Nostalgic baking: Taste the childhood

Noa Braun, Author

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Have you ever wanted to be a short bald man? How about a short man who hails from New Jersey? You know, the ones with one of those accents that are prominently featured by the cast of the hit TV show, “The Jersey Shore.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely thought about it.

It’s normal though- I promise. The two men I mentioned are not just any two men; they’re Duff Goldberg (“Ace of Cakes”) and Buddy Valastro (“Cake Boss”). Each of them has his own TV show, in which they bake and decorate all sorts of pastries and confections.

Ever since I was a kid, I have always aspired to learn how to do what these men do best. The ultimate goal was to  be able to do more than the standard procedure of  making frosting, globbing it on to a cake or cupcake and passively trying to add “finishing touches” that never end up looking right. Finally, after 16 years of waiting, the time had come for me to face this challenge.

With that in mind, when fellow Paly Voice reporter Phoebe So mentioned how Totoro-decorated cupcakes would be the best thing since sliced bread, I immediately knew that this would be my opportunity to finally try my luck at a new skill.

So, we undertook the challenge that is to create cupcakes and properly decorate them, like the much more skilled and highly-trained Goldberg and Valastro.

The first part of this culinary adventure, the creation of the cupcake batter, was far less arduous than the latter portion of our experience, but we’ll get to that later. Once again I went with Martha Stewart’s recipe, even though she led me astray with my previous macaron endeavor.

The baking went without a hitch, aside from the minor oversight of forgetting to add the vanilla into the batter (whoops!), but all was well, so it didn’t turn out to be much of a baking disaster.

Now, the latter part of the process was far more formidable than creation of the cupcakes. The decoration was a less than standard procedure, which entailed the use of fondant, essentially just sugar combined with water that is for coating the cupcakes.

Being the inexperienced cake-decorators that we are, Phoebe and I didn’t know that rolling out the fondant would necessitate brute strength. So, we rolled up our sleeves and embarked upon a baking workout — who knew that baking could help develop bulging biceps?

Finally, after 15 minutes of attempting to roll out the fondant and occasionally hitting the fondant with the rolling pin because it wasn’t cooperating with us, we got the fondant to its desired width.

Having completed the preliminary steps, we could now begin the decorating stage of our cupcake quest. Being the stereotypical teenagers who spend our time thinking about Pokémon, Totoro and the Cookie Monster, or being generally nostalgic about our childhood years, the choice for how to decorate the cupcakes was a no-brainer.

So we began shaping the white fondant into different shapes to form decorations that resembled Pikachu, Totoro, Oddish, Hello Kitty and a few other childhood favorites of ours. The thing is, each cupcake, with decorations, takes about 15 minutes to assemble, so we eventually got lazy and started to make odd creations that took little to no effort.

Now I know most you of you are probably thinking “that’s not what the Cake Boss would do,” but what I found out that day is that I am not, and will never be Buddy Valastro, the Cake Boss, nor the short, bald and ever-so-talented Ace of Cakes.