• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
pastryjen

Cake Fondant

199 posts in this topic

I have a question for Steve Klc.  Once a cake is covered with rolled fondant, can it then be refrigerated, or will it become sticky and absorb odors?  And can you give any recommendations on how to cover, decorate and safely deliver a six tier wedding cake?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi pastryjen--yes, you can technically put a rolled fondant covered cake tier back in the fridge.  Cover it with plastic wrap, when you remove it from the fridge, allow it to thaw to room temp with the plastic wrap on--whatever moisture condenses will condense on the plastic.  This is more of an issue in humid environments at certain times of the year.  But your instincts are right about rolled fondant--it contains sugar and any sugar product wouldn't do well in the fridge uncovered.  (For non-bakers and home decorators--rolled fondant is a type of malleable, soft cake covering or "icing" that is rolled out thinly like pie dough, draped over a cake and smoothed out to leave a very refined, elegant surface.)  

Another way to approach this question is to ask why do you want to put the cake back in the fridge in the first place?  You could design a cake and filling that doesn't need to be in the fridge--or design it in such a way that your decoration can be removeable and placed on later rather than requiring hours and days of piping on the actual cake.  Choose ganaches, buttercreams, gelees, even acidic curds can sit out a long time.  Depending on your level of skill, it usually isn't a problem covering your cake tiers with rolled fondant on the morning of the event.  The day before, make sure all tiers are built and closed with buttercream and let them sit overnight in the fridge.  There have been times when I've covered cakes the last thing the night before and left them out it in a cool or air conditioned room.  Personally, I'd avoid messing with the fridge unless you absolutely have to for food safety reasons--like if you have a "creme brulee" type filling in the cake.  In that case it needs to stay in the fridge until the last possible moment.

Delivery is the more serious issue. It's sustained high-stress--as stressful as working on any line during crunch time. It's one of little things pros never teach or talk about or put in their books--because, well, then anyone could do it, right? There's no substitute for experience in developing confidence and this is one of the best reasons for hiring a large cake specialist. Are you worried about how to deliver--i.e. drive a 6-tier cake?  It shouldn't be any different than a smaller 3-tiered cake--it just is heavier and you'd need help--i.e. extra bodies and hands--if you try to deliver it in one piece, whole.  Either that, or you design a cake which can be assembled on site--meaning bring the 6 individual tiers covered in rf and then build it with dowel rods there, including piping your royal icing shell or bead borders there, put the decor on there, etc.

Obviously, transporting something like this is even more complicated in warm/hot weather.

Another option is to design a separated tier cake where each tier is on its own base--with dowel rods extending an inch above each tier--and then stacked on site. In this case it's pretty easy to put each tier in its own insulated box even with a little gel pack if necessary.

Give me some more specifics about what you've committed to do for your client, how far you have to drive, if the reception is in or outdoors and what else you're concerned about specifically and I'll talk you through it so you don't take an unnecessary risk. Is some of this beyond your level--do you need me to go over how to roll out fondant?  Have you done it before?


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had to make this cake way ahead of time (I really did!), and I won't need it for another 11 days. I have frozen decorated fondant cakes before, with good results, but this cake is my masterpiece...I'm the one who double-posted about rolled fondant figures...instead of making these ahead, and attaching them last-minute to the 3-layer, marzipan-and-fondant-covered cake, I decided (for my son's 21st birthday) to make the four members of his band as having had too much champagne - they are sprawled all over the top of the "bed" decorated cake with bottles strewn about. The figures, being fondant, are fused to the cake surface and are now part of it. It looks just as I hoped it would - no, better! - and I am loathe to ruin it by freezing. (I used commercial Wilton fondant.)

I know if I had a fruitcake I would be ok to leave it out, but it is a 3-layer buttercake...(no perishable fillings) I know I can't refrigerate it- it will sweat and go gummy. What do you think? Do I plastic-wrap and foil-wrap it, freeze it and hope for the best? I know marzipan and the icing will provide a sort of "seal" for a cake, but for how long? I don't want it to go mouldy!

