Photo by Clemens Photography (my cupcakes!)
People love moist* chocolate cake.
It's a crowdpleaser, I'll tell ya, especially when people are accustomed to eating dry, possibly mealy (if previously frozen) white cake with stiff fondant frosting at large celebration. Now I have nothing against fondant and plan to acquire some skill using fondant very soon. But it's not yummy per se. I think it looks wonderful, but I think the gelatin, glucose and glycerin that give fondant its wonderful texture and appearance also bring a weird chemical~ly, off flavor to the party.
My point is that many of the beautiful cakes aren't yummy.
I think the need for downhome YUMMY and comfort in me-sized packages has led to the massive success of Sprinkles, Magnolia and other cupcakeries that have sprung up everywhere in the last couple years. And though I was suspicious of the trend's lasting power and have been wary of billing myself as a cupcake baker because of it, the cupcake train seems unstoppable! So it didn't surprise me when I had a request for cupcakes for a wedding.
I made buttermilk devil's food cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting as pictured (placed on a clear glass stand the bride had bought for the cake table). I discovered just how fun is it is to bake and decorate the cupcakes -- so I can't wait to do it again!
A few years ago I made a similar cake for a wedding and I knew people weren't used to a good old-fashioned cake (with tender crumb and creamy frosting) when the caterer asked me for my card (as a baker in my home kitchen, I didn't have 'em!) because she had never seen people come back for second and thirds of wedding cake! I knew I wasn't doing anything new, but in the world of wedding cakes, a rustic homemade cake with a soft, perishable frosting seemed new.
I love decorating and look forward to playing with fondant, sugar dough, gum paste and am in absolute awe of what skilled hands can do with those plus an airbrush.
But my top criteria are execution of the recipe and taste. It should taste as good as it looks. I want my baked goods to look like something one wants to eat. So my favorite decorative elements end up being either edible (such as lemon peel, candied violets, lychee fruits), flowers or simple dragees. Simple, but beautiful.
So, why the name scratch?
Because as I shared my food with people, it was uncanny how often I would get asked the same question, often combined with a dumbfounded look on the face: "Did you make that from... scratch?"
Like I was a sorceress of scratch! And I started to love those looks and those questions and I never wanted to stop feeding people. And talking about it.
*To people who hate the word "moist," je comprends. But have you looked at the sorry set of synonyms in the MS Word thesarus for moist? Um, if you were the type of person that couldn't be bothered to check anything else but the MS Word thesarus, that is.