by Margaret Cabaniss
Now that we’re all agreed that we hate dieting, you won’t mind if I talk a little about cake.
I did not inherit the cake-decorating gene in my family. That went to my younger sister, Karen. If you want professionally iced cakes with delicately piped flowers and intricate scrollwork, she’s the one to call. If, on the other hand, you want slightly lopsided cakes with crumbs in the frosting, adorned with off-center M&Ms… well then, I’m your girl.
Of course, I’m usually less concerned with how a cake looks than how it tastes — but there are the odd occasions when you feel the need to step up your game. Like, for instance, when a friend asks you to bake her family’s prized coconut cake recipe to serve to that family, in honor of the academic achievement of one of said family members. But no pressure!
Fortunately, I had stumbled on an idea for the cake that wouldn’t require me to go anywhere near icing bags, tips, or any other special equipment that would seriously test my mediocre decorating skills. And even though we only managed to snap one fuzzy picture of the result, I think it was just what that slightly lopsided cake needed.
I got the idea when looking at these adorable tin can cakes on Eighteenth Century Agrarian Business. (No, seriously: How cute are they?) I liked that the bunting was festive but not cutesy — and, most importantly, super simple to make. I didn’t have fabric on hand, though, and I thought printing out a message would be more fun in this case, so I changed it up a bit.
First, get yourself a cake and frost that sucker. (This is a stunt cake standing in for the original. I forgot to take pictures at this point on Saturday.) A pro-tip I picked up from Karen: If you put a couple of strips of parchment paper under the edges of the cake, you can frost it without worrying about messing up your plate…and then just pull the paper out when you’re finished for a nice clean edge.
For the bunting: Print out (or handwrite, if you’re fancy) the letters for your message, playing around with fonts and sizes. I printed my phrase in Bookman Old Style (for that proper old-timey feel) on Kraft paper, because I use Kraft paper for everything — wrapping gifts, outdoor table coverings, impromptu coloring sessions with the nephews…it is always the right choice. Make sure you leave enough space above and between the letters to cut your double-sided pennants.
Fold the paper over at the top of your line of letters, then trace and cut small pennants for each letter. If you want to be super-exact about it, you can cut the first letter and then use it as a template to trace the rest, but I just eyeballed it. The unevenness means it’s homemade!
Get a piece of string and lay out your letters for spacing. I used baker’s twine — because I also use baker’s twine for everything — but ribbon or whatever you have on hand will work. Make sure it’ll fit over your cake, and that you leave enough length on each end to tie it off, then glue the pennants closed on the string (a glue stick is helpful here).
Tie the banner to a couple of skewers (these things sure do come in handy!) and set them in the cake at a slight angle. Done!
There are lots of other possibilities here — using colorful wrapping paper, turning the pennants on their side and sticking them to toothpicks for cupcake toppers, supersizing the whole banner to serve as a party decoration… There is no occasion that some bunting doesn’t make better.
Images: Margaret Cabaniss