This is such a showcase cake that I doubt it will be eaten anyway. If I have to choose between leaving it out somewhere cool and freezing/losing quality, I choose the first.

Sorry to sound so ignorant, but I am desperate not to ruin it. (Added dilemma - it weighs a ton and has to go on an 8-hr journey..if I do freeze, how long to thaw before I box it for transporting? or do I take it frozen?)

Doesn't anybody besides me ever have to complete a showcase cake way ahead of time?

If anyone can help me, I would be so thankful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

so you're telling us that you have one mega big freezer with lots of available space - we will all be right over with things to freeze. :laugh::laugh::laugh:

You should be able to freeze your cake. Personally I would not have decorated it first, but... Wrap it up as tightly as you can in plastic or a box if it will fit in your freezer. Remove it and keep it sealed. Sounds like the drive should do it allowing it to come to room temp before unsealing or unwrapping.

I would not underestimate the desire of people to dig in and eat up this cake regardless of its showcasability. cake is cake after all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks so much!

I will wait till fondant is completely dried and then wrap it up...and I don't have a huge empty freezer, but I do have two of them so that helps :smile:

I wouldn't ordinarily decorate a cake first either, but in this case, the "decorations," the Barbie and Ken-sized, anatomically correct caricaturized four figures, are part and parcel of the cake now. One of the reasons I planned ahead and did it was because I was afraid it wouldn't work out as I wanted it to..it was pretty ambitious for me...and I didn't want to be furiously baking/decorating another birthday cake the day before the trip.

Anyway, I appreciate the advice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi there!

In my experience, you can freeze fondant covered cakes. It's the thawing that poses the challenge. You have to thaw it in the refridgerator about 2 days ahead. If you go from freezer to countertop, you'll have a skating rink and you'll have to wait another couple of days for it to dry out on its own.

Hope this helps. :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the tip. I am a little confused though about defrosting in the fridge...I have read (and always done this) that refrigeration of fondant icing will cause too much condensation, even if the cake is still wrapped well, and goes very gummy. Whether this is true when it is going from frozen to thawed is another question. I have always read (and again, done this) that the best way to thaw is at cool room temperature with original wrapping still in place, to pick up any condensation.

Would be interested to hear anyone else's comments.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If refrigeration would cause too much condensation, then what would freezing do? :wink: When I thaw in the fridge, I take the wrapping off,. I think thawing in the fridge allows the temperature to rise more gradually as opposed to going from frozen to room temperature, which would definitely cause the cake to break a sweat! :biggrin:

But then again..others will likely have different ideas. :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I notice that this section is for Pastry & Baking. Does it cover Cake-Decorating? If not, can you pls move this to the appropriate section? Thank you.

My question is - sometimes I notice some sagging on a fondant-covered cake on the next day. I usually decorate the day before required. Is it due to the cake settling? Is there any way of avoiding this? TIA!


TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is the actual cake under the fondant sagging or is it the fondant?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would also like to ask if you are refrigerating the cake. The humidity could soften the fondant and cause it to sag.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi TP......

:laugh: hee hee.....I figure if I'm an expert on ANYTHING in this life, it's a fondant covered

cake.....I must have done MILLIONS of them....truly.

BUT.....after posting for just a few weeks in this wonderful forum, I have found out how little

I DO know. I'm humbled, but grateful to have found such a wonderful bunch of pros to nosh

with!

I'm lucky where I live in the Pacific Northwest of the USA.....I don't have to deal with humidity or heat. It's nice and cool pretty much all the time here, except for a couple days/weeks in July and August (which is of course, peak wedding season). So I have experienced a few heat related problems, but never as severe as other parts of the world. When it comes to heat and humidity combined I always appreciate the advice of other bakers who deal with it on a daily basis. I'm sure I use a lot of decorating techniques that work great up here but would be complete failures in a different climate. Yes, I'm very fortunate!

I worked with a wonderful pastry chef who moved here from Virginia. She told me that using fondant there was a completely different thing, and on hot humid days she said it had a tendency to kind of "melt off". I don't know EXACTLY what she meant by that, but perhaps that melting off gave the fondant a "sagging" effect. Just guessing.

