school days memories

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I do remember some little things about my first day of school. Actually, I had two first days of school. My family and I moved to Germany when I was about to go to school. On our journey we were sent to different locations, before we got assigned to a temporary home in the town of our choice. That is at least how I remember it. I remember a huge hall, filled with hundreds of people.. It might have been a gym or something. The showers have been outside, along with all the other sanitary arrangements. My parents sent me and my sister to visit my aunt, so we wouldn’t have to stay there for too long. The next stop was a little apartment in a tall building. I remember a balcony, but this is basically all I can recall. My pictures and memories might be a little disguised with a childish perception of surroundings, with pictures and memories, that are not truly mine, but stories told by somebody else. The way I remember it might be peppered with things that did not even happen. I don’t know how much of all this is true. I was seven years old and my comprehension of what was happening was definitely limited. I did not understand. Probably, for me, this was just a huge adventure. Then, on day x, on a warm day (I think it was, but I don’t know), there it was… my first day of school. I was entering the world my siblings were living in and I was about to follow. I received a cornet full of candy and a bag and walked the steps of the big kids (for those of you who don’t know the customs in Germany: on their first day of school kids get a large cornet, usually made of cardboard, filled with candy and little presents. It is a really nice tradition and many kids make their own, designing it just the way they want to. Some are bought and match the design of the school bag. People do all kind of things 🙂 ). Anyway, I remember I had two and I always thought that this is because just one or two days later we left this little apartment and this school and moved to our final destination, where I experienced my first day of school all over again. I thought that this is when I received my second cornet, but my mom told me now that I received my second from the first school. Usually kids get the cornets from their parents, but at the first school, the kids got one from the school as well. Hmm.. I might stay with my version though, cause I kind of like it more 😉

It was difficult for me in the second school. I didn’t speak German and the only things I was able to say were “Thank you” and “I don’t speak German.” For some reason I remember that my teacher (btw. the best I ever had) told me I had a nice bag. Of course I didn’t really understand, but the words for satchel are very similar in Polish and German, so maybe that’s why I knew what she was saying. Besides, she probably pointed to it and smiled, so I figured she liked it. I learned German, while the other kids were learning math (which I already did in kindergarten in Poland). And I made it 🙂

And that is what I am thinking, when thinking about my first day of school. It is August and many German kids start school these days. My niece is one of them. Last thursday she had her bag ready and her cornet filled with candy. Her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles were invited to spend the day with her. We escorted her to school, attended the welcome ceremony, waited for her, while she was sitting in her classroom for the very first time. When all this was over, we celebrated with presents, a nice lunch, coffee and of course cake 🙂 And I was the one honored to make it.

You know me and can imagine that I would not make a plain cake, covered with some sprinkles. It had to be something special.. something to remember. On the Saturday before, I started to make the decorations. After sketching a few designs, I decided for a two tier cake with crayons surrounding the bottom layer and a sitting figure on top of the upper layer. The figurine should resemble my niece and her accessories should very much look like the originals. Her favorite color is blue (at the moment), so I made her a blue dress, decorated with little flowers. I wanted to make her sit next to her cornet and eat the candy, so I made a lollipop and molded a full cheek on one side, with a smile going to the same side.

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From a photo I copied her satchel and cornet and tried to come as close to the originals as I could. I made some little candy out of gum paste and let everything dry for a couple of days. In order to support her feet, while she was sitting on the upper cake, I made school books. I covered wafers and sugar tablets with colored fondant and labeled them with the names of school subjects. I made a whole bunch of them, so I could scatter them a little on the cake.

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For the crayons I made long rolls out of cookie dough and when they were still warm I cut and formed them into crayons. After cooling I covered them with white chocolate, which I dyed in different colors (the colors are not very bright when you use white chocolate and normal food color. There are special food colors for chocolate, which I don’t have, so if you want to have bright colors, you might need to consider getting those). I also used the same cookie dough for the blackboard. I wanted to have the blackboard on two stands, so I could put it on top or at least behind the upper cake, but the stands broke when I was trying to attach it to the cake, so I left it without. I only used a rectangular piece of cookie and scraped out the middle, which I filled with melted dark chocolate (I added some black food coloring, to make it real dark). The frame I covered with chocolate fondant.

When all the decorations were ready, I started to prepare the cakes and the fondant. I decided for a marzipan-apricot cake as the bottom layer and a chocolate egg liqueur cake with blackberry-lemon filling on top. The marzipan-apricot cake is a lot of work, because you need to bake each layer separately, but it is good for hot days, not having any creams or anything that would go bad or melt quickly.

This time I also wanted to try the chocolate fondant for two reasons – number one: because I wanted to try it. I heard good and bad things about it and wanted to see for myself. The taste is supposed to be very good (it is!), but the handling is supposed to be difficult.. (hmm.. I am not sure about this one). The production was a little trickier than the normal, white fondant, but I didn’t have a hard time to knead it and it was soft and chewy. It did melt (maybe because it was so hot) very easily and was not so smooth on the cake. So I was very happy with the handling, but not so much with the look.

And this leads us to the second reason, why I wanted this fondant: because I think that colorful things like the crayons, candy, and books look very nice and bright on a dark background. Don’t you agree? Anyhow, unfortunately the fondant came out very bumpy and did not meet my expectations here.

All in all, decorating the cake was easy and fast, having all the decorations prepared and ready. I glued the crayons with edible glue, but secured them with melted chocolate afterwards. Everything else I glued to the cake with the glue.

When the cake is ready to go, there are always two crucial moments waiting, which I am nervous about each and every single time – the transport and the reaction of the one/s the cake is for. The transport almost ended in a disaster this time. I put the cake into a box and left the top open. Because of the heat and the sun, my mom decided to cover the top with a plastic cover and a blanket. It was very unstable, but it was a short drive, so I thought it would be fine. I kept the box on my lap and when we drove around the first corner, the plastic cover with the blanket collapsed. I thought it fell on the figurine and smashed it, but luckily the figurine was dry enough and survived. Only the blackboard got a little smashed, but I was able to fix that pretty fast (due to the heat it was very soft.. in this case it was good 😉 )

My niece and her parents were very happy and excited with the outcome, which is always the best thank you and payment for a baker. The cake was treated like a star and it seemed like it got the most pictures on that day.
I hope you guys like the design as well 🙂

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