I recently got a chance to try sugar sculpting with my partner, @fury-of-rome, for a competition.
The first two pictures show what we were originally going for. When we started trying to attach the pieces, though, things started melting and shattering. We were both sleep deprived and sore from working the night before, and things didn’t go according to plan, but we managed to put something together to show the judges.
I’d like to try working with sugar again sometime, but I probably won’t want to enter any sugar sculpting competitions for a while.
Hey... sooo... what's your feeling on two mainstays of baking; fondant and royal icing, and, how do you feel about cake wars and the travesties... er "cakes" they make? :)
I feel like this is going to sound hilarious and probably start some kind of fight but I wish they’d use more marzipan. Like if I could say ONE THING about this question: Marzipan.
But fortunately I can say more than one thing!
So this is two questions, but they’re linked, which makes it a bit more complex. I don’t have a problem per se with fondant or with cake-wars style shows, but more with the attitudes towards them.
Fondant I’m actually fine with in small doses, though as I said above I wish they’d use marzipan instead because it’s a similar texture and usefulness but has a bit more soft mouthfeel and flavor to it (though some people super-hate it which, okay, calm your pants, nobody’s gonna stuff marzipan down your throat). Marzipan is expensive, however, so I see why they don’t use it more. I have no feelings on royal icing one way or another – isn’t it basically sugar glue? Or am I mixing it up with something else?
I think the problem comes in when we place more emphasis on aesthetic than on flavor and edibility. And the problem isn’t the act of emphasizing aesthetic, the problem is that we’re still calling it a cake as if it’s edible, which really a lot of them barely are. Fondant sculpture is still an art and a valid art, but I wish we could separate out “sculpture with food” from “cooking artistically” because the further we move into sculpture with food the less edible it becomes, partly by necessity.
There is a skill to making food aesthetically pleasing. But it has limits, and to push past those limits, a sacrifice has to be made, and usually what is sacrificed is edibility. So I’m less impressed with cakes that rely heavily on fondant to make themselves beautiful, because I know that the essence of the food, its edibility, has been compromised. I would rather see a less impressive cake that is still 100% edible, and while I don’t much care for Great British Bake Off, that is one thing I find admirable about the show, that edibility is always considered a factor; the goal they strive for is a marriage of beauty and taste. Often on Cake Wars, it’s pure aesthetic, and you don’t see anyone eat the cake. You could take Cake Wars and give them styrofoam cake molds for all the focus that’s put on that part of the competition. Which is fine, but it means they’re not cake wars, they’re decorating wars.
So when I see those super-fancy fondant-decorated cakes, I think, well, that’s a nice sculpture. It is a sculpture, made with a difficult-to-work-with substance, and that deserves to have its merit acknowledged – but it is still a sculpture to me, not a food, so the “AND it’s EDIBLE!” factor isn’t there, which makes it a bit less special. And even with marzipan I would feel that way, because marzipan sculpture is delicious in bite-sizes, but it’s too much in like, a sculpture of a tree atop a cake. The only real difference between those decorations and the molded plastic Iron Man on top of your kid’s Avengers birthday cake is that the tree took more time and artistry to formulate. It’s still essentially inedible, there for the look of the thing.
I guess what I’m saying is that I think we need to – and I think we will, within a few years – acknowledge that fondant (and some forms of sugar sculpture) are an artistic medium, a somewhat transient artistic medium, and that they should be treated as such rather than being viewed as food as well. I think we will start seeing more focus on the artistry of making beautiful food that remains entirely edible, or more accurately, entirely desirably edible. I hope so, anyway.
But honestly I’m not gonna crank about it. Life’s too short to be that mad about fondant. (Or marzipan.) (Now I want marzipan.)
Some Thoughts about Prince Henry Frederick, inspired by the bio I’m reading, thus far:
• His christening was INSANE like….chariots pulled by lions and people? Check. A huge-ass ship covered in sugar sculptures and “sea people” (a.k.a hotties covered in pearls and shells)? Check. Food SERVED by said sea-people? Check. Representations of the Goddess of Liberality and Fecundity? CHECK.
• About his Softness: I mean, I flipped through and saw this beautiful fact but I’m so???? The fact he’s compared to a loaf of bread. Doughy. I’m in actual love.
• His mother….Anna of Denmark is so like, maligned by history and she was only 19 when Henry was born so of course she’s going to behave like a teenage girl. Newsflash: she WAS a teenage girl. She wanted to be with her son but King James was so traumatised by his own childhood that he needed to keep them safely away from Edinburgh. But she still wanted to be with her kids and the faction-driven fight between the pair is really testament to her strong-will. Elizabeth I had to step in and basically tell James to get control of his wife. This is a 19 year old girl, rocking the Scottish religious elite and political animals by saying “I want to be with my son.”
• Henry was so important, not just in a British context, considering he was going to essentially be the first Prince of Wales to inherit the kingdom of BRITAIN, but on a European stage too. He was lauded as this Messiah type figure for the Protestant cause, a “little god” the Protestant elite of Europe could rally behind to defeat the Pope, the Spanish and the Holy Roman Empire, and by extension, Catholicism. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a toddler.
• He was so well educated, I’m actually shocked. It’s not unusual for a royal prince to receive top education but Henry’s just knocks all those other educations out of the fucking ballpark. By the age of six, he was writing to foreign leaders in Europe about economics, religious policy and military matters. James would often chastise him for small errors though. For example, when Henry wrote to his parents to thank them for sending some gifts, James wrote back a rather harsh letter that said “Ye have rather written than dyted it” (“You copied this, you didn’t write it yourself”) He expected A LOT from this child. Now I’m starting to understand why Henry’s younger brother, Charles (future King Charles I) was fairly inept and shy. James had put all his eggs in one basket with Henry. Charles just stood weakly in the wings.