Questions:

I assume you cover a cold cake with the fondant, decorate it, then put it back in refrigeration

when you are done. Do you notice this sagging the next day, after it's been in refrigeration

all night?

Or do you not refrigerate it after you decorate it to avoid sweating problems? I would imagine

with the heat you have down there that not refrigerating it is sort of not an option.

What kind of fillings do you use in your cakes, and are you generous with the fillings, or do you just spread a thin layer between each layer? fiftydollars asked a good question about whether it

was the fondant that was sagging, or if it was the cake itself. You know that if your cake was a bit taller going in and shorter coming out, then you have a settling problem. Even if it's a couple millimeters.

I personally have never had any sagging problems due to refrigeration, but then, like I say,

I work in an easy climate. The only thing I hate about refrigerating a fondant covered cake

is the sweating, but I really have no choice....I have to refrigerate my cakes.

When I teach newbies how to cover cakes in fondant, I have noticed they tend to roll out their

fondant kind of on the thick side. They would get all frustrated that the fondant would start to sag and tear on the sides before they were able to finish smoothing it out. When I asked why they rolled it so thick, they'd tell me that the thicker fondant looked smoother on the cake, which is true, but the weight of the fondant pulled itself down and created a lot more problems than not.

It's key to roll out the fondant to just the right thickness.....thick enough so that it doesn't show minor bumps and flaws on the cake, and thin enough so that it doesn't stretch itself out before you've smoothed and adhered it to the sides. Fondant that's too thick and heavy WILL pull itself down even after you've had a chance to adhere it in some cases. My ideal fondant thickness is approximately just under a quarter inch or 5 millimeters.

Also the type of fondant you are using could be the cause. I have noticed major behavior differences in varying brands. And I don't know whether you are buying commercially made fondant there in Malaysia and if it's a brand similar or the same as US brands, or if you're making your fondant yourself. There are so many variables!

These are my thoughts.....hmmm....not sure if I've helped or confused you more!

:wacko: Annie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is the fondant sagging in the center of the cake? If so then it's the cake settling.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You people are so lucky you don't have to deal with this heat and humidity problem! Currently, it's 102 degF outside!

I normally freeze my cakes for better handling (for sculpting). After 2 hours out, I fill it with 4 mm thick buttercream (usually SMBC). Then I smear as thinly as I can a crumb-coat or rather a coat to use as adhesive. Press the cake down a little. I then let the cake settle down for another hour. While I'm covering the cake with 5 mm of fondant, the cake is still cold with beads of condensation. Everything looks fine until the next day I see the fondant sagging. Round layer cakes (3" high) don't seem to have that problem, but cakes which are shaped and higher than 3" like this one sagged so badly that the sides are not straight anymore. I had to take the pic from this angle to avoid the sag showing, but, hey, that wasn't such a bad idea coz the cake doesn't look too bad from this angle. :biggrin:

i6782.jpg

BTW, I make my own fondant using The Cake Bible's recipe, but I had to reduce the glucose syrup slightly and add 1/2 tablespoon gelatin. I found the original recipe's elasticity just wasn't enough. Our stores don't sell fondant or gumpaste or tylose powder or CMC or....you get the drift.


Edited by TP(M'sia) (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's key to roll out the fondant to just the right thickness.....thick enough so that it doesn't show minor bumps and flaws on the cake, and thin enough so that it doesn't stretch itself out before you've smoothed and adhered it to the sides. Fondant that's too thick and heavy WILL pull itself down even after you've had a chance to adhere it in some cases. My ideal fondant thickness is approximately just under a quarter inch or 5 millimeters.

Also the type of fondant you are using could be the cause. I have noticed major behavior differences in varying brands. And I don't know whether you are buying commercially made fondant there in Malaysia and if it's a brand similar or the same as US brands, or if you're making your fondant yourself. There are so many variables!

I agree strongly with Annies points. It's important to be thin because the weight of the fondant pulls itself downward. I also have noticed considerable differences in brands of fondant. Since your making yours you may need to do more adjustin in your recipe.

