Cake decorating is more than just icing on the cake, tablets as Helen Razer discovers when she gets into a sticky situation with some talented sugar artists.
August 24, 2005 The Age
‘I do tend to always have some mouding paste close byTrevillean with an inventive flourish of her hands. It’s best to have the medium at hand, she says. Even if your husband complains; you never see your kitchen table for piping paraphernalia; and every domestic surface has grown a stubborn crust of sugar.
“You never do know when you’re going to be struck by inspiration,” she says, giving the infatuated shrug of an artist. She turns to stare at her all-sucrose rendering of a jet-fuel daffodil from what is, perhaps, the hundredth critical angle of the afternoon.
How on earth did she manage to replicate such a jolly springtime bulb from foodstuffs? She answers with all the vigour and impenetrability of an excitable calculus lecturer with a new slide rule. By the time she arrives at the tricky part about the florist’s wire and the cantilever, I’m lost. And all I can say is, “Well, it’s a very pretty yellow flower”.
At 32, Trevillean is one of the emerging artists with work on show at the 13th National Seminar of the Australian National Cake Decorators Association. She helped organise the biennial event and describes herself as a newbie. As one who’s been tampering with fondant for a mere decade, she’s barely begun what many embrace as a lifetime’s journey towards sugary rapture.
“Oh, I have a long way to go,” she says of her apprenticeship. “Some of these ladies have been at it forever.”
Among them is multi-awardwinning decorator and cheeky grandma Eileen Scriven. Her spectacular arrangement of indigenous flora is on show to the public today at the seminar, which this year bills itself as “the Academy Awards of cake decorating”.
“I love the Australian natives, so I went with the waratahs,” Scriven, a resident of the NSW South Coast, says. “And I matched them with the mountain devil, the flowering gum and the flannel
The effect of her labour is stunning and a near-perfect duplicate of the natural originals. “It’s beautiful,” she says. One can but concur. “I’ve been doing this for years.”
A hardcore, old-school sugar architect, she fashions her moulding paste from scratch. “I love sugar, I just love working with it,” she says brightly, and with a fervour one might imagine to be generally reserved for sculptors discussing the relative merits of Italian marble.
“It’s just a beautiful medium. I relax by making my flowers and such at night.
The Rabbit-Proof Fence work from WA
The Rabbit-Proof Fence work from WA
“I have four daughters and eight grandchildren, and one little one with autistic features. We have a battle. But I have my cake decorating.”
“She has the passion,” a soft voice says.
Speaking is Helen Paumpa, president of the National Cake Decorators Association, the sort of person you immediately crave as a family member and the type of woman who would once have been called genteel. “I have the passion,” affirms Scriven.
“I have the passion. We all have the passion. It’s the passion you just can’t escape. The only way you would stop is if you lost the use of your hands. And sharing the skills is the best part. It’s so rewarding,” says Paumpa.
“We love it. We are family. We share skills. Now come and look at my wedding cake,” says Scriven.
It’s not difficult to enunciate the requisite oohs and aahs when beholding Scriven’s multitiered confection. It’s a fabulous testimony to skill, patience and creativity. And, of course, passion.
I love it, I tell her. But I like your other cake perhaps a little more. “The waratahs are not a cake,” she says firmly. “That is sugar art.”
I have lurched into a sticky controversy. Cake decorating, it seems, is at the midpoint of a renaissance wherein its very designation is called into question.
“I am personally very eager to see the phrase ‘cake decorating’ shifted to that of ‘sugar art’,” says Cake Decorating Victoria president and seminar hostess Jan Murphy.
“Many people understand cake decorating to be those few roses grandma made for your wedding cake. As anyone who looks at the pieces on show will tell, it’s really so much more than that,” she says.
She has a point. Rococo surges of matrimonial icing jostle for table space with minimalist sculpting and waywardly cheery, ineffably intricate fairytale scapes. There’s even a collaborative cake “diorama” in homage to the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence. If you suspected women with a fondness for frosting had no social conscience, you’d be wrong. Humpies, a broken-down car and the Australian landscape have been faithfully and edibly reproduced by the team from Western Australia.
