My mother’s sister, Aunt Maxine, was the nicest person in the world. She was a masterful baker, who supplied us kids with delicious and beautiful birthday cakes, brownies, chocolate chip cookies and a myriad of other treats until the day she was summoned to bake for the angels. I was her protege from an early age. Under my aunt and mother’s guidance, I embraced my inherited abilities, which often came in handy. I won more than one guy’s heart in my teens and twenties with a warm batch of crispy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside chocolate chip cookies.
Aunt Maxine with her famous Chocolate Cake
While studying at UCSC I got a work-study job as a baker at one of the college coffee shops. It was the late 70’s, and somehow I was easily permitted to make batches of anatomically correct gingerbread people, both female and male, naked as the day they were baked. The funny thing was, no one wanted to eat the boy cookies! At the end of the day, all the girls were all sold out, with most of the boys lying there getting stale.
As I mentioned in Chapter 2, after I graduated from UCSC 1980, I had no foundry to make art in, no money and no job. I actually liked working. My first job at 13 years old, was a cage cleaner and rabbit-pellet scooper in a neighborhood pet shop.
So fresh out of college, I ventured out to the local health food store, Staff of Life, to apply for a bakers position. During my interview, the owner noticed that I had a scar on the inside of my wrist. He rightfully recognized it as a recent baker’s burn, the result of touching the wrist to a hot oven rack while removing a tray of cookies from the oven. I was hired on the spot.
For the next four years I was encouraged to be creative in the kitchen. Besides making wedding cakes, cheesecakes, pies, cookies, all with healthy ingredients, I developed the Chocolate Tofu Truffle that won 1st place in the local tofu company’s recipe contest. Staff of Life still sells a version of that truffle today.
Hand made silk screen poster for 1982 Cake Art Show
I directed my sculptural passion to food. I approached the owners to ask them to sponsor a Cake Art show at the community center. They fully supported me. In both 1982 and 1983, I held a Cake Art show where I conceived and designed 10 cakes over a period of a 2 months. It took 2 days of baking and 2 days of construction and detailing the cakes. With a lot of help from my friends, we set up the cakes in a large room at the Louden Nelson community center. The show was packed. The Leaning Tower of Pizzaz, A Geodesic Gingerbread Dome, The Giant Dipper Roller Coaster and A Chocolate Rolls Royce were some of the edible sculptures. There were cake raffles, cake tastings, crazy demos (I gave an acu-frost treatment with whipped cream to my friend Cassandra), a magic show by my friend Genie Houdini, and we all had lots of fun! We packed up the leftovers and dropped them off at San Lorenzo Park for the hippies that were hanging out there.
What did I love most about the show? Everything disappeared afterwards. I didn’t have to bring home and store the artwork in my garage! Happy day!
I worked at Staff of Life for 4 years. While I was there, something happened that radically changed my direction. I loved baking, but started putting on the pounds. I never got tired of eating fresh, warm bear claws or chocolate cheesecake, even at 6:00 in the morning. Something needed to change, and it did……..
Coming up next…. Tai Chi as human sculpture.
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Frosting the Chocolate Rolls Royce Cake. Photo from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1982