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Jun, 2011

Phew! Aubrey's Snake Cake Was A Success!

I really enjoy baking. I wouldn’t say it’s a passion, but it is a lot of fun and it’s something I do well. Every year I take on the challenge of making a birthday cake for Aubrey. It’s my gift to her and I’ll do it for as long as she enjoys it. I know someday she’ll want me to just drop her off at the mall so she can eat a Hot Dog On A Stick for her birthday, so this is something I want to make special for her while it lasts.

Her first birthday was my choice, so I made her a monkey cake:

Her second birthday, she chose a Yo Gabba Gabba theme and I think the cake turned out adorable, if I don’t say so myself:

Last year, my mom sent me a Williams-Sonoma donut shaped cake pan as a just-for-fun gift and as soon as Aubrey say it, she wanted me to make it so we had a giant donut cake for her third birthday and made it a baker’s theme. She got her own baker’s hat and apron with her name on it too:


This year, a reptile guy came to Aubrey’s preschool and the kids got to touch snakes, lizards, toads and more. Aubrey was taught to be afraid of snakes by some other parent and nanny in her life (a-hem) and she freaked out a little when it was her turn to touch the snakes, even though I was the parent volunteer holding the snakes.

Needless to say, I was a little shocked when she told me she wanted a SNAKE CAKE for her birthday this year! One of the many ways Aubrey amazes me is that she takes on the daunting task of facing her fears head on – all on her own. No one taught this to her, she just does it. She forces herself to confront her fears until she desensitizes herself and even starts to enjoy the thing that scares her. She’s done it with hippos (yes, hippos), pirates and skeletons and now, snakes!

So a snake cake it was and I let her choose the color: “Orange with purple polka dots!”

The clock started ticking and I started planning the cake. I’ve decided to post the instructions and results here because after I finished it, everyone asked me HOW I made it. I admit that I stole the basic construction concept from some ideas I found online, but the rest is original and she was a real hit at Aubrey’s party!

Here’s How I Made Aubrey’s Cute Girl Snake Cake:

It was a 3 day project, a little bit at a time.
– I used one Giant Donut Cake Pan from Williams-Sonoma which is actually two ring pans and then an additional, slightly larger ring pan which I had a fairly hard time finding but finally got at a specialty cake store. I’m sure you can order online if you plan ahead… unlike me.
– I made marshmallow fondant from scratch on day 1. There are many recipes online and very basic to make, easy to store and work with. Just a sticky mess to make, but tastes WAY better than regular/store bought fondant!
Blurry pic of fondant process – powdered sugar EVERYWHERE!
 And also did some prep work like julienne slicing the licorice for grass and gathering together all of my decorations and tools.
Making grass from green apple licorice
– I made buttercream frosting on day 2 and stored in fridge
Buttercream icing for the crumb coating/fondant adhesive

– I baked the cakes on the 2nd night and cooled them, so I had 3 rings total. Also, a fun thing about this cake is you can make different flavors so I had a yellow cake ring and 2 chocolate cake rings.

Two smaller rings which made the top coil and the head/neck & tail

– The 3rd morning, I did all the decoration assembly with lots of help from another 2 hands. It was at this point that I’m going to publicly admit that I almost threw the entire thing in the trash! It was 8:30am and Aubrey’s party was at 5:30pm. I didn’t like the way the cake baked and my buttercream was overthawed, I had no idea how to apply the fondant and I was pretty sure it was going to be a disaster. In a nutshell, I felt like I was on one of those cake war shows. STRESS!

But I pulled myself together and made it work. Thus the PHEW in the title of this post.