You wrote you only do a thin pre-coat of frosting under the fondant. I don't use a thick coating but I definately use more buttercream than a pre-coat. I think if your frosting is too thin, then your fondant might not be ahearing as well as it should to the sides of the cake-so that would allow gravity to drag it down like your experiencing.

I've dealt with horrible condensation problems with refriderated cakes, but I've never had my fondant sage because of the humity....it can sort of melt-but thats different.

I can understand not wanting to pay the expense of shipping purchased fondant, but it's so wondeful to have conviently ready at hand all the time. You can buy all the special ingredients you need over the internet from several very good sources, do you need leads?

Do you have a website, I'm really enjoying looking at your cakes, I'd love to see more?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok ...a question for all you fondant users :) .......

I've done fondant cakes before and they LOOK beautiful .........but I've found they mostly don't TASTE very good.

Anyone have any tips or secrets they would care to share for better tasting fondant? Any suggestions for a good ready-made brand or a recipe?

Thanks!

--Jan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I make my own, because I developed a formula, which I am happy with, have used it for years, it is consistent and I can flavor it with any complementing flavor of the cake, I am covering it with. I make it in 16-20# batches (better texture control). Sometimes I mix it with marzipan for an almond fondant and white chocolate plastique for white chocolate flavor. This you can roll pretty thin.

That said, some commercial brands taste better than others..however fondant is a personal taste thing...either you like it or you don't! Great decorating medium though! Very little middle ground here..

Satin Ice is one of the more popular brands, Wiltons - Yuk! but to each its own! Cal Java has a great white Chocolate & white chocolate raspberry one. Pettinice, there has been mixed reviews about this one lately but some people swear by it.

Albert Uster carries one that is Masa Tacino so does Patis France, which is similar to the British commercial sugarpaste Regalice. Then there is ChocoPan..a bit pricey but very flavorful and can be rolled very thin too, a bit soft to work with.

Rolling it thin really helps with the sagging. Fondant can be very heavy

Wendy, have you tried using a fan on it after you have pulled it out of the refrigerator? That helps sometimes

Yes..it is great to have some at hand...so I keep some extra in the freezer!

HTH


Edited by crc (log)

Portia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been thinking about your sagging problem a lot today.

I really can't say for SURE what could be causing it, because that has never happened to

me.....well, it has, but my fondant would sag right away because I rolled it too thick or whatever.

I've never covered a cake and then had the fondant sag hours later.

My fondant always stays put.

I'm INCLINED to think that your recipe produces a very soft fondant.....am I right?

This could explain the sagging, especially with heat and humidity.

I've always used commercially made fondant, because I go through SO MUCH of it. I don't have the time to make it myself. Pettinice is what I usually use and it's pretty good. You gotta work really fast with it though because it's starts to "crust up" pretty quickly.

A lot of people don't like to work with a fondant that is that unforgiving. People who don't do fondant a lot, like to feel they have enough time from roll-out to covering. In my case, I've done

so many and do it so fast that working with unforgiving fondant is sort of a non-issue.

So, in conclusion, my best rootin' tootin' troubleshootin' guess is that it's your recipe, and maybe you should try tweaking it a bit more, and see if it makes a difference.

So there is no bakery supplier in Malaysia that stocks ready-made fondant? :huh:

Cheers! :laugh: Annie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've been thinking about your sagging problem a lot today.

:wacko: LOL! That's not a pretty thought!

Thanks, everyone, for your help. Yes, I think the problem lies with my fondant, and sometimes the thickness. I usually just estimate the amount of glucose syrup to add...it's so yucky to handle...so I think on days when I add too much, it makes the fondant heavier and wetter...so much so that the wetness cannot be treated by adding more confectioner's sugar. Will try to be a good girl and measure properly next time.

Fondant is not available in our shops, mainly becoz, fondant cakes are not "seen" here. Everywhere I bring my cakes, it seems like it's the 1st time anyone has seen them. And, yes, you either love it ir hate it, so I tell people to feel free to peel it off if they don't care for the extreme sweetness. I don't think my fondant tastes too bad...as I flavor it according to the flavor of the cake. Oh, that brings me to another don't-have. Can't find clear vanilla here too. One day, I'll bite the bullet and get these stuff online, but, fondant, I think not, since it's so heavy and will really add to the shipping costs. I've tried marshmallow fondant, but don't really find much difference to the fondant I make.


