Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ethnographic Study 1: Neon Neon

One could argue that every bit of art, tangible, imaginable, and yes, edible, is derived from some inspired moment. So, it brings me nothing but absolute pleasure seeing both cake connoisseurs and oven averse alike diving into their own endeavors in cupcaketology, and telling me all about it.  Over the next weeks, I will share the inspirations, trials and successes of the baking adventures of dear friends, in their own words. 

To kick off the series, we'll travel to the south of England to explore the hilarious kitchen artistry of the ever-inspiring Molly, rad girlfriend and Creative Director mastermind behind The Neon Hive. 

The Neon Tannenbaum  

"It's difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that inspiration, the bravery, the delusion to bake struck. Having spent an afternoon hanging out in a friend's vintage pop-up shop, an evening chillaxing with an overly indulgent pile of magazines, an idea began to brew...

The holidays were approaching and they guaranteed lots quality playtime with 7 year old god child, Lola, so conjuring up something to keep us (both) entertained was much needed. Lola's always loved all things arty, crafty and the more glitter, the better! But she's also loving playing waitress these days, and after our lazy summer in the south of France, I've learned she's acquiring an eager desire to learn to cook.  Entertainment was clearly going to be centered around "making a mess" - one way, or another. 

Whatever possessed me to believe cupcakes and minimalist monolith trees were the answer still escapes me but we had our creative mission set.

The reliable British weather didn't let us down; it rained and rained and rained. So what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than cross-legged on the floor with a pile of magazines, roaring log fire and an idea.  As we frantically tore the front covers off the magazines and then set about the slightly more melodic folding of each, we relished in downtime gossip and giggled as the monoliths came to life, page by page, fold by fold. Lola's words pretty much sum up our sense of achievement, "Whoa, it's such a cool tree!" as she marveled at our quirky and slightly imperfect creation.

Molly and Lola's Monolith Christmas Trees

I was amazingly let off the hook for the rest of the evening, but oh boy I should have known what was coming... When 7am sharp rolled around, I received a  little person wake up call: "Molly, Molly, can we go to the shops yet to buy the things we need for the cupcakes? I remember what we need so you can just have coffee then we can go..." There was no getting out of this one, the cupcake mission was game on!

Shopping for cupcake cases, edible glitter and the right color dragées was proving to be as much fun as clothes shopping, or so I thought, until we had to choose color for the frosting; a veritable graphic designer's delight! Who would have thought that you would have so many colors to choose from. And not just colors, but shades of colors, 9 shades of green to be precise! And each color could be mixed to create more shades, from the palest apple to electric neon green. THIS WAS AWESOME. It was like having my trusted pantone book come alive - but in edible form. Why oh why had I left dabbling in the land of baking for so long?!

I'll let you in on a secret, for a vegetarian of 20+ years, I cook a mean Sunday roast - beef, lamb, chicken, you name it. But baking has always scared the hell out of me; it's more of a scientific form and alas, I have always been one of life's perpetual art students. This experience, despite all our positive attitude was as I had expected... traumatic. But Lola and I mixed things up with the frosting and carried out extreme mixology experiments to create our perfect shade of super neon green. For us, this was the best bit.

Mean, green, and scrumptious. The finished product.

I learned many life lessons that day: I am not, and will never be, a baker. I should stick to what I do best (picking color palettes / digital coloring in) and leave it to my super talented friends to make cupcake magic. I also learned there is no point baking and making that much mess for only a dozen cakes - go big or go home my friends! Bakery has strict rules, if like me you are an anarchist, steer clear as these ain't rules for breaking. And lastly, but most importantly, creativity has no confines. Sometimes, stepping out of your mold can be an inspirational experience - though one I may be abstaining from until The Cupcaketologist is on hand for guidance!"

No comments: