Randee Osborne’s “Mona Lisa” is a sheet cake, a slab of chocolate topped on one end with a block of taller cake. With some blue icing, it becomes a waterfall, which drops into a pond stocked with Swedish fish. A beaver sits on top.
“That’s a bear,” says Osborne, 11, of Lake City.
Fair enough. The cake is a weeklong project, one of more than 100 options in this summer’s College for Kids program at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. Osborne has one more day to work on it.
She lines the pond with crushed-Oreo rocks. She fattens the bear.
The instructor, Julie Vavreck, checks her progress. She teaches family and consumer science. She’s a big fan of Fondant, the marshmallow icing.
“It’s fabulous,” she says, stirring a new batch. “It gives it a wrapping paper look.”
Vavreck is helping with four cakes today. The class baked them in the kitchen of the Larry and Kathryn Smith Chapel. They’ve set them on tables: the waterfall cake, a roller coaster cake, a four-season cake – that one has a beach scene made with graham cracker crumbs – and a Harry Potter cake.
The icing on the Potter cake is fancy, by summer-camp standards. The girls mixed a hint of black into it, giving the cake a metallic shimmer.
“It looks great,” Vavreck says. “But it would be OK either way. In here, everything’s an experiment.”
When the roller coaster cake collapses, buckling under the track’s weight, the students move to plan B: a smiley face cake. They gather around a fresh pan – a backup cake that Vavreck baked at home – and debate the new design.
The coaster cake disappears, one bite at a time.