Edited by TP(M'sia) (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, Annie! I didn't know that. I've a LOT to learn. :rolleyes: Do you mean to say, vanilla powder can be added to fondant? And, is vanillin powder the same as vanilla powder? TIA.


Edited by TP(M'sia) (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Artificial vanillin simulates 1 flavor component out of over 250 different flavor components found in natural vanilla. It is a by product of the wood industry or is produced from petro-chemicals.

No, vanillin powder and vanilla powder are not the same. When you see the word "vanillin" as a primary ingredient in your vanilla product, that's a pretty good indicator that it's artificial in nature.

No reason you couldn't use vanilla powder in fondant!

:laugh: Annie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have a question for Steve Klc.  Once a cake is covered with rolled fondant, can it then be refrigerated, or will it become sticky and absorb odors?  And can you give any recommendations on how to cover, decorate and safely deliver a six tier wedding cake?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pastry Jen:

More thoughts on rolled fondant covered cakes.

You may like to know that you can freeze crumb-coated rolled fondant covered cakes with non perishable fillings. Cakes should be boxed then inserted into plastic bags, frozen and when needed defrosted overnight. Do not pipe or add side or top decorations until the cake is restored to room temperature. If you have a busy bakery and need to bake early in the week it frees one's time for the decorative aspects when the pressure is on for weekend weddings.

Best,

Kerry Vincent

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow am I glad I decided to come to this site when I did.

I am an enthusiastic if not necessarily skilled home cake baker. I would say my skill is more in picking recipes I can manage. I have pretty good home tools, including a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer (the light of my life, really) but not a lot of specialized stuff.

In a moment of weakness and shocking ambition, I offered to bake my best friend's wedding cake. We have decided on a recipe which seems eminently doable for the small (20-person) party (Rose Levy Beranbaum chocolate truffle cake: chocolate, eggs, and butter) due to the small number of ingredients, and fairly simple prep. I have gotten three or four good wedding cake books (including Dede Wilson's) and have come up with a plan to cover it with fondant and modelled ivy leaves (one 10-in. tier with one 6-in tier on top, not separated with columns, something like Rose Levy Berenbaum's Art Deco Cake, if anyone is familiar with that, and we're making it big for the number of people so we can all have seconds)...so basically pretty simple as my decorating skills, in particular, are not anything to write home about. It will be served with a raspberry coulis and Chantilly and some IQF raspberries if I can find 'em.

Historically, I have beginner's luck in all manner of cooking, so I am relying on that to see me through. The second wedding cake I attempt to make will probably be a disaster, but I expect the first to turn out OK. That's why I'm not making a practice one (that, and the cost of good chocolate).

The wedding is January 22, in Whistler. I live in Vancouver, and the cake will have to be transported up there in a car; I am already collecting boxes. My major concern at the moment is timing: it seems as though this particular cake can easily wait four or five days to be served, and it probably will have to as I am also maid of honour and have other things I need to do, but can anyone offer tips as far as how long I can expect it to take me to put fondant on, whether I should roll or use the other kind (I think not as I think cool temps are important to this cake, I don't want to have it melt all over my counter--is that a valid worry?) and is store-bought fondant really OK, especially if you have no confidence in being able to make it!!! and is it OK to store it assembled like that, refrigerated, for a few days and then stick on the leaves on the day?

I plan to bake on the 18th, assemble and put fondant on the 19th, have the 20th in case of emergencies, and then it will be brought up to the site on the 21st.

I would be really grateful for any tips anyone could provide.

Thanks in advance :smile:

Deborah


Edited by *Deborah* (log)

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Similar Content

    • By Gunnsr42
      Hello foodies. Tell us what work of art you're cooking for your meals these days. 
    • By Panaderia Canadiense
      Hi all! I'm trying to perfect my lemon bar recipe, which is from my grandmother's Purity cookbook with all sorts of notations and changes she made. It's perfect in terms of flavour and the pâté sucree base works exactly as it should, but the topping is coming out too fluid.
       
