My kindergartener loves pirates, so we concocted a pirate cake for his birthday party. I love the process of turning a child’s wish into reality. The ship was three-tiered, complete with poop deck, bowsprit, topsails, gun ports and a chocolate wafer plank. All told, it took eight hours to make. Then we plunged a knife in through the chocolate frosted deck boards and devoured it.
“How could you eat something like that?” people asked. “It’s too beautiful to eat…all that work…”
Elaborate cakes give me joy, but it’s the joy of creative process I love most. The cake itself is ephemeral. Concocted, created with great enthusiasm, then… GONE.
It reminds me how important process is to children when they create art. The delight comes from experimenting and bringing something to life. It’s the action of art that’s important for kids, not the final product. Asking “how” questions when a child shows us artwork helps keep the focus on the process. Next time a child shows you a painting or drawing, ask an action question “How did you do that?”
The cake itself has been reduced to crumbs. The Playmobil pirate guys are back in the living room, the frosting scraped off their feet. The cake is gone, but the fact that it was created lives on. What we create stays with us. The process shapes us. The joy it gives prompts us to do more. What will be our next creative endeavor?
Creating edible art helps us practice the art of letting go. This is an essential life skill – it helps us accept change, accept death, and refocus life to center on relationships and experiences rather than ‘stuff.’ Besides, what’s the good of keeping it? A cake will only get moldy. Better to eat the pirate ship while it’s still fresh and marvelous.
And, of course, moving on to the next stage is also delicious.
What do you hang on to? How do you practice letting go and moving on? What’s your latest creation?
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For those of you curious about the pirate ship cake process:
I built the ship in three layers, using up three cake mixes. The ship was longer than a 13x 9 pan, so I had to cut and piece cake together with frosting. Using a pattern helps keep the shape consistent between the layers.
Pretzel rods made an excellent “wooden” bowsprit and taff rail around the ship. I attached the pretzels to the tootsie roll stanchions with dabs of frosting. The cannon balls are malted milk balls. Buckets are made of rollos. The plank is a chocolate wafer cookie. I made the gun ports by poking in black licorice pieces and outlining them with colored frosting.
To make an ocean I just directly frosted the wooden cutting board used as a base, making “waves” with swirls of extra frosting. I originally hoped to make edible sails or at least masts made of pretzels rods, but paper ones worked better. The sails are cardstock paper poked by wooden barbeque skewers (pretzel rods were too fat to do that). I added skewers at the bottom of each sail for the yards, and the crow's nest is made of cardstock, too.
Finishing touches – pirate figurines, pirate gold, extra supply of swords, tiny treasure map and Calico Jack’s pirate flag flying off the stern.