For the design: I cut the larger ring lengthwise, in half to form 2 rings. These formed the bottom coil and the middle coil. Then one of the smaller rings formed the top coil and the last smaller ring was sectioned in two to make the tail and the head/neck. 
For the coils: I rounded off any sharp edges with a sharp serrated knife and ate the shavings because I was starving. Yum. I also trimmed out some of the center hole of the top coil so it was large enough to stick the neck through later. I also use a little of that piece that I trimmed to help form the head in the following steps.
For the tail: I shaped about a 1/3 of the one smaller ring like, well, the tail you see here and make sure it matches the height of the lowest ring so it looks “realistic” (all using a sharp serrated knife). 
The head: This was definitely the HARDEST part for me as the piece of cake you have left (2/3 of a smaller ring you just shared w the tail piece) doesn’t look anything like a snake head. I had to use smaller scrap cake pieces to piece together a roundish head, then sort of hold them together and try to frost it all. An assistant (like my very nice boyfriend) is helpful at this point.
After cakes were cooled and cut and frosted in a “crumb coating” – I stuck in fridge as I went – it’s a very easy cake to work a piece at a time.
Iced the top ring in buttercream
Obviously, start with the bottom coil and work up. Roll out your fondant and apply. I used long strips and because I’m not very skilled with fondant yet (this was my 1st fondant cake) I had to use 2 strips on each coil. I couldn’t figure out how to apply it all in one piece without it getting to bunched up in the center, so I did it in 2 pieces each coil and you can see the seams – not the end of the world.
Applying fondant to the bottom coil

Two coils done!

Once I had the 3 coils covered in fondant and stacked up, I did the tail – wrapped in one piece and then tucked the end of the fondant underneath the bottom ring, molded it with my hands to sit near the body. And then the head. OH MY GOD! The head was tricky and all I can say is it took me a long time to gently stretch the fondant, trim it with kitchen scissors and tuck the bottom seam and edges in a way that wasn’t too bulky and could be hidden along the bottom of the piece. I pinched the fondant at the end of the neck and tucked the piece into the center of the coils to have her peeking out, head resting on the top coil.

Oooh! She finally looks like a snake!
Then the fun, creative part… DECORATE! 
I used:
Eyes: Mrs Potato Head’s eyes!! Perfect for poking right into the cake!
Mrs Potato Head’s Eyes!
Polka Dots: Wilton Sugar Sheets (pain in the ARSE without their expensive cutting machine. I thought metal cookie cutters would work, but they don’t. I had to have my boyfriend pound out each polka dot with the cookie cutters and a heavy duty rubber mallet! You might explore other options, although I think they look great. Apply with a light amount of water on a small paint brush.
Flower: store bought sugar cake decoration
Grass: Green apple licorice that I julienned – bought at bulk candy store
Rocks: Chocolate candy rocks – bought at bulk candy store
Cookie Lettering: Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Schoolhouse Cookies – painted them orange with aerosol spray food coloring (bought at Michael’s). Stuck them to the foil covered cutting board with dots of icing.
Nostrils: I had some Halloween colored cookie sprinkles and used 2 black dots from there – applied with a dot of icing
Tongue: cut out of a berry fruit strip (fruit roll ups work too). Tip – draw and cut out a guide on a piece of card stock first and then lay it on the fruit strip. Trace with a very sharp knife. (i.e. don’t screw it up if you only have one fruit strip)
Used some of the chocolate cake batter to make one cupcake for the candle holder since I didn’t want to put them in the snake, and my daughter really wanted the other little candles, so I made a little fondant candle holder for them.
The birthday girl and her snake cake!

I had a blast making this cake, but it was a lot of work. The beauty of the decorating I used was that I could cover the seams and any imperfections with polka dots 🙂
Finished Snake Cake!

And that’s my Cute Girl Snake Cake! I hope she inspires you and good luck if you try it.

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Jun, 2011

Four And Counting

It happened last night, four years ago at 11:13pm PST. My little turkey girl, Aubrey Frances, made her grand entrance into the world (in Santa Monica nonetheless – no wonder she loves the beach so much) after 26 hours of labor. Many moms, and dads, will tell you it was the happiest moment of their lives. Sadly for me… not so much. 