      The topping is 3C sugar, 1/4C lemon juice, the zest off of those lemons, 1tsp baking powder, 6 eggs and 2C coconut.
       
      What can I do to firm it up a bit, so that it stays put once I cut the bars? Would cornstarch or tapioca flour do it?
       

    • By Daily Gullet Staff
      by David Ross

      I was pushing my shopping cart through the aisles of Yoke’s Supermarket on a recent “Fresh Friday,” when a spritely-sounding young woman announced over the public address system, “Attention shoppers, attention shoppers, two minutes until the next Cakewalk, two minutes.” Frozen with suspense and the anticipation of winning one of Yoke’s chocolate crème de menthe cakes, I stood pat on the number 36 yellow flower pasted on the floor in front of me. I wasn’t going to budge off that number 36 -- I wanted a cake. While I waited to hear my number called, I was overcome with a sense of nervous anxiety --the same emotion I had felt as a young boy waiting to win a cake when I was seven years old. I wondered why a boyhood fascination with winning a cake still left me with such a deep, lasting hunger some 47 years after I first danced a Cakewalk.

      What was it that tugged at my heart, telling me to delve deeper into the meaning of the Cakewalk? Why did I sense that there was an underlying truth I hadn’t discovered as a child? The only way I could unveil the mystique behind my relationship with this odd little dance to win a cake would lie in retracing the footsteps of my childhood, setting forth on a quest to discover the history of the Cakewalk.

      + + +
      We moved to Salem, Oregon from The Dalles, in the Summer of 1964, when my Father, Edgar Ross, accepted a position at the Oregon Department of Agriculture in the Commodity Commissions Bureau. My parents settled on a ranch-style, three-bedroom home on the corner of Ward Drive and 46th Avenue in the new community of “Jan Ree” Gardens. Our lot was bordered by new homes on two sides and to the East was a field of Blue Lake bush beans that would soon be consumed by the encroaching development. Mother and Father shared a few details about our new home. It had a second bathroom, a wood-paneled living room and an unfinished family room that my father promised would have a metal wood stove. But they kept one little secret from my sister and me until we were a block from our final destination on the day we drove to Salem -- our new house was next door to the grade school. I didn’t know whether to feel good or sick at the thought of living next door to the school where I would spend the next five years.

      Hayesville Elementary School was typical of the architecture of grade schools built in the early 1960’s-an L-shaped, non-descript building painted in drab green and grey. The assembly room, cafeteria and administrative offices anchored the building with the classrooms jutting out from the principal’s office. I started the school year in Mrs. Rhonda Sample’s second grade class. She was young, blond and attractive, totally unlike the spinster vision I had of the teacher that awaited me at my new school. The highlight of the school year was the annual “Open House at Hayesville.” Students showcased their talents, dazzling parents with displays of frogs and snakes in aquariums, samples of cursive writing on paper chains hung over the blackboard and paper mache busts of historic American figures like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Mothers and fathers could take a tour of the gleaming, stainless steel kitchen where Mrs. Fox prepared our hot lunches each day-warm, billowing cinnamon rolls dripping with powdered sugar frosting and her buttery, oven-fried chicken. But the most anticipated event of Open House at Hayesville was the annual Cakewalk Raffle -- a silly fun dance around the classroom. The winner won a cake and the proceeds went to fund other activities at school.

      We cut footprints out of colored construction paper and pasted them in a large circle on the spotless, pink vinyl-tiled floor. Each “foot” was given a number from one to twenty. Red, white and blue streamers were tacked on the outer walls and then brought to the center of the ceiling to define the center point of the cakewalk circle. When the room was ready, Mrs. Sample turned on the lights and opened the door, welcoming a parade of Mother’s who pranced into the room carrying Tupperware cake caddies, Pyrex baking dishes, glass cake domes and disposable aluminum trays coddling their precious cake creations.

