One of my favorite things about baking is that usually, you're making someone happy by doing it. Even when I've had a bad experience in the kitchen, rarely is a bake a total loss. This is especially true when baking for people in need of a cake to help them celebrate the little (or VERY BIG) things in life.
A baking mishap I remember more vividly than I should is one that I often refer to as the "Apple Pie Disaster of 2017". Put simply, the pies I made for Thanksgiving were bad. The filling wasn't the right consistency, the crusts didn't brown and were dry, and by the end of it I was angry at myself and the pies. The pie tasted both over- and under-cooked But my dad didn't care. He gobbled up the leftover apple pie like it was delicious. Maybe to him it was delicious, but regardless I think it made him happy to both eat some pie and make me feel a little better about my baking woes. Plus, since we're talking about silver linings, it prompted me to look for remedial pie training and for that I cannot recommend Lisa Ludwinski's cookbook Sister Pie strongly enough. Seriously, it helped me make a decent crust for the first time in a decade.
But I didn't write a post to talk about bad pies. No, I sat down to write about the joy that can come from a day in the kitchen. And for me that happened late last week when I partnered with Icing Smiles for the second time this year to make a cake for a family faced with critical illness.
My experiences with Icing Smiles have gone like this: I signed up, and then I got an email when there was a family needing a cake, and I had the option to say "Yes, I'll take it!" or "No, I can't this time". There are multiple bakers in my area, how many I couldn't say, but the most I've baked in a year is two thus far. It's not a huge time commitment, but it's a really fun and rewarding one!
My first two cakes for Icing Smiles were for young boys who had been treated for critical illnesses. One loved Legos and the other was a fan of Curious George. One of the many benefits of baking for charity is it gives me the opportunity to practice designs for famous characters, like Emmet from The Lego Movie and George from the "Curious George" franchise. Naturally, I can practice these characters at any time, but since the cake was a gift, as per Icing Smiles communications, copyright laws for images such as these don't apply to nonprofits. So I could pipe without worry!
Being the practical person I am, I love the opportunity that arises from baking for charity to practice my skills and develop new ones. I didn't know how to pipe a Lego character before the cake request came in. And I wasn't sure how good my "George" face or marbling would be in my "Curious George"-themed cake until I learned that's what the family wanted. And that's the way it goes with these requests--you sign on before knowing all the cake details.
The Icing Smiles request from last week prompted me to work on two different skills: carving and coloring buttercream! The young girl at the heart of this request wanted a golden birthday cake, with gold being the primary focus of the design. The "call to action" from Icing Smiles requested enough cake for 25 servings. I wanted it to be special and fun, so I landed on a new-to-me design of a "10" carved from cake and decorated with gold and white frosting and lots of sprinkles. You can see my creation below.
I love baking and decorating, especially when I know it will put a smile on someone's face. Plus, the requests are always a surprise to me, which makes each cake a fun challenge that stretches my skills while also doing an act of kindness for a stranger.
If you're a baker, I encourage you to look into this organization and consider signing on as a volunteer. If you aren't a baker, you can still get involved in other ways. If you're reading this and thinking you qualify for a cake from Icing Smiles, there's a one-stop shop for all these concerns and it's their "Get Involved" page.
Until next time, thanks for stopping by my blog!