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Memories in the Baking

September 18, 2007

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve baking goodies with my mom, or decorating tins upon tins of Christmas cookies with my grandmother. It's no wonder that I've turned out to be the sort of cook that I am: the sort of cook that rarely bothers to measure ingredients, the sort of cook who'd rather wing it and pray for the best. I watched as they whipped up silky batches of mashed potatoes and juicy, fall-off-the-bone roasts and perfectly salted homemade popcorn, the kind made in the iron skillet that burst from under the lid as it grew more and more fluffy, begging to be released into the giant wooden bowl for our consumption.

For the past few years I have been making birthday cakes for my family and friends, a tradition passed down to me by my mom. I've taken it a step further, incorporating candies for texture and dimension and dominating the icing, bending it to my will.

Both my niece and my nephew celebrated birthdays over the past two weekends, and I commemorated their special days with special cakes of their own.

My mom with Annabel

Annabel, my niece, turned one. Her motor skills aren't exactly fine-tuned yet, so I thought cupcakes should be the order of the day. That way she could eat her cake – face first or fingers first, it didn't matter – and we could, too.

Each cake was double the width of a traditional cupcake
(Click to enlarge)

I made butterflies, dragonflies, bumblebees and ladybugs. I used icing for decoration, sour straws for texture, M&Ms candies for the ladybug dots, licorice rope for the antennae, jumbo sprinkles for the eyeballs, edible glitter for a little shimmer and giant sugar crystals just because I could. Who doesn't love giant sugar crystals?






Chase, my nephew, turned four. For the entire month leading up to his birthday, all he could talk about was a shark cake.

Chase, The Birthday Boy

I scoured the Internet and didn't turn up much, so I created the shark myself. Or, I should say Roger helped me create it, since he drew up the blue prints for the shark. Something about being a guy and watching too much of the Discovery channel made our shark a little fearsome.

Snaggly-toothed shark
(Click to enlarge)

For the shark, I decided to make two separate cakes: a white cake for the ocean, a red velvet cake for the shark's body. That way, when you cut into the shark, it would look like blood. And if there's anything a four-year-old boy wants to see, it's blood.

(Click to enlarge)

I made the red velvet cake in a loaf pan, so that we could carve it into the shape of a shark. I used the white tips of candy corns for its teeth, and smoothed icing over its body for a sleek look. Roger cut a licorice wheel into the shape of a fin, which we connected to a toothpick and then covered in icing before attaching to the shark's body.

Leaping out of the water
(Click to enlarge)

All the cakes took a loooong time to make, but it was so worth it to see the reaction of the guests at each party when they stole their first glance at dessert. It was so worth it to watch Annabel grab her dragonfly by the handful and squeal in delight when her fingers pressed through the mushy icing. It was so worth it to see Chase's eyes light up and turn to me in wonder when the first cut was made into the shark's body.

These are new memories in the making, not only for the younger generation of my family, but for me as well.

Comments and questions regarding these cakes and others can be directed to jes(AT)chirky(DOT)com.



oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!! AMAZING!!! I had NO idea you were so talented!!! WOW!!! I am totally awestruck at these cakes, I CANNOT imagine how amazed that 4 year old must have been to feast his eyes on something he'd been dreaming about for a month. You are officially the BEST aunt EVER. Will you become Amelia's honorary aunt?? We will house you in Key West for the small, unbelievably bargain-able price of a cake. :)

I love all the little details on the tiny cakes, and the ocean peaks on the shark. And red velvet!!

Are you going to submit these to a magazine or cake site??? Please do!!


holy. crap. you are an insanely talented cake baking goddess. i bow to you. teach me. please?

my goodness i wish i were your niece so you could bake me one of these amazing cakes....and the red velvet for the shark's head for the 'blood' effect is genius. not to mention i LOVE! red velvet cake.

want to move to san francisco and bake me goodies?!?!


Wow. My not-from-a-box brownies pale in comparison. But that won't stop me from eating them. All of them.

This is some impressive work, Jes!


Such talent!


Wow, these are AMAZING! I think you need to go into business.

When we were little, we had this crazy old-school cake recipe book that had come free with (of all things) the Australian Womens Weekly magazine, and my brother and I would obsess over its pages for MONTHS before our birthdays, planning and plotting about which cake we'd get my mum to make. These beat the pants off any of those, though. Is 28 too old for a shark cake for my next birthday?


I am in utter awe at your talent! Those cakes are the most darling things I have ever seen.


I made an Hawaiian beach/luau cake for my niece once with graham cracker crumbs for sand. That was a stretch for me. I wouldn't even consider that a cake after seeing yours. WOW!

Great job Jes!


WOW. Those are all so awesome!!


Are you kidding me? I think you need to consider a second career in cake decorating. For reals. The shark is AMAZING.


Those are fab! You should totally open a cake shop: "Chirky's Cakes". It even sounds good. :)


I raise my Reisling in homage to your cake-making talents. I'll be needing one of those shark cakes come next May. Name your price, Chirky.