      Three long tables were placed against the wall and covered with proper linen tablecloths. The tables served as the stage upon which the cakes would strut their stuff. The chorus line of cakes went on and on through the annals of cakedom-Chiffon, Angel Food, Devils Food, Sponge Cake, Pound Cake, Marble Cakes, Chocolate Torts and Jelly Rolls. There were cakes garnished with coconut, dusted with nonpareils, frosted with peanut butter, sprinkled with peppermints, and dotted with spiced gum drops. I entered the Cakewalk over and over until I won, seemingly always at the end of the evening when very few of the best cakes were left on the table. While Mother’s “Burnt Sugar Cake with 7-Minute Frosting” was good, it would be a total embarrassment in front of ones classmates for a kid to choose the cake made by his mother. No, should I win the Cakewalk and should it still be available, I would choose the Spiced Praline Crunch Cake made by Bernie Bennett’s Mother.

      The historical importance of the Cakewalk wasn’t a part of Mrs. Sample’s second-grade curriculum at Hayesville in 1964. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we were insulated from the racial struggles of the South at that time. I was a young white boy in a middle-class American family. I led the colorful life of a kid, yet I lived in a country that saw only shades of black and white.

      Only three years before my second grade, in the Spring of 1961 the Freedom Riders set out on a campaign to test the Supreme Court Ruling that upheld the segregation of blacks and whites at bus depots, waiting rooms, lunch counters and restrooms throughout the South. The Freedom Riders were met with ignorance and violence. African-Americans couldn’t drink from the same water fountain I drank from. I never knew.
      + + + The Cakewalk played an important role in the history of America -- a long-forgotten chapter that tells the story of the struggles forced upon the enslaved, who in spite of their burdens rose above the oppression of race and found a new form of the expression of freedom.

      The seeds of the Cakewalk were sown in the segregated deep South sometime around 1850, as a parody of the way plantation owners escorted their ladies into a formal ball. The women wore long, ruffled dresses of silk and glass beads with long, white gloves that reached above the elbow. The gentlemen were outfitted with top hats and tail coats. Couples pranced and paraded into lavishly decorated ballrooms, arm-in-arm in high-stepping fashion, marching into the center of the party, often to the music played by a banjo-strumming fiddler who worked in the fields.

      The winner of the dance contest sometimes won a cake presented by the master of the house, leading many to think this is where the name the “Cakewalk” comes from.

      African-American slaves who watched the proceedings took the dance on as their own in the yards outside their shacks, mocking what they saw as the frivolous customs of the plantation owners. According to the oral histories of slaves and their descendants, the Cakewalk was a marriage of traditional African tribal dances and rhythms combined with the dance steps of the upper classes. When the land barons and ladies saw the slaves dance, they missed the satirical element entirely, but the popularity of the Cakewalk had been established among the elite and it now transcended the boundaries of class.

      Wealthy farmers went on to sponsor competitions between plantations and the dance moved to large cities in the South and then to the East where it became a staple of traveling minstrel shows and ultimately to Vaudeville, the lights of Broadway and throughout Europe.

      On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation with these humble words, “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Inspired by the renewed freedom gifted to them through Emancipation, a freedom that allowed them to express themselves openly through dance and music, African-Americans led a creative revival that would usher in new forms of dance and music that had never before been seen or heard. The artistic contributions of former slaves and their descendants would forever change the creative landscape in America.


      From this humble beginning in the sweltering, humid heat and back-breaking work of picking cotton, African-American artists penned the notes of a new from of music called ragtime that would eventually evolve into jazz. It was the Cakewalk, unintentionally and ironically, that crossed the bounds of race and class status as it burst into the popular consciousness of America By the 1890’s, African-American actors, dancers and musicians had started forming their own production companies and staged versions of the Cakewalk became all the rage.

      Scott Joplin, (1867-1917), was an early musical pioneer of the Cakewalk style of music. Known as the “King of Ragtime,” Joplin wrote and performed in the style of rag—a combination of dance and marching music entwined with the “ragged” rhythms and soul of African music. One of Joplin’s most famous pieces was “The Ragtime Dance,” (published in 1902), that included a Cakewalk:

      “Turn left and do the “Cakewalk Prance, Turn the other way and do the “Slow drag, Now take your lady to the World’s Fair and do the ragtime dance. Cakewalk soft and sweetly, be sure your steps done neatly.”

