Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mataariki celebrations

I had the pleasure of doing my biggest cake yet for the biggest hearted people on this planet a few weeks ago, the Maori's.

The Alice Springs Maori community celebrate their traditional New Year, or Mataariki, in late June and asked me to do the celebration cake. They were expecting 350 people from places as far away as Mt Isa and Townsville, no pressure!

This is a excert from their promotional material:

"Maori New Year culminates with a cluster of stars "Mataariki" commonly known as as Pleiades which becomes more clear in the night sky at the beginning of winter. Maori have a strong traditional genealogical link to Mataariki which can still be recited by the most skilled of our elders back in New Zealand. Mataariki being the first creation of all things by IO (God) is obvious to our people to be the beginning of new things of new growth of new life.

In traditonal times much activity occured prior, the gathering, preservation and storing of food for the winter months, which was carried out with great celebration of serious and fun activity.

The welcoming of the new year was also a time of acknowledging the gifts, treasures, achievements and knowledge succeeded or not succeeded over the previous year, it was a time of consoling ones position in life and within the structure of family and community, it was a time of conciliation and resolution of forgiveness to seek to give, it was a time for a new beginning of venture and goals in life."

They held a number of events, celebrations, ceremonies and feasts over the weekend and it was all enveloped in their great open, friendly, welcoming nature. They are beautiful people.

I was asked to do the cake, which was actually five normal size cakes. Four were used to make the one above.

The cake was a bit of a journey. Firstly, I had never made a cake that big. Here is a picture of my hand (which is quite big anyway) and the base cake but it still doesn't do it justice, it was huge!

 Secondly, their original request was for the stars that make up the Mataariki to be on the cake.  Here is what that looks like (although this pic is on it's side):

So the design is fairly tricky without access to an air brush machine, which I don't have. Another challenge was that there was not a lot of internet information available and lots of it was inaccurate.
Then, once I had played around a bit with doing actual stars versus blured circles and everything in between and then settled on a combination, the night before the order was due, the client changed the order!!! Oh no!
Turns out they want some fronds over the top of the stars on the cake. I had the information second hand as the Workaholic took the details in my absence. Yes, you can imagine how sketchy it was. Anyway, we soldiered on.  The fronds, although I was very skeptical about them from a design point of view, once I learnt the meaning and symbolism behind it all, was all for it.
After all, sometimes it is about sentiment and feelings and not always about my precious design ideas...breathe, breathe, we can work through it. 
The fronds represent lots of things and I am probably not going to do it justice, but roughly, the bigger fronds are the mum and dad (or elders) who are protecting, teaching and growing up the younger fronds or children in the middle. The culture is about respecting the elders, the elders teaching the younger ones their ways and the right way to go and grow.  
Anyway, it sounded beautiful, the event was themed around both symbols, the stars and the frond, and so everything matched beautifully and looked great in context. Next time I would do a more thorough design consultation, as with a bit more prior warning, we could of come up with so many other designs to achieve the same symbolism.
I also did a "kitchen cake" which was meant to just give them some extra cake to be cut in the kitchen in case they ran out and not supposed to be seen in public. I repeat, it was not supposed to be seen in public. I decided to have a little fun at the last minute and spent five minutes throwing a silver fern on the top. Seriously, I mean five minutes, so don't laugh.....
I learn't something else about cakes here too. I ganached this one perfectly square (or rectangle really). Don't think I have done a better job. Put the cake aside on my dining table and walked away for about an hour to do some gardening. Little did I know, the blinds were slightly open and it happened to go from a cloudy morning to a sunny 25 degrees on a winter morning in Alice, and I walked back into the house to a completely melted cake on one side!!! (insert dramatic law and order music here).

On reflection, and with some weeks passed to work through my horror, I should of taken photos, it was most amusing. Anyway, some time in the fridge and some extra ganache made for an improvement. But thank goodness it was the kitchen cake.
Then, I learnt something else about my expectations versus the client's. My "kitchen" cake was whisked off me at delivery, adored, ooohhhed and ahhhed and placed right next to the main cake on THE STAGE!!!!! That was not supposed to happen! 
But who cares, love this cake business!
I have been quiet for the last couple of weeks, we have had friends staying with us and some camping trips while the kids have been on school holidays. I expect I am going to be even quieter on the blogging & cake front for a while longer as we are trying to do a few jobs around the house in anticipation of selling the house and leaving my beloved Alice Springs...... :-(
We made the decision a month or so ago to sell the house and travel around a bit of Austalia with the kids for a few months, before settling back in Mornington for 2011. Just recently we have been waivering, still not sure if we are going to go through with it though.......harder than I thought this leaving Alice business.

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