Back at the National Capital Area Cake Show in March, I made a contact with the founder of an organization called Icing Smiles. This nationwide organization organizes “smiles” for children and families who have battled a chronic illness of some sort. “What do you mean they organize Smiles?” Well, the organization pairs up families with a child (or a sibling of a child) who has an upcoming birthday with a volunteer cake designer and they communicate to create a cake theme that will put a smile on their face!
This past Saturday I visited the Children’s National Medical Center for a little boy named Aaric!
As you can see, I was heading to the Heart and Kidney Unit where Aaric was recovering after his open heart surgery earlier the week. Aaric, 19 months old, has now undergone 3 open heart surgeries to help repair a string of heart problems that the doctors diagnosed before he was born; hopefully this was the last of them until he is in his teens and may need a “tune-up” after growing and all!
Here’s a picture of Aaric. He’s doing great after the surgery, but I think that he’d appreciate if his pain medicine was working better :(
I received an e-mail from my Icing Smiles regional coordinator who asked if I would be available to create a cake for Aaric and his family. Even though this wasn’t his Birthday, I think we were all pretty willing and understanding that this was definitely a cake worthy occasion for this little trooper! I said “Yes, of course” and then I was connected with Aaric’s Mom who gave me the details on the cake request. The Icing Smiles coordinator sends the first email with the specific questions (Red), and the family responds with the details:
1. Theme (specific design determined by the volunteer) – Cars and Trucks
2. Color scheme – Doesn’t Matter
3. Number of servings – 6-7
4. Flavor preference – Chocolate and/or vanilla
5. Inscription – Get Well Aaric!
6. Dietary Restrictions – No Trans fats or Food coloring/ dye
Of course, Aaric’s mom could have written in the cake request for that she wanted a real life Tonka truck to show up for her son and I would have done everything in my power to make that happen! But request #6 initially caught me off guard, calling for “No food coloring/Food dye”, as in no artificial colors…uh oh. So I quickly got in touch with the mom to confirm that coloring of any artificial means would be a no-go. She apologized and noted that it probably didn’t allow for a very fancy cake without color. Hmmmm, I was feeling terrible that I accepted this cake project and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to pull off a great cake for this much deserving little boy and mom!
I thought about a lot of options that I read online about natural food coloring. Beet juice, powdered spinach…that probably wouldn’t be too appealing for a kid (or anyone)! And for the most part the authors of the posts or forums admitted that it was a terrible taste in the end. Hmmm what am I going to do???
Well here is what I did!:
Stacked it 7 layers high, and created a mountain side…
I wanted to make sure that the trucks fit and that I had carved the cake well enough that you could see there was a road or ramp that the cars were navigating to get to the top!
Then I had to get the buttercream on the cake to seal in all of those layers of ganache!
But what was I going to do about coloring this cake? Surely Chuck and his buddies were not out driving around in the snow…
DID YOU KNOW that Oreo cookies have zero trans fats and no artificial food coloring?? Yup, here comes muddy mountain!
I let the cake harden up a little in the fridge after the Oreos were packed on. I figured it would be best to attach the cars and get well flags after the Oreos had made themselves comfortable!
Finally it was time to go see Aaric, and the cake was assembled!
Even though the flags were made of colored fondant I didn’t think it would be a problem since the color wasn’t actually touching the cake and I just mentioned to the mom not to eat them. The mom seemed really happy with the cake, and little Aaric has been reported as “loving playing with his new cars!” It looks like color free was all for the best after all!
I had a great experience with my first “Icing Smiles” cake and really look forward to my next “call to action”.
Additionally, if you’d like to help out Aaric – the family said the best way to do so is to donate directly to Children’s Hospital.
Thanks for stopping by!