Sometimes you just have to keep it simple.
Making this cake was a pleasure, in part because I got to channel my inner Wonka, but also because the design exemplifies the attitude I've taken toward decorating for the past couple years: keep it clean, relaxed, and as practical as possible without sacrificing aesthetics. The buttercream colors I used for this cake were left over from a cupcake-decorating party I hosted for my coworker's eight-year-old and her friends (mermaids and fairies and unicorns—oh my!), and the decoration consists of a bunch of lollipops I picked out at Fuzziwigs.
About a month after that scary delivery, I made a super-simple cake to alleviate stress. It was pretty basic: chocolate cake with vanilla bean Italian Meringue Buttercream on the inside, one of my favorite simple flavor combos. I torted the layers of cake super thin, my signature move, and I frosted it with some leftover dark chocolate ganache I had hanging around. The cake was a short little 6” guy, and was finished with a nostalgic diner-style swirl on the top and a sprinkling of white nonpareils, my very most favorite sprinkles ever.
It was simple. It was beautiful. It was easy, relative to most of my projects up ’til then, and most importantly, it was an absolute pleasure to create. I'd pulled it all together on a Tuesday night after getting home from work at 7pm, which felt amazing. I hadn’t stressed over eighty wafer paper flowers or fussy gum paste figurines in order to pull it off, and I felt so much more fulfilled than I had in a very long time.
My then-boyfriend now-fiancé had been hovering around the kitchen all evening, and when it was finally time to have some cake, he came over to watch me slice into it. I put a piece on a plate and handed it to him, and he said something that changed the entire cake game for me in one beautiful moment.
“This is the perfect cake. Don’t get me wrong babe, I think it’s really cool when you make these huge fancy cakes for weddings and stuff, but this is exactly what I think in my mind when I hear the word ‘cake.’ It’s the platonic ideal. It looks like a video game power-up."
He then laughed and said, “You got… Cake!” took a bite, made the Super Mario power-up noise (“bewp BEWP BEWP”), gave me a peck on the cheek, and headed into the living room to eat.
Before I cut myself piece and joined him, I took a minute to digest what he’d said. He’s very supportive of my cake fixation, but he'd never really offered his opinion like that before, and it was amazing that this straightforward little cake had been such a pleasure for me to make while also being good enough to elicit that kind of feedback. Wheels started spinning in my head. What if I could decorate cakes, but didn’t have to work myself into a state of panic every time?
For my friend’s mom’s birthday that I was so worried about, I created a series of 1- and 2-tiered cakes covered in ganache with simple, illustrated-looking 2D gum paste marigold decorations, and the entire process was a comparative breeze. I fell in love with cake all over again, and I haven’t looked back, not for a second.
For those of you out there who take things in stride and get joy out of making many-tiered showstoppers, keep doing what you do and I will continue to Pin the crap out of the awesome stuff you put out on the internet. For those of you out there like me—high-strung, emotionally delicate, stressy decorators—stay tuned for some of my ideas for taking your 1-tiered cakes to a level of subtle beauty and complexity as show-stopping as the tallest of towering fondant-covered stunners!
Keep it simple. Embrace the 1-tier.