Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Artisans in our Backyard: Kristi Jacobsen, baker of cakes

Kristi at our wedding with her husband and
 the incredible cake she made us.
Whenever someone shares a memory with Sean and I about our wedding, it inevitably revolves around one of three things: the church, the music, and (perhaps most often) the cake. Our wedding cake was crafted by my eldest sister, Kristi, and everyone keeps telling us it's one of the best cakes they've ever eaten. Growing up, I remember baking with Kristi; She always made the best chocolate chip cookies and she taught me to make buckeyes. The cakes started coming into play not until about six years ago when she showed up to my birthday with a cake frosted to look like a big orange pumpkin, and it was delicious, too! She's always been an avid reader, and says she really started reading and trying recipes back in the fall of 2005. "I was feeling challenged to stop watching TV for a month, and to fill the time I started baking. I started with the Cake Mix Doctor, and soon after I picked up The Cake Bible from the library and read it cover to cover. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you cut out TV." The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum is largely recognized for being an authority on everything from icing to fondant to actually baking cakes. And these recipes aren't for the faint of heart. One reviewer who claims to have culinary training still reports that these cakes take immense precision and can be quite difficult. 

the pumpkin cake Kristi made for my B-day in '05
Kristi has always welcomed a challenge, though. I remember when she was in high school art club she created two paper maché elephant puppets, the female of which was equipped with fake eyelashes and red lips. Both puppets were about a foot and a half tall, I think (I'm trying not to exaggerate the size. I was only in elementary school, and everything seemed bigger then) and they had joints and everything and could move. Kristi acknowledges, "I've always been good at 3D art, and baking allows me to be artistic without accumulating a bunch of stuff that I have to display. You bake it, take a picture, eat it, and it's gone (but hopefully not to your hips)."

a birthday cake Kristi did for our other sister, Lindsey
Kristi's cakes are always beautiful, but she certainly doesn't use that as a crutch. Hers are by far the best tasting cakes I've ever eaten. Even Sean, who claims he doesn't like cake, loves them. Cake baking, though it started out as just a hobby, soon became a small side gig. Kristi has crafted many wedding cakes besides ours, though being a baker has been a learning experience for her. She recounts the first wedding she ever did a cake for. "I stacked the 4 tiers up at home and drove it to the reception," she recalls. "I was afraid it would fall over the whole way there. Now I'll take the cake unassembled and put it together on site." I've also seen Kristi's cake designs evolve over the years: they only seem to get more beautiful. This leads to more business for her, of course, but she's not quite ready to think about making cakes her day job. "People hunt me down and ask me if they can pay me to make a cake," she says. "I've never sought out business. Just this week I made some Shaun the Sheep cupcakes for a friend who saw some that I posted on Facebook from my son's birthday. I won't become a professional right now because I have young children. Also, my day job is still interesting, stimulating, and a steady paycheck. However, I won't rule out baking cakes professionally. I actually had that thought in mind back when I was just starting to learn." I, of course, will keep you updated on that status, and we'll have recipes and the like from Kristi in the future.
A wedding cake Kristi made for a friend

It is worth being mentioned that Kristi is a health nut. I mean, it's hard not to be to some extent when you were raised in our childhood home. She admits that cake baking might seem like an unlikely hobby for someone with her views on processed foods, but she says, "baking from scratch allows me to control the ingredients I use. The baking world is full of frostings that use shortening, but I don't use any trans fats. I like to use real butter, cream, eggs, flour. I can also bake all organic or vegan if I want." And it's true. I've had these cakes, and they are far better than anything I've ever eaten that listed Crisco in the ingredients. 
"I'm most proud of a cake when I take some risks and try
 something new. I did a cake with a cherry-blossom design
and hand made all the blossoms from gumpaste. It took me
 about 30 hours to complete that cake."

Artisans in our Backyard is a series that focuses on the humble talents of folks in my own little Ohio community. I believe people everywhere, whether or not they consider themselves “artists,” are constantly creating. This series is about local artists and also about those in our community who simply live creatively.

1 comment:

  1. I love these cakes. Go Kristi, Go!