebrate More Birthdays", had a birthday cake recipe contest. Culinary students from the CIA submitted recipes to be judged to become the official birthday cake of the American Cancer Society. Alexandra Mudry's "New Red Velvet Cake" was chosen as the winner. Her cake is a healthier take on the traditional Red Velvet cake and uses Red Beets for the color and apple sauce instead of butter or oil.

The challenge for the decorating contest was to use the New Red Velvet Cake recipe and design a birthday cake for the first Birthday of the Hope Lodge in Boston. My idea popped into my head pretty quickly. I wanted something that looked like a birthday cake, had the American Cancer Society colors, and something to represent the Hope lodge and the hope of celebrating more birthdays. I made a quick sketch of my idea and named my cake, "The Gift of Hope".

Quick Sketch of My Design Idea

I spent the wee hours of last Wednesday night coloring fondant and making some of the decorative elements. All day Thursday was spent baking off 4x the recipe to make the cake the sized I wanted, letting it cool, making the chocolate raspberry ganache for the filling, mixing cream cheese frosting and rolling fondant. I worked on the cake for about 9 hours straight and then drove it over to school to drop it off. I had to work on Friday, so I would not be able to deliver it to the event myself.

Fondant Heart and Rose Stem for the Top of the Cake

On Friday I rushed home from work, quickly changed into my school uniform, carefully packaged the top to my cake (I didn't leave it with the cake in fear it would break in transit) and headed to the Hope Lodge. When I arrived, I asked where the cakes were. I was told they would not be displayed till 6:30pm; I arrived just after 6pm. I was informed that they were already in place, and they were afraid mine had been smashed a little in the moving. It wasn't smashed, it was just because the top piece was missing. I was shown to the room where the cakes were sitting and I placed added the final piece to the top of my cake. The photographer had to come back and re-photograph my cake.

After an anxious half hour of waiting and talking with the other students who decorated cakes also, the attendees of the event were shown in and the voting commenced. Then the cakes were taking to another room to be sliced and served while the ballots were counted. Each of us students were giving a certificate for participating and then the winner was announced. It was a close vote, however I did not win. However, I received lots of great comments about my cake. Many people loved the colors and the design. It was a fun challange to come up with the design and see it all come out so well. I need to work on my fondant skills, but it is the first time I have made a cake of this size. I never thought I would be one for competing in competitions, however I really enjoyed this one and am really glad that this one was for a good cause.

The Gift of Hope