For as long as I can remember the kitchen was always my favourite room in the house. I would sit watching my Mom cook and bake and would help out in any way I could. She made absolutely everything from scratch and to this day is probably the best cook I have ever known (and that is not being biased – I was taught by some top French Chefs and I have gone back to my Mom’s teaching on many things).
Baking was by far my passion even at 8 when I started making Christmas desserts. Mind you those early ones were mostly Jell-O, but after not too many years I advanced to cakes and even cheesecake – pouring through cookbooks and magazines starting in October to find just the right one.
I moved on to making novelty birthday cakes for my nephews and came up with most of the designs myself – pac man, a record player, a cookie pizza, etc. None were “Wilton” quality, but I was in my early teens and self taught. The birthday cake tradition continued at my places of work, making gourmet cakes for co-workers and I was a little disappointed when others wanted to get in on the act. I just loved baking for people.
When I finally pursued my dream of going to culinary school at age 46, everyone was very surprised that I picked culinary over pastry. I knew a lot about baking and pastry and wanted to explore the savoury side of cooking. But any down time I had was watching what was going on in the pastry classrooms.
I spent the next several years catering weddings, luncheons and even worked for a catering company for a short time. I also decorated cakes for various occasions including weddings, birthdays and anniversaries.
When we moved to our current home about 8 years ago, we arrived in October. I thought a good way to meet the neighbours was to bake some Halloween cookies. The lady next door has a bunch of grandchildren of all ages and they all would come around on Halloween…many still do and there are great grandchildren too! The tradition of home baked goodies has continued and they all love eating the treats as much as I love making them.
This year, however, my chronic back pain has been at a record high and I have been hit with recurring colds and flu. I really wanted to make something but didn’t have the energy to go all out fancy. I have a huge perfectionistic streak I may talk about in future posts, but I was able to park it at the door this year. I actually made cupcakes from a mix (unheard of as I have come up with my signature chocolate cake recipe everyone loves), used icing from the freezer left over from a previous cake and purchased Wilton decorations. They were just as well received as anything I poured my heart into and I still got the satisfaction of making something without overdoing it.
This is a really big step for me. It doesn’t mean I won’t bake from scratch again, but I know it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – which in the past was a big road block.