From the Sky - Part XVII

Cake Artistry...

Zia's hand moved slowly, almost imperceptibly as she finished piping royal icing around the circumference of the small round cake on the counter. A series of icing shells now ran around the entire base of the cake. She switched to a piping bag with a number 2 tip and began overpiping a thin, ornate ribbon of icing across the top of the shells. She so loved this work: the artistic challenges that tested her talents, the aroma of the bakery, the faint hint of vanilla permeating the air. She finished a small section of overpiping and stopped to examine her efforts. She reached across the counter and opened her "bible," a leather-bound copy of the Lambeth Method of CAKE DECORATION and PRACTICAL PASTRIES. She'd found it at a flea market a few summers earlier and snapped it up for a pittance. This was an extraordinary bit of good luck; the book was normally very expensive, even when bought used. She glanced a moment at one of the illustrations and reviewed the instructions. She switched to a number 1 tip and began adding intricate detail to the section of the cake she was working with. She heard footsteps behind her, the footfalls slowing as they drew near. She didn't bother to look back; she knew it was her father.

"Such beautiful work, Zia! Beautiful!"

She said nothing. She was completely absorbed in her efforts.

"Wouldn't buttercream be faster?"

Zia stood, raising a finger slowly to politely silence her father, and said softly: "You can't do this in buttercream."

"But of course you can!"

"No you can't, Papa. Look at the detail. Look at the scrolls, the embroidering I did earlier here, on the top of the fondant."

Ernesto leaned over her shoulder.

"You can't get that level of definition in buttercream. We need perfection, and perfection demands royal icing."

Ernesto sighed, and said: "Well, you know best. You create works of art, Zia. I merely decorate cakes. Don't frown like that! I'm not complaining. I have skill. You have a gift. A gift, Zia! It's just that the work seems so tedious. You've been at this for hours! You will have to work much faster on the wedding cakes."

"We have plenty of time, Papa. This little cake is just a test. And don't forget that I've been pulled away from this a half-dozen times today to help with the picnic. When Uncle Gio bakes the wedding cakes I will be ready for them. I'll stay up all night if I need to. The cakes will be exquisite. They will make the brides's hearts flutter. And they will be on time. I promise you, Papa."

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