Shy but Spectacular Mushrooms

September 29, 2020
mushroom cake

Most of us have come upon a surprise mushroom or two. You’re on your way to the car walking across the front yard and you notice it. It wasn’t there yesterday and you may have never seen anything quite like it before. The thing about mushrooms is that they are shy. Everything has to be just right for them to make their appearance, and like a falling star you have to be there at the right time and place to experience such a sight. 


A few weeks ago I was hiking in the woods of West Virginia. In that moist, cool mountainous environment there was a virtual symphony of mushrooms performing along the path we were on. I couldn’t believe the spectacular variety of shapes and colors. As objects of our visual delight they are stupendous, but as an addition to our dinner tables they can sometimes come with great warnings. What a curious species. Alluring as an ingredient to our gastronomical experiences, but when collected in the wild, can pose great danger if ingested without deep knowledge of its genus. One can be poisonous, the one that grows next to it is not.


Once while staying with my brother in California, he noticed that a small carpet of gigantic mushrooms had popped up under a pine tree in his yard. He had a friend who was head of the local mushroom society who he immediately called to investigate. Much to everyone’s delight, his friend identified this particular mushroom as one of the shyest but most delicious mushrooms to grow in the entire area. My brother and he gathered up the bounty, some for our dinner and the rest for the expert to enjoy with great celebration at that night’s emergency mushroom meeting that would be called to celebrate the discovery.


I am fascinated by mushrooms, but what does this have to do with cakes? The other day our new marketing director Kelly Morton mentioned to me that she had watched as Debra, our head cake designer, created a woodland cake design for a wedding that weekend.  Debra mimics a scene in the woods on this cake with icing ferns and leaves climbing up the sides of each layer. It is transformed from lovely to extraordinary when an array of handmade sugar mushrooms are placed all over the cake as if the popped up on the cake like mushrooms pop up in the woods. Kelly mentioned to me that this cake was her favorite. I love it as well especially since this design bestows the proper attention to the worthy mushroom. To me they are just as deserving as flowers to decorate a cake, especially ones that are made out of sugar.


Below are some pictures of the mushrooms from the West Virginia trip, as well as a close-up of our handmade sugar mushrooms.


Sharon Butler