Sunday, January 26, 2014

Where it's at

There's a destination a little up the road
From the habitations and the towns we know
A place we saw the lights turn low
Jig-saw jazz and the get-fresh flow
Pulling out jives and jamboree handouts
Two turntables and a microphone
Bottles and cans and just clap your hands and just clap your hands

Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone
Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone

That's it.  That's all I ever wanted to be..."Where it's at"...

But I wasn't.  I'm not saying I was a total outcast, a geek, nerd, or member of any other socially shunned clique.  But I wasn't the trend-setting cook kid either.  I just always kept my head low and let the other guys take the social risks.  When Jessie Springer showed up wearing her new "Olivia Newton John" style head band in 6th grade, I was green with envy.  I wanted to "get physical" too.  But I didn't have the fashion or the social chops that Jessie had.  Apparently, neither did Jessie, because when she came back to school after lunch hour, that headband had mysteriously disappeared.

It's the oldest story in the book.  Kids are cruel.  Society is dog-eat-dog, and being cool can get you in places that all the money, smarts, and skills in the world can't.  But that's okay.  As I got older, I learned that it didn't matter as much as I thought all those years.  I'm good with "where I'm at" and can walk through life confident and happy.

Now let's talk about Matt.

Matt is by all definitions "Where it's at."  He's a trainer with the Minnesota Vikings, so he's literally "where it's at" every game of the season...on the field.  In his younger days in Boston, he was a DJ...another completely "where it's at" profession.  Matt's mom and dad, Linda and Paul, also "where it's at" decided to contact me to make him a groom's cake for the rehearsal dinner for his upcoming wedding.   So we met.  Let's just get this out of the way now.  I have a serious bias toward East Coast people.  My own family was from eastern Pennsylvania, and every time I hear someone with any variety of East Coast accent, I am immediately drawn to them.  I've had my share of backfires, but typically, this attraction has proven beneficial.  Linda and Paul are no exception. They are true Bostonians...straightforward, and without pretense...outgoing, hilarious to chat with, and oh, that accent...what I wouldn't give to have that accent.  In talking with them, my little bits of East Coast (like things being "harrible" instead of "horrible" and how I just love my "dawg") crept back into my voice, just as it does every time I visit New York.  And I was home.

Together, we designed a Two Turntable masterpiece for Matt.  We had each LP label represent the two teams he's been a trainer for, and found a laundry list of inside jokes and references to stash here and there on the cake.  We had so much fun, that Linda scheduled an appointment for Matt's bride to come in with them on their next trip to town so that we could convince her that she absolutely needed that wedding cake that she had no interest in.

A few weeks later, we did just that.  Jamie actually had a beautiful little two tier cake hidden away on her Pinterest page that was labelled "Almost makes me want a cake".  Once she shared that, it was all down hill.  We created a beautiful two tier cake and surrounded it with all the desserts she had dreamed of.

Linda and Paul went back to Boston, and I had my typical moment of "What the hell did I just agree to?)  It was time to figure out how to actually create not one, but two edible turntables (thank God, no microphone, at least). 

So began my more than one way.

I found a place in Uptown that rents Turntables and other audio equipment.  Not the kind of AV Geek equipment I was hoping for, but a full on DJ emporium.  A place that a 42 year old cake decorator had no business visiting.  I'm pretty sure that they agreed.  I walked in the front door to some house hip-hop mix I didn't recognize, and the distinct whiff of some herb that had no business in a bakery (at least not in Minnesota yet).  The guy behind the counter looked at me as though I must be here for directions to the nearest Scrapbooking Supply Store, when I told him I was there to pick up my rental.  He pulled the paperwork, and began writing up the order, and just when I realized that I was Jessie Springer at home for lunch, sadly removing my awesome headband, and re-feathering my defeated hair, he asked me what I was doing renting this thing.  My mind raced.  Maybe I'd bluff him.  Maybe I was gonna "go down to Eight Mile with my usual DJ setup, a Traktor Scratch Pro with a Mac Book Pro and an Allen & Heath Mixer Xone 3D through a BBE Sonic Maximizer with a Mackie Blackjack audio interface through my computer to the Web. Control vinyl with Traktor and a Pioneer CDJ 1000 and a mic.  But I thought it might be dope to dubstep some Electro old school with this turntable."

But what really came out was "cake."  


But much to my surprise, he was intrigued.   I believe the actual word that came out of his mouth was "cool."  So we discussed my plans, he had a schematic for one of their turntable wraps that had the layout and dimensions of all the whatz-its and thingys (technical terms) on the turntables that he emailed me.  Now I had a perfectly sized template for the decks (yeah, I said it, that's what us cool people call turntables).  Not understanding that the truly cool have their own needles, I was left without that particular piece to model my frosting needle from.  But now that I was "where it's at" he happily lent me one of his.  I loaded the turntable into my car and drove off, a newly baptized "cool" broad.

For the next day, we measured, molded, and photographed every part of that turntable (ahem, deck) from every possible angle, and began recreating it in sugar.  Meanwhile, Linda got me the details on all the other elements that would make this cake truly special, and even invited me to the wedding reception.  

We set up the Groom's cake at the rehearsal dinner, and saw Linda and Paul as they entered the room.  Still dressed in my chef coat, I tried to sneak out quietly, but I was spotted, and promptly introduced to the family and treated like a guest.  That's just the kind of people these are...the truly "cool" who don't care if you're wearing no makeup and look like you've spent the last 48 hours straight in a bakery with no daylight (and certainly no mirrors).  They embrace you as family.  They're not "Minnesota Nice", they're East Coast Fabulous...and they can make a girl feel like she is always "where it's at".

 The next night, we set up the wedding desserts and cake and actually changed into something less "cheffy" to have a drink at the cocktail hour.  We got to meet the whole family, perfected a few words in "proper" Boston dialect, learned what a "Southie" is, and got to bask in the perfect energy that surrounds a couple who has just proclaimed their love and commitment to each other for all to witness.  I left the reception just before dinner was served to go home to my own husband, realizing that cool or not cool, when you're surrounded by those who you love and respect, you're always "where it's at".

Decorator's Notes:

 Matt's groom's cake was one of those cakes that was structurally simple, but would hinge on the fine details.  I always recommend getting your hands on the "real thing" if you can.  We've had brides bring in Fender guitars, Navy officer's hats, and all sorts of other objects to model cakes after.  Anything you can measure, trace, mold, and see three-dimensionally will help make the cake that much more accurate.  The detailing on the turntables was molded out of mexican paste (a mixture of fondant and gum paste) allowed to dry for 5-7 days, and airbrushed in Silver Powder mixed with Vodka.  The silver powder that we used is available on our Evil Cake Genius site.
The Records on the turntables were also Mexican paste, and the grooves in them were made in the simplest of ways...We wet a large paintbrush with Pam nonstick spray and held it on the records as we spun them on a turntable (bakery, not DJ).  The grooves stay shiny and raised.
 The fine details on the record labels, Tequila bottle, and DVD case were custom Mesh Stencils that we created and stenciled onto the fondant in Royal Icing.  Many similar stencils are available on our Evil Cake Genius site as well, but we make custom ones for other bakeries all the time, just contact us at if you're looking for something specific.