This is my bicentennial post!! Very fitting.
Have I mentioned that I’m an Indiana girl? Once or twice, huh? I grew up in “the crossroads of America.” The land of Larry Bird, Colts football, David Letterman and John Mellencamp, and basketball everywhere. The Hoosiers, the Boilermakers, and the Fighting Irish. And corn on all sides. But there’s more than corn in Indiana… Alright, my Indy peeps, you know that one…are you singing it?!
As a born and bred Indiana girl, Memorial Day weekend is always exciting to me because that’s when the Indianapolis 500 is held. No, I’m not particularly a race fan, but how can you grow up in Indiana, about 30 minutes from Indianapolis, and not have major nostalgia for race day?
I remember when I was a little girl, we would get together with extended family and have a big cook out, play games, and listen to the race on the radio. Yes, you heard me right…on the radio. I’m not so advanced in years that I was a little girl before there was television. It’s just that in Indiana, the race is blacked out. Ironic, isn’t it? Probably the biggest Indy 500 fans in the world centered around the race on race day, and the only way they’re going to see it live is if they attend. It never mattered much to me, of course, that we couldn’t watch the race. I was more interested in hanging out with my cousins, playing, and eating. But the soundtrack of the day was the commentators’ gravelly voices, overpowered every few seconds by the high pitched, whiny growl of the Indy cars whooshing by.
I did get to attend the race once, and although the seats were mediocre, the sun was hot, and the race itself was – gasp – boring, it was an incredible thing to see in person. After finding a distant parking spot and hiking the streets to the motor speedway, you find yourself wading through the droves of tailgaters. The closer you get to the track, people evolve from two legged, two armed individuals into four legged creatures attached at the wrists by heaving plastic coolers, jostling you for space in the crowd. Finally, you find yourself shuffling through the crowded gates, entering the stands. The excitement in the air is truly intense, you can feel it tingling along your skin and bringing an involuntary smile to your face. Once you’re in your seat, it’s just a matter of tense waiting and eye popping goggling at your surroundings until, at last, Back Home Again in Indiana is sung by Jim Nabors, as he’s done every year but one since 1972, the gentlemen and ladies are told to start their engines, and the cars begin lapping the track slowly and surely, headed up by the pace car.
The year that I went, it had rained all morning. As everyone struggled to find the appropriate seat, big trucks towing huge jet engines around the track were racing to dry it out before the cars could enter. The sun was doing it’s part, by that point, but if they were to start the race on time, Mother Nature needed a little help. They circled around and around, like giant hair dryers, turning the asphalt from wet black to dry gray, just in time for the green flag to fly. When it did, and the race was on, I couldn’t believe my ears. I’d heard Indy cars (which are similar to Formula 1) on the radio my whole life, and then again on television during recaps, but there was absolutely no comparison to hearing them in real life. It was so much more than hearing them – you could feel them reverberating through the stands and your entire body. It was incredible. I can’t put into words what it’s like hearing an Indy car race by you at top speed. It’s an experience. And the speed…watching the cars go by your seat brings meaning to the idea of a car “flying by.” It’s unbelievable.
This year, the Indianapolis 500 is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary. It isn’t the 100th race, because the race didn’t run during five years of Word Wars I and II, making this only the 95th race to run. It’s not the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway either, which opened in 1909. However, the first Indianapolis 500 took place on May 30th, 1911, so this year’s race celebrates the birth of the race, 100 years ago. It’s definitely an occasion, and I decided it needed an occasion cake. Being the girly girl that I am, my racing sport celebration cake has, what else? Ruffles!
All black and white to celebrate the glory of the waving checkered flag at the end of a race and topped with a tribute to the race’s anniversary, I went abstract in my race day thinking because I like ruffles. I’ve never made a ruffled cake before…I’ve never made fondant ruffles before at all, so this was also an excellent opportunity for me to try something new. And. I. Love. It!
There’s no denying that this is a time consuming task, but it’s also an exceedingly easy one. And the longer you work, the more you get into a rhythm, picking up speed as you move along.
To create the ruffles, I used a toothpick, but there is an actual ruffling tool that exists. The toothpick worked perfectly. Just gently roll the toothpick along the edge of the fondant ring, being careful not to press too hard or push the point through the fondant.
That’s all there is to it. The ruffles form of their own accord and it takes a few seconds per circle to finish them. You’ll need to change toothpicks every so often as they start to get a little sticky, because the stickiness will cause tears. Also, make sure you have everything dusted with confectioners’ sugar to prevent sticking.
Open the ring up and lay it on the cake where you want the ruffles. Remember that if you want them to overlap, you have to be sure to put the bottom ruffle in place first, then work your way to the top ruffle.
For the side ruffles, I decided to have them flare up, rather than hang down. To do that, I had to start at the top and lay each new row of ruffles over the last. If you want your ruffles hanging down, like those of a dress, you would start at the bottom of the cake and work up.
I didn’t cover the entire cake in fondant first, because I wanted to use the stickiness of the frosting to help the ruffles stick.
For the finishing touch, I printed out the celebratory anniversary logo that they’re using for the race this year and glued it to an eight-inch lollipop stick, adorned it with a pretty black and white bow, and centered it on the cake.
I think the black and white ruffles look classy and pretty, but there’s also a sort of shabby chic appeal to it. I hope you give this decorating idea a try. It’s so easy, even though it’s not so fast. It makes a big statement and looks like you worked so much harder than you really did. I’m going to keep practicing this technique, because I really love the way it looks. I’d like to get to the point where my ruffles are very fine and look like real fabric. For now, though, I’ll just have some more cake. Enjoy your weekend!
Best Yellow Cake Recipe (baked in four 6-inch pans)