Like the pursuit of knitting, which has transmuted into textile art, or the hobby of floristry, which is reborn as botanical sculpture, cake decorating is a craft aggressively redefining itself.
“Fine piping and lacework is wonderful, but in contemporary and modern wedding cakes, for example, we have to allow people to pursue their creativity,” says Murphy the sugar art visionary.
“I think we need to change more. I might get howled down by judges! But I believe if we want to get young people on board, we need to broaden our knowledge and broaden our minds.
“We have an older generation of cake decorators in Australia at the moment, and we are striving to encourage younger membership. And, in Victoria, particularly, this seems to be working quite well. It’s crucial that these skills are passed on.”
Equally, she says, it’s vital that sugar artists continue to defy and smash our pastel expectations of their products. Out with the doilies and in with the stark social realism, vibrant food dyes and expressionist fruit cake.
Trevillean agrees that now is an exciting time for cake decorators. There is, it appears, an intriguing tension as the form attempts to place itself in the breach between craft and art.
“I suppose with my daffodil, I am trying to represent as well as reproduce,” Trevillean says, as she gives the little flower one more grave and furtive glance.
Outside the professionalising limits of traditional art, but not entirely within the CWA lacetrimmed community hall, these gals – and half a dozen blokes – are giving it all for edible beauty. There’s a dazzling fragility to so many of these sugar pieces.
Their splendour is made all the more poignant by their everyday provenance. Cake decorating is what happens when a woman redefines her kitchen as an artist’s studio.
“Yes, we’ve got the passion,” says the president.
The 13th National Seminar of the Australian National Cake Decorators Association Inc is at Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre, corner of Bell Street and St Georges Road, Preston. The cakes are on display until Friday.
Robbed of its lustre by sour air and average food, advice sky high skin can sag and pucker like a day-old doughnut. Helen Razer is on the hunt for the finest long haul quick fix and on the run from Plane Hair. These tips will take you to a post flight meeting or poolside tryst looking very much like an actual human.
ìPlease come this way maíam, tuberculosis
î is not a phrase one hopes to hear at LAX. Particularly when it is emitted by a uniformed giantess with a locker full of latex gloves. After a fourteen hour stretch in a tin can that rattled all the way from Sydney, side effects
US Immigration scored well below a vodkatini and just above line-dancing on a list of Favourite Post Flight Ways To Unwind.
An hour or three passed before Christie gave me travel ink. As sheíd seen me splayed on a plastic sheet, I felt that intimate chat was not out of the question. Why, I asked her, did she detain me for so very, very long.
ìWell honey. Itís because you look like hell.
If, like me, youíre one of those unfortunate travellers whose skin acquires the tenor of a Drug Lord before the plane has left the tarmac, you must learn to primp and moisturise. Since Christie, who was a fan of Kiehlís, gave me the heads up on hydration, Iíve not been arrested even once.
The great news is that there are many reasonably priced pre, post and inflight product options for the haggard traveller. Skin care is trending toward more gender neutral packaging and scents, so there is absolutely no reason that the arriving male should present as a threat to state security.
Before diving into your hand luggage, however, thereís some tedious counsel you simply must bear. Ready? Consuming water is good for your skin. Consuming booze ainít. As tempting as a gratis Bloody Mary may be, it will leave you looking blotchy and ravaged and feeling like youíve been at a Year 12 formal.
Similarly, sugar will rob you of the chance not to look like Vlad the Impaler. A rapid rise in blood sugar will cause inflammation. Apart from these instant biochemical changes, sugar can enact a horrifying long term process known as glycation. This essentially means that your collagen vanishes for good and skin retains all the elasticity of last seasonís sweat pants.
