In Asian culture, people take pride in being able to reach a ripe old age. The elders are respected and revered as having been through much in life and wise from having those life experiences. In olden days, younger people stood when an elderly person entered the room as a sign of respect. Much fanfare goes into the celebration of the birthday of an elderly person, which includes large family gatherings and banquets.
Symbols are very important in Chinese culture. As a result, they are often used at these functions in gifts, decorations, and food. One of the most widely used symbol at the celebration of an elderly person’s birthday is the Longevity Peach. A famous Chinese legend, Journey to the West, has it that a longevity peach tree grows at the garden of the Queen Mother of the West. The peaches ripen only every few thousands of years and those who get to eat these peaches will obtain longevity.
Mr. Lin was about to turn 80 by the Chinese Lunar count which calls for a great celebration! His son and daughter-in-law contacted me to make him a Longevity Peach cake for this special occasion. They wanted a light cake and not too sweet. The original idea was to make a 3-D Longevity Peach cake. But a light cake most likely will be difficult to hold up the 3-D structure. Fondant would be the perfect material for the cover of a 3-D cake, but it will be too sweet. So this was my plan: large 3-D Longevity Peach topper with a cartoon like Mr. Lin sitting on top of the cake with another peach in his lap; a Boston Cream Pie is light and not so sweet, providing the perfect chocolate background mimicking wood color of an Asian type platform or tray which would be decorated with Asian paintings.
The large Longevity Peach was made with rice kripsy covered with modeling chocolate and was fully edible. The character and smaller peaches were made with all modeling chocolate.
Here is Mr. Lin’s cartoon character in a traditional Chinese wardrobe inspired outfit:
Chinese trays and furniture were often decorated with ceramic pieces painted with colorful pictures. For the cake platform, 8 different fan shape ceramic like chocolate pieces, each individually piped by hand adorn the side of the cake.
In addition to the symbol of Longevity Peach, bamboo is another symbol for longevity for its character of resilience.
Scenes of nature are often genres for Chinese paintings and decorative objects.
The research for this came led me to pictures of some well known ancient Chinese gardens and paintings. Looking at each picture and taking them in one by one gave me a renewed appreciation of their intricate beauty… Happy birthday, Mr. Lin!