Life as Consumable Art – Lessons from The Cake Boss

So, I love watching this show on the Learning Channel called The Cake Boss. It’s about Buddy Valastro, owner of Carlo’s City Hall Bake Shop in Hoboken, New Jersey. To say he bakes cakes is like saying Jackie Chan has some moves. The man is the Michelangelo of specialty cakes.

I’m fascinated by Buddy’s work for a couple of different reasons.

First, I’m amazed by the sweat and science behind his art.

It may be important right here to explain that my cake baking experience amounts to box mixes from Duncan Hines and canned frosting that really never looks right. At one of her first birthday parties my daughter announced that “Mommy makes earthquake cakes” because they always look like they’ve been frosted on a fault line.

But not Buddy. Buddy has equipment that had to be designed by NASA and throws around phrases like “dirty ice”, “modeling chocolate” and “fondant” like a confectionary savant. He even has a computer that uses food coloring to print photos onto edible paper! He does research for his cakes, draws designs, creates frames and platforms to support their weight and design. All the while, Buddy has to account for temperature, transport and taste. Every one of these factors meshes to create works that looks like they could be on display at the Louvre.

So, that’s the second thing that fascinates me. These cakes are beautiful, breathtaking and reflect the personality of the person being celebrated. Every detail of Buddy’s creations is marked by excellence and artistic flair. They are colorful, tasteful, nuanced, individualized and edible to boot. I especially enjoy watching these big, burly rough talking Jersey guys put their hearts into creating decorative flowers, faux jewels and delicate detailing. All of them look like they could snap a mugger in two and yet each of them possesses an artist’s soul.

Lastly, what draws me to this show is that after all the design, the research, the science, the planning, the architecture, the baking, the sculpting, the painting, the icing, the decorating, and the transporting – these works of art are consumed. After they ooh and aahh for a respectable period of time, people cut into them with cake knives, slice them into pieces and wash them down with champagne or milk depending on the occasion. Consumable art.

Part of the aching beauty of consumable art is that it is temporary, vanishing, just passing through – like sand or ice sculptures. These cakes are perishable, fleeting, fugacious – here today and gone, well, later today. The designer’s effort is invested in transient beauty.

Like my life.

My life is consumable art. Each day I live with an eye to crafting a work of love to God. Behind the design is science and sweat. I may look like a thug but within me resides the soul of an artist. I want to craft a day, a moment, a conversation, a thought, an act that is beautiful, functional, palatable, personal, unique and a work of art.

But like a mist on the morning grass, in a brief moment my day is over and after just several brief moments, my life will have played out on this side of paradise. Poof.

I know that it goes on. I know that my soul has eternal life but in regards to life on earth, “now you see me, now you don’t.”

The apostle Paul compared his life for Christ to a “drink offering.” In the Old Testament, one of the traditional sacrifices was to pour strong wine out onto the altar of the Lord as a “drink offering.” It was offered with the “sweet-savor” offerings and signified joy in the completion of work – foreshadowing the completion of the work of Christ on the cross. Paul wrote to the church at Philippi:

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling ,for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Phillipians 2:12-18

I have often thought that, to the outsider, the drink offering must have looked like a terrible waste. The priest pours a chalice of strong wine, dedicates it to the Lord and then pours it out upon the altar. Especially strange, in a land accustomed to worshipping idols, that the Jews would pour out this sacrifice to a God you couldn’t even see.

Maybe that’s what my life looks like to people who can’t see the God I serve. Maybe it seems that I plan and sacrifice and work to create at an art that to others seems a pity or a waste because they cannot see the part that remains, the eternal part stored, even now, in heaven.

My daughter’s middle name is Sojourner because I wanted her to always remember we are just passing through this world. Our real home lies ahead. I suppose one way to live it would be to pass through carelessly like a tourist but that’s not what Christ tells us to do. He wants us to live like Buddy Valastro, the Cake Boss. He wants us to pour our souls into creating days that look like art – consumable art – but art none-the-less.

If my life is poured out like a drink offering or cut up and served to others one slice at a time, it is no waste if it has been designed by the Master Designer, the Creator of the Universe, the Michelangelo of human souls, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Friend.

How about your life? Is it a confectionary delight combining science, sweat, beauty, design and a dash of vanilla or has it been poured haphazardly from a ready mix box and served with all the finesse of a drive-thru burger? Watch an episode of Cake Boss and wake up tomorrow with a recipe for life.

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2 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Andrea says:

    Great post. Great analogy! THANK YOU!!
    Sitka has an award for you at All GODS Creatures.
    Hugs, andrea

  2. Cheri says:

    Lori,

    Wonderful post! I enjoyed every word, savored like a piece of delectable cake from The Cake Boss!

    This was my favorite part: “Maybe that’s what my life looks like to people who can’t see the God I serve. Maybe it seems that I plan and sacrifice and work to create at an art that to others seems a pity or a waste because they cannot see the part that remains, the eternal part stored, even now, in heaven.”

    Very encouraging!!

    Blessings,
    Cheri