      The vaudeville team of Mr. Egbert Williams and Mr. George Walker were two of the first African-Americans to take their musical show on the road in a grand scale. Crowds packed into The New York theatre in 1903 for 53 stunning performances of song and Cakewalk dances in William’s and Walker’s new production “In Dahomey” -- the first all-black musical to be performed on a grand scale in a major Broadway venue. After its raging success in America, “In Dahomey” crossed the Atlantic, performing for seven months of standing-room-only audiences at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London before returning to New York.

      By the turn of the century, Americans were moving off farms and into towns and cities in record numbers. Ragtime music transformed into a new genre called “Jazz,” with emerging talents like Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington playing at the Cotton Club in New York.

      By 1930, the public fascination with dance theatre began to fade as America was lured by the intrigue of other forms of entertainment like talking motion pictures. But the early concepts and the heritage established by the Cakewalk endured throughout the twentieth century and into the 21st, namely, as a contest to raise money at church socials and school functions. The Cakewalk also delivered new words into the American vocabulary-“take the cake,” and “it’s a real cakewalk,” are terms used to refer to something that is “the best,” or a job easily done. Cakewalk software is a cutting-edge firm today that produces award-winning digital audio and recording software to the music industry.

      + + +
      I’m nearing my 54th birthday in November, some 46 years removed from my second-grade class. I had been lost until that Cakewalk at Yoke’s, yet now I’m found. I’ve learned a lesson in respect through the Cakewalk -- a lesson that taught me how emancipation allowed the enslaved to express themselves through music and dance. A lesson that freedom is an unalienable right bestowed upon all Americans. I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the place that this little ditty we call the Cakewalk plays in the history of America, opening our eyes to a world that was color blind.

      I found my personal truth in the Cakewalk -- a truth far richer and deeper than the dreams of a boy winning a cake.

      * * *
      David Ross lives in Spokane, but works a one-hour plane ride away. When he's not tending to his day job -- or commuting -- he writes about food and reviews restaurants. He is on the eGullet Society hosting team.
    • By JohnT
      I have been asked to make Chinese Bow Tie desserts for a function. However, I have never made them, but using Mr Google, there are a number of different recipes out there. Does anybody have a decent recipe which is tried and tested? - these are for deep-fried pastry which are then soaked in sugar syrup.
    • By shain
      Makes 40 cookies, 2 loaves. 
       
      50-60 g very aromatic olive oil
      80 g honey 
      120 to 150 g sugar (I use 120 because I like it only gently sweet) 
      2 eggs
      2 teaspoons of fine lemon zest, from apx 1 lemon 
      230 g flour 
      1 teaspoon salt 
      1 teaspoon baking powder 
      75 g lightly toasted peeled pistachios
      50 g lightly toasted almonds (you can replace some with pine nuts) 
      Optional: a little rosemary or anise seed
      Optional: more olive oil for brushing
       
      Heat oven to 170 deg C.
      In mixer (or by hand), mix oil, honey, sugar, lemon, egg and if desired, the optional spices - until uniform. 
      Separately mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. 
      Add flour mixture to mixer bowel with liquids and fold until uniform. Dough will be sticky and quite stiff. Don't knead or over mix. 
      Add nuts and fold until well dispersed. 
      On a parchment lined baking tray, create two even loaves of dough. 
      With moist hands, shape each to be rectangular and somewhat flat - apx 2cm heigh, 6cm wide and 25cm long. 
      Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden and baked throughout, yet somewhat soft and sliceable. Rotate pan if needed for even baking. 
      Remove from tray and let chill slightly or completely. 
      Using a sharp serrated knife, gently slice to thin 1/2 cm thick cookies. Each loaf should yield 20 slices. 
      Lay slices on tray and bake for 10 minutes. Flip and bake for another 10-15 minutes until complelty dry and lightly golden. 
      Brush with extra olive oil, if desired. This will and more olive flavor. 
      Let chill completely before removing from tray. 
      Cookies keep well in a closed container and are best served with desert wines or herbal tea. 
       
        
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.