Our house mama approached me a few weeks ago to say she needed help to bake a cake. As it turned out, the cake was for her wedding and she wanted me to do it for her. I quickly discovered that the cake itself is not the big deal – the decorations are – and so I set about learning about cake decorating.
I find this kind of thing very nerve-wracking. It’s not just the high stakes of making something for a wedding, it’s also that different cultures have different expectations about celebrations. We’re often not that good at explaining our own cultural assumptions, because we assume everyone knows them, so it was quite tricky to work out the right questions to ask Mama Velo to get the information I needed to make the cake as she wanted.
Thanks to many conversations with Mama Velo, a Google search, some photos a student shared with me, a conversation with the expat cake-making guru, a chat with the man at the cake tin shop, and a suggestion from another Aussie missionary in Tanzania on Facebook, here’s the finished product. Mama Velo was delighted with them.
The cake is just an ordinary vanilla one. The icing is royal icing. I bought the sugar roses from a lady who makes them locally. The bases are just plywood covered with aluminium foil.
Here’s what I learnt along the way.
- It is possible to buy cake tins in Dodoma. However, this does not mean that the sides and base of the springform tin will necessary fit, nor that it will keep its shape beyond one use.
- It is traditional to make one big cake for the bride and groom and two smaller ones for each set of parents. There were no parents in this case because our house mama is a grandmother and her husband is older than her, but she still wanted the extras.
- A cheap plastic ‘Cake Derator’ set from China does the job no worries.
- The deep maroon colour takes a lot of food colouring to make. The ratio was about 3/4 red and 1/4 blue.
Things that would have made the job easier:
- Baking paper. Greasing the tins only gets you so far.
- An oven that has a door that closes properly.
- Power – we’ve been having unpredictable 12-24 hour outages. I could mix the cake batter by hand and cook the cakes in our gas oven but royal icing really needs a mixer so I had to wait for a window where we had power and then spring into action!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.