Caffeine, trans fats and cruddy carbs can all sap the skin of youthful resilience. Even if you canít avoid this poison inflight, you can ensure that your diet is rich in skin foods leading up to your journey. Foods containing high amounts of beta-carotene and Vitamin E may reduce skin drought. Avocadoes and Brazil nuts are good sources of E. Kumera, which is loaded with beta-carotene, is considered by some to be a super food. Vitamin C is regarded as an immune booster and a histamine fighter. Zinc is a skin tonic and a great excuse to load up on oysters. Follow these morsels with a hit of Omega 3 Fatty Acids in the form of tuna cerviche.
Even an assiduous diet and fitness regime can leave a frequent flyer flaky. So you might consider stuffing your hand luggage with a few tried and true gems.
The first rule is to moisturise. The second rule of Flight Club is, also, to moisturise. Generally, your face can cop a rich night cream in the rarefied air of an aeroplane. LíOccitaneís Shea Ultra Rich Face Cream 24 Hour is hydration heaven. Appropriate for both men and women, this lavish pot is perfect for the rigours of travel. The company has also recently introduced a bloke-specific shaving oil. Cade Travel Oil smells exactly like a delectable rusticated Master of the Universe and will purify and nourish even as you shave. And I PROMISE not to use it on my legs.
For rash prone skin, you canít really look past a cosmetic classic. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream has been a remedial charm for over seventy years. Its almost medicinal quality makes it a great gender neutral choice. Honestly, it works out so many kinks. Chapped lips, dry heels and a crumbling complexion can all be restored by this marvel.
A moisturiser can mesh very well with a serum. If youíre serious about a healthy looking visage, the quasi-science of serums can merit investigation. If you havenít the time, then trust me. Australian company Ultraceuticals produces a very reasonably priced gem called C10 Serum. At $AU75, a vial should last several months. After using it for some instant radiance after a flight, Iím now a daily dabbler. The stable Vitamin C solution really does even out your skin tone and reduce fine lines. Give it a trial run before using it on a plane. Like all the C products, it can initially cause a few small blockages. Oddly, however, after initially producing blackheads, it now seems to keep them totally at bay on my own face.
For total body hydration, Skin Drink Airbrush Moisturiser from local cult brand Modelco is an effortless choice. For top notch vacation skin, simply spray this all over your sweet self.
Toners can offer a brilliant instant pick me up. Formulated to combat the foe of good skin, air conditioning, Breath of Fresh Air Toner from Lush is potent. This seductive brand offers a range of antidotes to modern life. I really ought to stay away from their stores as Iíve now become Smitten Handcream dependent as well.
Shiseidoís The Skincare Soothing Spray is not, strictly speaking, a toner. An invigorating scent makes this little bottle of hydrating goodness a functional inflight treat.
Make-up, almost needless to impart, is to be avoided on aircraft. If you must wear a foundation, remove it as soon as possible. A convenient and effective ready made regimen comes in the form of Trilogy Travellers. No nonsense packaging and a scent wrought only from botanical ingredients, this brand is outlandishly good. Why didnít anyone tell me about it before now?
A tremendous indulgence comes in the form of Gel Jambes Legeres. Trust luxury brand Guinot to think of your poor swollen legs. And, heavens, it truly does work. Smelling of fresh Florida oranges, Guinotís Bien Vivre body fragrance is a virtual war on plane whiff.
Panda eyes are a menace. The best method of concealing these has always been Yves Saint Laurentís Touch Eclat. Itís an appallingly expensive way to correct a few millimetres of dark flesh but, it has to be said, this magic wand erases dark circles instantly.
Another textbook instant fix is Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. Donít argue. Just dab some on your face before deplaning and, voila, Angelina.
For wide awake eyes, itís a toss up for me between Thalgo and EstÈe Lauder. Thalgoís entire eye care range is dazzling. EstÈeís Stress Relief Eye Mask is timeless.
If grooming concerns overwhelm you, the only solution is sleep. And, yes, thereís a balm for that as well. Drift off with a dash of Badger Balm. As far as I know, it contains no badger. But, jiminy, it is soothing.
Try all of this before your next dalliance with immigration and visas should be a breeze.