A few days ago, five of us gathered at my friend Amy’s house to learn cake decorating from her father, Jack. Amy baked a big batch of cupcakes and we (and a pack of 11 kids hungry as wolves and very eager to ice, eat, ice, eat, repeat) stood around her kitchen table to learn. Jack grew up in the baking business in Colorado, and regaled us with stories of how he was woken at midnight to begin the baking day and often made dozens of wedding cakes in 24 hours. He even baked his own wedding cake, and brought photos to show us all. He also had an incredible cookbook of cakes, breads and pies written out in the beautiful longhand script writing of his mother.
Jack showed us how to make simple parchment paper bags for icing and brought along his bag of tricks to teach how to make rosettes and leaves and other decorations. Since his baking days, Jack has become a scientist, engineer, lawyer and body-builder, as well as a grandfather. But that day, along with two of his grandchildren, we all learned a little bit of his family’s cooking history.