Here in sunny California, 4th grade means learning California history, and a big part of that history are the California Missions. The 21 missions dotting the state, up and down the El Camino Real, were all built between 1769 and 1798, and represent (for good and/or ill) the spread of European (especially Spanish) culture in the west of the United States. The one project nearly every Californian 4th grader has to complete is building a model of one of the missions. This standard has by itself created a small industry. The missions produce educational materials specifically focused on meeting the 4th grade standards, and there are a number of California Mission model kits available for sale in hobby stores and online. However, many schools (including my sons’ own school) are now eschewing the kits, and asking that the student create their models from scratch.
My oldest son is about to go through this only-in-California right of passage, and we were brainstorming how to produce his mission model when inspiration struck. He is a cooking geek. You’re just as likely to find him watching Food Network as cartoons on any given day, and some of his most prized birthday and Christmas presents over the last few years have been high-quality skillets and cooking knives. And one of our favorite shows to watch together as a family is Ace of Cakes, a show about a wildly popular cake chef in Baltimore who creates one-of-a-kind cakes for a wide variety of clients and occasions.
You can probably see where this is going.
Over the next couple weeks, we will be helping our son plan, layout, and ultimately build his California Mission model as a cake. We’ve already got a head start – we spoke with the cake chef at our favorite local bakery for some tips for creative cake construction, and he even offered to allow our son to bring some of his cake parts in and use their food-quality airbrush to color them. I promise I will take lots of pictures, and report back when it’s done. Stay tuned!