Us food writers get the best freaking mail. Today it's a package from Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionary Art in Chicago, celebrating its 80th anniversary. Thanks to the Wilton family, pictured above*, I now know that:
*Chocolate cake mix was introduced in 1948 by the Pillsbury Company;
*Cake is the number one celebration dessert (grabbing 47 percent share against pie's measly 15 percent and the even more abysmal cupcake's 5;
*Birthdays are the "most attended" of all social celebrations;
*And a full 58 percent of us over the age of 25 still bake from scratch (and we're baking cookies, cookies, and cookies).
It probably shouldn't surprise me that the South, including Florida, has the highest number of people who bake year round, nevermind the humidity.
The Wilton Anniversary Cake is a sumptuous affair -- three and a half feet tall, with more decorative elements than a Baroque cathedral. A series of things that look like Harmon Karden car stereo speakers rims the base. There are hearts, crosses, swags, rosettes, daisies, upsidedown pineapples, and a sort of poodle-ish up-doo on top. My favorites, though, are the Barbie cake, debuted in 1960, and the Chicago International Trade Fair Cake of 1959, complete with sugarplum battleships. What's that contraption at the bottom, an oil rig? How very, very quaint.
I'd like one of these to feed the overflow crowds at my next well-attended birthday party.
Anyhoo -- who does a girl have to flak to get a DECENT PIECE OF CAKE around here? And I don't mean those boring gonzo-chocolate flourless lava things with all the syrup squiggles and whipped cream served at half the restaurants in Florida. I mean real honest to god cake -- something a little lopsided, with buttercream icing and a gloopy, eggy custard filling between the layers. Anybody wanna jump in here? Spin me around and point me in the right direction? Because I've got a serious hankering.
*Is it me, or does Mrs. Wilton look like she'd like to lacerate her hubby in a stand mixer set to HI?