About the Year of Cake

I’ve always felt there’s something especially magical about cakes. Cakes signify celebrations — birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, promotions. As a kid, I remember the excitement of coming downstairs to see for the first time the birthday cake my mom had baked the night before, proof positive that my birthday was FINALLY here. I remember my dad meticulously shaping pieces of Hershey bars into the plates cascading down the back of my brother’s stegosaurus cake one year and my mom carefully applying the coconut “wool” to the lamb cake every Easter.

Now as an adult, cake baking and decorating has evolved into a full-blown hobby, with my good friend The Internet spurring me on by giving one crazy idea after another. For Christmas this year a few years ago, my dear and loving husband got me Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible — 592 pages of things I must try. This same husband had just finished the Year of Pie, inspired by Modern Farmer, and what can follow the Year of Pie but a Year of Cake?

So here we are. The aim is  was simple: a cake each month, and each month trying something new, whether a recipe or a skill or a piece of equipment. Since most of my cake successes have been thanks to other people’s willingness to share photos and how-to guides, I figured I may as well try to give back. Hopefully my creations and, where I’m not too covered in frosting to take them, my work-in-progress photos will inspire other people out there to think outside the (store-bought mix) box and try something a little crazy. Hint: if your cake is shaped like a train engine or a Guinness pint or a guitar, people overlook wobbly icing lines and torn fondant. So what have you got to lose?

EDIT: I finished the original Year of Cake a while ago, so now my cake making is sporadic at best, and my posting is even more so. But the goal is the same: keep trying new things, and keep making cakes that bring people joy. So the Year of Cake continues!

About Me

My foray into cake decorating is recent, but my appreciation for the craft is longstanding.

I am a learning scientist studying human-data interactions, or how the design of technologies can support learning through, with, and about visualized data in informal, social settings like museums. When I’m not investigating decorating techniques, I’m investigating how museum visitors make sense of digital data in an interactive data map exhibit or how citizen scientists learn to identify benthic macroinvertebrates for water quality biomonitoring. You can learn more about my academic work at my serious website and about aquatic macroinvertebrates at macroinvertebrates.org.

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