  1. I wanted to kill my boyfriend (now my ex and co-parent) for SO many reasons I simply don’t have the time or desire to go into 
  2. I had a horrible delivery and recovery 
  3. Bottom line – I wasn’t excited about motherhood

Yes, I said it. I admit it. I’ll say it again. I wasn’t excited about becoming a mother. My pregnancy was not planned and my relationship was already on the rocks. But there I was, pregnant for the first time in my life at 34. I considered my age and my relationship status and decided to give it – the baby and the relationship – the good old college try out of fear that this may be my only opportunity to have a child. Even if I had chosen not to have the baby and broke up with my boyfriend, who knows if I would ever meet someone within my childbearing years that I wanted to reproduce with. I felt it could be now or never.

Also, I was really into my career. A career in an industry that does not favor women and really does not favor women with children. A career that I had been building for over 10 years at that point and I was finally starting to get some recognition in Hollywood. I was just chosen for the CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase and was headlining colleges across the country. The timing felt all wrong on so many levels and the stress of it all really took its toll on me.

When Aubrey was born, I did not cry. I did not feel joy or happiness. I was numb. I was angry. So depressed from my dysfunctional relationship, that I couldn’t savor that sweet moment. This is probably the most painful truth of my life as a mother and I hate that I will never get that moment back. There’s no do-over or rewind. But I’ve spent the last four years learning to forgive and let go and for me, motherhood has been a process, a journey.

After two months of post partum depression and escalating fights with my boyfriend, the dark clouds gradually lifted and I went into survival mode. I gave the relationship one last shot – talking him into couples therapy. When he stopped going with me after about three sessions, I decided to continue on my own and by the time Aubrey was around seven months, I decided to leave the relationship and become a single mom. 

It was the hardest time of my life – moving out, finding a new home, legal proceedings for the custody agreement, re-establishing my career, all with an infant in tow – but it was during this period that I found myself again and began to truly love my daughter. Of course I loved her from the beginning, but it wasn’t until I started to shed the toxic elements of my life that I was able to really fall IN love with her and I can honestly say I have loved her more and more each day. 

Having a baby was not in my plans and whether or not the decision to move forward with motherhood was for the right reasons, I guess is completely subjective. Even now, four years later, I can’t say that I made the “right” decision or the “best” decision, but I do know this for sure: I love my daughter more than anything in the world and I never want to live a day on this earth without her in it.

So this week is a celebration of her fourth year of life! For her, it’s a non-stop party week. Since she has two homes, she gets double the gifts and double the parties spread out over several days with the back and forth. (There are some good things about having separated/divorced parents.) She is having a blast and I hope I am creating some wonderful memories for her. For me, this week is a celebration of the gifts she has given me and the lessons she has taught me. A reflection on how far we’ve come and excitement for what our futures hold. Thank you, my little Aubrey, for showing me what it truly means to love and be loved. Happy birthday to you!

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Sep, 2010

My little schoolgirl!

Today is my birthday. At least it’s the day that I celebrate as my birthday. Many of you know my little orphan backstory… I was abandoned on the streets of Seoul, South Korea, at the Yongsan Train Station on September 3, 1972. I was estimated to be two days old, so… September 1st was the birthdate I was given. It Could be correct or slightly off, so I guess we’ll never know if my numerology charts are accurate or not. Dang.

Well, I’m officially 38, as far as I’m concerned and I really enjoy getting older. I love my birthday and like most people, I’ve never felt the need to lie about my age. Maybe because I still look 8-10 years younger than I am, but I don’t want to brag. Let’s face it, it’s one of the great advantages of being of Asian descent. That and the ability to pretend you don’t speak-y Engrish in difficult situations and then just walk away. It really works. 

Today is also my little Aubrey’s first day of fall preschool! She already went for the entire summer, so it’s just another day to her, but she will have some new classmates and will also be attending 5 days a week instead of 3 now. I’m so proud of my little turkey! She’s a keeper. (Check back in with me in 10 years though.)

Better run. It’s almost time to pick her up. Have a great September 1st everyone and if you need an excuse to enjoy a piece of cake today, please, feel free to use me. 

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