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Wilton! That’s the only name you need to know if you are interested in cake decorating. Oh I am sure there are lots of other companies and products out there but to me Wilton was THE original cake boss. Sorry Chef Valastro! When I was a kid my Aunt Rosie was the Mary Poppins of cake making and decorating. She would whip up these amazing tasting and stunning looking cakes with such ease. Like Mary Poppins who regaled her wards with the infamous carpet bag of surprises, Aunt Rosie would show up with her cake supplies in tow and pull each shiny pan, spatula, flower nail, tips, bags and collection of food coloring out onto the table and I would sit and watch with rapt attention.

Aunt Rosie made cakes for EVERYBODY and for EVERY occasion. Birthdays, obviously. 16th birthday? You get two cakes. Graduations, births, confirmations, communions, retirements, showers, whatever the event she had a cake ready for you. I’d sit at the table as she carefully mixed each bowl of icing, placing dabs of pasty food coloring to bring the white icing to life. She would then meticulously pipe borders, flowers, names, and sometimes even the entire cake all while her tongue sticking slightly out of the side of her mouth. It was glorious.

There was of course the one year that she was going to make a birthday cake for one of my siblings with a summer birthday. She did what she always does. Hours of careful baking, cooling, slicing, layering, icing, decorating. It was her usual masterpiece. We all gathered outside on the back deck for a cook out, ate heartily and then brought out the cake. After a rendition of Happy Birthday that my family is known for singing in such cat screeching harmony, we dug in to the cake. It got very quiet. My family is NOT quiet. Slowly people began looking around but no one wanted to say anything. Finally, someone quietly said, as if not to offend my dear Aunt, “does this taste like mothballs to you?”. Once the dam broke the flood gates opened and everyone began going on about how it tastes like mothballs. How on earth? The investigation began. How on earth did this cake acquire that flavor? The culprit? Some old cardboard boxes that my Aunt cut up to use as trays to place the undecorated layers of cake on. The box, yes, had stored clothing with mothballs.

Well that did not deter her. She continued to make the most amazing cakes and over the years I wanted to emulate her. I watched her techniques and tricks. I tried to remember how she would turn the cake and how she would pipe each type of decoration. I was maybe 12 years old by this point and began to dabble making cakes for events when Aunt Rosie wasn’t able to come visit. I didn’t have any training, and I mostly used white frosting from a jar, but I am proud of my creations and they tasted pretty darn good too.

An Aunt Rosie cake delicately decorated with red accents to match my confirmation robe.

Another Aunt Rosie cake. I had a love for Garfield as a kid and she came through!

A sunshine cake I made for my sister’s kindergarten class graduation.

A train cake I made for my brother’s birthday complete with log and coal cars.

An American Flag cake I made for a Fourth of July celebration. Not sure what happened to the picture!

A circus cake I made for my brother’s birthday re-creating a carousel/circus tent feel.

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