When that alarm did go off, I woke up not rested but not quite tired either. I stumbled back into the kitchen and looked at my cake.
Well, it was too late to back out now. And I don’t think that I could get a cake from Winn-Dixie, draw a turtle on it and try to pass it off as mine. Instead I took the little bit of time left and added more details in the turtles.
At this point, I was feeling pretty low. The same thoughts of “why am I doing this?” kept popping up, along with “how bad of lie is it to tell the event coordinators that I slipped on egg whites and I am in the hospital?” Apart from being a terribly unbelievable lie, I knew that I had put a lot of effort into the tower of turtles, and I needed to see it through. Even if the rest of the day did not go a direction that I was pleased with, I still needed to know which direction it took.
My sister promised to take me to the competition, and at 9:00 I was sitting in the front passenger seat of her car with my legs being slowly crushed by the weight of the universe.
One aspect of the day that I knew would be wonderful was the location. The New Orleans Art Museum is one of my favorite places in this city. Apart from having great coffee, the museum houses a strong and diverse collection of art, and I feel smarter when I’m there. The building itself is also basically a Louisiana Pemberley and yes, sits in a huge park, so even walking through the doors is a treat. A part of me expects Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s carriage to appear at any moment.
Within minutes of arriving, cakes were quickly filling up the long black display tables, and oh my goodness they were beautiful. There was the Secret Garden, and Cinderella’s castle, and James and the Giant Peach, and the Great Gatsby, and so many more. It wasn’t an overwhelmingly huge event, which was also lovely because you could get up close to the cakes and see the detail on a horse’s mane and speak with the bakers (yes, Cinderella’s castle also had a carriage with horses!).
There were cakes that were so much better than mine, but jealousy was hard because the bakers themselves were the sweetest, most encouraging people. Most of them had been bringing a cake to Edible Book Day every year since it began, but some were brand new, like me.
For three or so hours after the cakes were presented, nothing was firmly scheduled, but between talking to some of the other bakers and scoping out some art, the time vanished. Waves of people came to walk the line of cakes, and they slowly increased the closer it was to the cake decorating demonstration by Brett Gauthier.
Brett’s demo was really fun and informative, and he charmed the whole room. And he charmed me personally when he offered to talk to me about being a pastry chef after the awards. As someone who has never worked at a bakery for a day, it was hugely helpful!
During the awards, Brett announced the winners (see how we’re on first name basis now), and Susan Larson from WWNO’s The Reading Life presented the ribbons. When the winners went up, she took a moment to speak to each person about their cake. It was so sweet that I nearly cried. It is possible exhaustion contributed.
With all of the stunning cakes there, I don’t know how the judges possibly picked winners, but fortunately there were tons of categories and every single winner received a personalized ribbon.
Oh, and this happened,
When Susan Larson gave me the ribbon, all the sleepiness evaporated and I was giddy (actually, the sleepiness probably exacerbated the giddiness).
It was a completely lovely event, and I’m so glad I didn’t give up the night before. The directors took care to ensure that every baker present was recognized, and so many volunteers gave up their Saturday to be there and make it one of the best days I’ve had in NOLA.
And yes, I will be back next year, but with a smaller cake!
On an unrelated note - does anyone need an extra ton of marshmallows?