Tuesday, October 20, 2009
My wife started baking some serious cakes about five years ago. It started with our niece’s first birthday cake which was a pretty simple (and giant) sheet cake with icing and decorations, all homemade. Soon she progressed to making multi-tiered elaborate-themed cakes. This year she discovered fondant, that moldable sugary shell that is used to wrap cakes for a professional looking finish. Needless to say, we watch a lot of “Ace of Cakes” on TV!
Of course I try to get some nice pictures of these cakes. This is the way it usually goes down…every surface of our small kitchen is being used for cake making, the dining room table is holding cake parts and such, and sometimes even the ironing board is out and being used as an additional surface to let cake components dry, etc. By the time the cake is fully assembled and ready to go, we are already 10 minutes late, the house looks like hell (but smells awesome), and we have to run out the door and rush to whatever party the cake is to be eaten at.
This time it was no different. My lovely wife made this Tiffany cake for my sister’s 18th birthday. She was putting the finishing touches on it while I was getting everything ready for us to leave. The party started in 20 minutes and we live an hour away…typical! The cake is done and I can’t find an uncluttered place to put it for a picture. So I drag a chair near a sunny window and stick the cake on there. There is no time for fancy stuff here--no meters, umbrellas, softboxes, or strobes.
I put the camera on aperture-priority at f/4 to have some depth-of-field and got a shutter speed back from the camera of 1/20 sec or so, which is too slow to hand-hold for a clear shot. What to do? Bumped up the ISO from 100 to 400 and got a shutter speed of 1/80 sec, safely in the hand-held range. Took the picture on the left. I wasn’t happy with the shadow side of the cake and wanted to get some light in there somehow…
We’re still late for the party and now my wife’s wearing her coat. Ah ha, the cake box! A makeshift white reflector…held it in my left hand, camera in my right hand and set to manual so that my exposure doesn’t change (the reflective meter in the camera will see the extra light from the reflector and increase the shutter speed to compensate and end up underexposing the image a little…I wanted those whites to be white). With the cake box I was able to reflect a bit of the sun light into the shadow side of the cake, and that is the picture on the right. Three layers of homemade vanilla cake goodness with butter-cream icing in between, wrapped in hand-dyed fondant to match that Tiffany aqua-green color, and a white fondant bow on top!
We got into the car and were met with a ridiculous amount of traffic, and ended up being pretty late anyway. But everyone loved the cake, including my sister…and yes, she got a real Tiffany box later!