I am going to start calling you Martha, Jr.



Annabel is cute with her chubby cheeks.

You are so creative, the animal shaped cakes tell al lot. But my favorite is, of course: Roger's shark =0


wow, these are incredible! What a talent!


Wow! Those cakes are amazing! What lucky kids! You didn't just "wing it", although it seems there were enough wings to go around. And shark+blood - so inspired!


Wow Jes, after hearing you talk about these cakes I am AMAZED at the outcome. You rock. I just showed this to a co-worker and she asked if you were a professional cake decorator.


Those are awesome! I'm very impressed by the shark cake... and red velvet? Genius. And I bet those were the tastiest bugs ever.


WOW! I'm so totally impressed and in awe. I keep telling myself I want to do stuff like that, but then I never know where to start!

Great job!


That shark cake may be the single most amazing cake I've ever seen.

Today is my birthday, and now I feel cheated because I don't have a shark leaping at me. ;)


Wow, what beautiful work! I can just imagine how exciting it must have been for the recipients.


Those are awesome looking cakes! I'm dying to have a bite, or two or three or twenty! Dang, now I might need to visit a pastry shop today to satisfy my sweet tooth.

My sister took cake decorating classes for a little while years back. It was right when I was *trying* to be on the Adkins diet. I say *trying* because it was not easy to resist the cakes she kept bringing home week after week when I was on the diet.

Man, I love me some good icing. And no whip cream icing, right!?! I really despise whip cream icing. I loooove the buttercream kind or any kind that gets stiff on the outside.

You go, girl! Uber talented cake maker that you are! Great memories, indeed.


Holy cow, those are amazing! I want to hire you. Where do you live???


Have I mentioned lately how much I love each of you? Because I do. Heartily.

This is what I have to say:

GFF: Ummm, don't be surprised when I take you up on that offer.

McGee: I totally want to move to SF and bake you goodies.

Nothing But Bonfires: You're never too old to have a shark cake, darling.

Lizgwiz: Happy Birthday! Just pretend I made one for you, and it will almost be the same.

Chiada: You *must* know that there is no whip cream icing. I hate the stuff.

Radish: I'm in Dallas. Where are you?

And to the rest of you: A million thanks. Maybe one day I *will* open my own little shop, and it will be because of YOUR encouragement!


So Jes
How much will you charge to do Cupcakes for Josiah??? His bday is in 3 weeks.


Hmm.. that bumblebee and dragonfly look a bit like something I did - perfected! Did you take some of my original work and "dress it up"? IF you did, I don't blame you! Everything turned out awesome - and I can't BELIEVE that shark cake. WOW!


Nicolle: I thought you might think it was fun if I highlighted two of the cupcakes that you created. I will admit to a little dressing up, though. By the time I finished the cupcakes *and* took pictures, it was nearly 4am. Be glad you didn't stay the night. I might have forced you to stay up with me! :)


These are AWESOME! Can I hire you for Emily's first birthday? :)


That is truly the most incredible cake I have ever seen. And I have seen some awe-inspiring desserts in my time (for about 2 seconds, before I shoved my face into them).


AWESOME cake making skills! I am in awe. Truly.


I wish I was this creative. This cakes are awesome. Great job!!!


My mom has decorated cakes (even done so professionally!) since I was a small kid. I know how to do it, but I haven't so much lately.

Your cakes are fantastic! I especially love the little bugs! Good job.


You. Are. Awesome. Not only are the cupcakes and cake so very cool, the love behind the goodies is what really counts.

You helped create some beautiful memories for your niece and nephew. Way to go, Auntie!


I've got Ryan turning 11 in October, Kaitlyn turning 2 in November, and Nathan turning 9 in December. Will you have "Chirky's Cakes" up and running by then? Because my usual cake bought from the Sam's Club bakery seems so incredibly lame now. Awesome work, Chirk! (heh)

I also wanted to let you know I gave you an award, and please visit Table for Five to see what it is!


These are great! I can't IMAGINE how long they took to create. You have very lucky nieces & nephews. You get the Awesome Aunt award!!


Did you see on Dallas.news.com today that they have a cookie decorating contest going on?

You should TOTALLY enter.


Chase is so freakin cute!!!!


Oh, and the cakes are pretty cool too. ;)


Thank you, thank you, I have been looking for Shark cake ideas for a friend's birthday cake I need to do, this is IT!!!! Amazing, :)


You are a very gifted cake decorator/designer! Awesome work.


Those cakes are AMAZING!!! I can't believe you did that -- so creative!

Can you make groom's cakes? ;)


Hi Chirky,
I hope you don't mind but I used your wonderful shark cake as a template for a three-year-old's shark cake request. My result is nowhere near as fantastic as yours but you can view my attempt here. Thank you for the design and Master Three was a very happy boy today too :)


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