I want a New Jersey cake, and I want it in the shape of the Mystery Machine, only I want the figures of my four kids, made out of modeling chocolate, to be sitting in it with Scooby-Doo, sticking their smiling faces out its windows.
Come on, Buddy. I know you can do it. After all:
"They call me Buddy...I'm the BOSS!"
My whole family has been saying that repeatedly lately, trying to get the Italian-American, New Jersey accent just right. Challenging each other by doing really bad to middling impersonations of Buddy Valastro, from the TLC show Cake Boss, one right after the other.
Our little Ella-Belle does it the best, and she's not trying all that hard. Working on her 100 piece puzzles and not even glancing up, she just throws it out there with bravado after one of the rest of us fails miserably, They call me Buddy..I'm the Boss. She looks a little Irish, but speaks American-Italian, I guess.
Cake Boss, with Buddy, has definitely been one of our favorite discoveries on Netflix.
And thank goodness for Netflix - so cheap, so worth it. Since my husband and I got married, we have never had cable. Never. We didn't even have a television for the first several months. We used to spend our evenings sitting around coloring in coloring books and listening to San Antonio Spurs games on the radio. Playing card games. Listening to our neighbors' conversations. We didn't know what to do with each other until we started having babies.
And now, with our four kiddos, we've fallen in love anew over Cake Boss. And my husband knows that he's in big trouble if he watches one without me. We scatter ourselves about in the living room on weekends to watch a talented man with an unusual vocation make beautiful and interesting cakes to bring joy to New Jersey residents and the world.
We also watch his family tease, prank, argue with, celebrate, and display abundant affection for each other. It's one of the best things about the show. All the cousins and in-laws and the matriarch, Buddy's Italian mama, are in everybody's business, but they also hold family as being more important than anything else. Every new marriage is a beautiful, honored occasion, and every new baby is a supreme blessing. I like that. I know there are good and bad sides to everything, but I wish my kids could grow up surrounded by grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.
The show does make me jealous, however. If only I had a gift with fondant. If only I could mold Rice Krispie treats into anything on the planet or in the stars. If only I could make a thousand different fillings for cake and perfect buttercream instead of frosting that tastes and operates like Spackle! I'd be somewhere by now. I'd be really something. I'd also probably be fat, because I cannot easily resist ganache.
Instead my baking life is like this: in order to include them and spend quality time with them, I bake with my toddler and preschooler who think that germs are a necessary additive to any batter. My Danny Sammy dips his finger into the flour and then licks it. After I admonish him and then turn my back to grab a utensil, he does it again. And my Ella Belle is looking at him and nodding, You go for it!, because she is happily pressing brown sugar into her mouth or digging out wads of batter with her nails to shove in her pie hole.
But regardless of germs for flavor, how could I ever make any kind of dessert as presentable, nay - beautiful, as Buddy makes his cakes? Sugar flowers, outrageously smooth fondant, brilliant colors, carefully sculpted chocolate. It cannot be done by me, because I was born without the plating/decorative gene. I was dropped onto this planet believing that as long as it tastes alright, and goes down decent, how it looks doesn't matter. It can be strange, unappetizing colors, but as long as it's edible, I believe in it, and it will surely land on the table.
When I was a girl, I went over to my friend's house one afternoon, and we made chocolate chip cookie batter. After watching me drop a few tablespoons of the batter onto the baking sheet as quickly as I could in order to get those cookies cooking, my younger friend began to scold me shrilly, "What are you doing? That's a mess! They're going to be ugly cookies. You're supposed to make them perfect little mounds like this!"
"All that matters is that they taste good," I retorted. "Who cares what they look like!"
She confiscated my spoon.
This is why I make the birthday cakes in this house, but my husband decorates them. It's our collaborative gift to the kids. My extra gift to them is staying far away from the "make the cake look pretty and special" magic. Because you know, when I do my best at frosting a cake, it looks like this:
Umm-hmmm. That was my poor son's celebration cake for getting elected to Student Council. Tasted good. But that is definitely not worthy of Buddy's exclamation, "That's how we do it Hoboken style, baby!"