Saturday, January 5, 2013

Better Late Than Never....Right?

The birthday girl

Last October—on the twelfth, to be precise—my beautiful partner, Sarah, had a milestone birthday. Because the depression I have spoken of a couple of times was already taking hold I only managed four blog posts for that entire month, and one of those was about that depression. As a result, two big events during that month—Sarah's birthday itself and the surprise party a bit later on—went virtually unreported, restricted mainly to Facebook postings. That was horribly unfair to Sarah, so today I will relate the tale of the party, the incredible cake and the amazing people who helped put it all together. Very soon I will give Sarah the birthday post she very much deserves; when I do so I will back-date it to October 12, 2012, not because I want to try to cover my tracks but simply because that is where it belongs.

Picking up the precious cargo from Ronna
Very early in 2012 I decided that I simply had to have one of Ronna's cakes for Sarah's birthday, as it was a "big" one. Ronna is a friend of Sarah's Mom and she creates edible works of art that are absolutely amazing (have a look at her Facebook page, linked to in the previous sentence and through the picture here, for more proof). Contrary to my usual procrastinating style, I actually got on this pretty early—in January of 2012, according to emails I filed away—and Ronna and I batted around a few ideas over the next several months. It wasn't until I had given up on my dream of booking an actual "ball crawl" (or "ball pit") for Sarah's party (she's always wanted one) as they were simply too expensive that the final design idea came about: make the cake a "ball crawl" instead! Ronna was very excited about this concept and, after we "tweaked" it a bit by deciding exactly what little critters should populate this particular fun zone, I left the final details in her expert hands. It only remained to choose a specific date and location for the party; once our incredible friends, the Ramendas, came through with an offer to use their home the date kind of fell into place: Saturday, October 20. Trish Ramenda made a direct offer to Sarah to "get together" that afternoon (actually, she gave her a few choices and let me steer her to the "right" one) and it seemed the guest of honour was going to be very surprised indeed, until at the last minute she came down with a bug of some kind that caused her to miss the last couple of days of work that week. This was nearly a disaster, because I had planned on doing quite a lot of running around those two days; I still did this, but somehow managed to keep the nature of my errands from Sarah. I think she was genuinely surprised when the actual day came, but I have no idea how that was even possible!

Addie in fondant
Once the date was "set in stone" the next step was for Ronna and me to work out the logistics of making the hand-off of the cake. One thing I have neglected to mention before now: Ronna lives (and creates) in Dunvegan, Ontario, which is in the Ottawa Valley an hour or so past Ottawa proper. I was allowing one full day to make the journey to pick up the goods; I figured on about a ten-to-eleven-hour round trip and had been steeling myself for this for a while. I had an iPod full of highway tunes, satellite radio for when the iPod wasn't cutting it and pretty clear sailing on the day I chose, because it was mid-week (Wednesday, October 17). I didn't have to make the whole haul myself, though, because Ronna very generously offered to meet me at an Irving station at the exit from the 401 for Cornwall. I wrote about this event on Ronna's Cakebook FB page; here is an excerpt from that posting:
Ronna said she would meet me at the Irving station at around 1 p.m. and somehow, after being on the road for about four and a half hours, I pulled up to the bumper of her car at exactly 1:00 on the dot. It was pretty eerie, actually. Ronna took the time to explain to me how and where to put the signs back on the cake (she took them out for the trip) and I gushed over the beauty of her amazing creation....The [photo, above] I have attached to this story is a close-up of the cat figure on the cake, because it represents our cat, Addie, and I wanted to show how perfectly Ronna had recreated her, right down to the long white patch of fur on Addie's left forepaw. Absolutely spot-on.

We loaded the precious cargo into our Escape and surrounded it with ice packs and blankets (it was a balmy 17 degrees that day) for the trip back to Ajax, where the party was to be held. I got to my friends' house a little before supper and after they oohed and aahed over the cake we tucked it into the cold room for safekeeping until Saturday.
Here are a couple more closeups from the cake showing the penguin and one of the three sheep who also inhabited the ball crawl:

Fondant sheep
Fondant penguin (centre frame)

We still have these figurines on a little plate in our kitchen.

The cake makes its appearance
I spent part of Thursday recuperating from my long drive, putting together a slide show and iPod playlist and trying to throw Sarah off the trail, but from then until Friday evening there was a lot to organize with the Ramendas, including picking up groceries and some decorations and getting them out to Ajax where the party was to be held. Luckily for me I had a tremendous amount of help from their entire family, with Trish organizing the setting out of the food and making copious amounts herself; Kristen, Erin and Matthew decorating the place and figuring out how to entertain the other kids who would be coming to the party; and all five of them, including Chris, cleaning and setting up the place for the guests. They did an amazing job and I could never really thank them enough for their hard work in making this surprise party come to fruition. Also the people who showed up to help us celebrate—one of whom, Louise, had to drive to Ajax from Welland just to spend a couple of hours at Sarah's party—were all wonderful folks who really made the day special for Sarah. Much love goes to all of them and the unfortunate few who couldn't make it out due to circumstances beyond their control. A fantastic time was had by all, to be sure.

Sarah and the incredible "Ronna Cake"
But when all was said and done—and I hope everyone who took part in the celebration will forgive me for this—"The Cake" was the highlight of the day. It was even more gorgeous than I thought it could possibly be and Sarah was positively overwhelmed by it. The "balls" were actually gumballs and Ronna even threw in a bag of extras in case any of them sank a bit between the time I took possession of the masterpiece and the time Sarah was presented with it. We did add one or two just before we lit the candles, but it held up remarkably well through the long drive and the three days in the cold room. The signs were hilarious, the cake was—almost as an afterthought—delicious (Ronna had suggested a marble cake to go with the black-and-white theme) and the characters were so lovingly created that they were a pure delight. Here, again, are some thoughts I posted on Ronna's Cakebook FB page:
Eventually the moment came when I could present the cake (and I don't know how I contained myself until then). Sarah was ushered to the table in the middle of the room and everyone gathered around her. As I walked up the stairs with [this work of art], replete with two tiny, toothpick-based candles bearing the digits 4 and 0, Happy Birthday rang out and an overwhelmed Sarah barely noticed the cake itself for a few moments. However, when the singing ended and she had a moment to compose herself she took it all in and then - and I was almost able to predict the exact second this was going to happen - her jaw dropped open, she spun around to face me and said, in a hushed tone, "is this a Ronna cake??" When I nodded in the affirmative, for I was nearly overcome myself, she almost melted right in front of me.

The cake, you see, wasn't just a cake: it was a
Ronna cake. And the gift wasn't just giving her a Ronna cake, it was going and getting the Ronna cake and bringing it back to Toronto so she could finally have one of her very own after admiring them for so long. It was a spectacular success and everyone who was at that party will long remember the sight of that beautiful confectionery sculpture.
And so, finally, that is the story of Sarah's surprise party, the amazing people who created the event and showed up to celebrate, and the wizardry of Ronna Mogelon, Cakemaker nonpareil. I'm sorry it took so long to bring it to you; I'm glad I finally committed it to permanency on this blog.


  1. Wonderful story and great pictures. Of course, the pictures of my beautiful daughter are the best! Thanks for this wonderful post.

    1. My pleasure! Sorry it took so long to post. But here's a promise: the next party pictures I take of Sarah will be even better, because of my fabulous new camera. In fact, check out today's post about Max's birthday party for proof. :)


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