Carla Goldberg, who lives in Beacon, is an artist. An exhibit of her work will open at Bau Gallery at 506 Main St. on Saturday (Aug. 8). She spoke with Alison Rooney.
The day I turned 16, I started my first real job, as an ice-cream scooper at Baskin-Robbins in Palm Springs, California.
About a month in, I started to beg the cake decorator, Missy, to teach me how to make a rose. “Teach me how to make a rose!” Finally, she showed me behind the boss’ back.
Why behind her back? The boss was grumpy and cost-conscious, constantly measuring the ice cream with a ruler in the tubs and making us weigh the scoops to make sure we didn’t “over-scoop.” Everything was measured: the hot fudge, the frosting. We lived in terror of wastage. And if we were caught standing around, she would assign us to scrub the floor with a tiny brush or rearrange the stock room. She’d even send you home, and no one wanted that. So, we made sure to look busy. The boss had a military background, so everything had to be shipshape and orderly.
The cake decorator let me practice making roses in the walk-in freezer. Until my roses were good enough to use, she would dump my attempts back into the bowl so nothing was missing.
Next, I begged her to teach me to decorate a cake.
The decorator convinced the owner to let me try. They had a drawer of toppers. I saw these cute little duckies and made a frozen duck pond on an ice-cream cake with icicles dripping down the sides. The palate was soft and wintery. I loved it.
The owner was not impressed. We were in Palm Springs, in the desert, and there were no frozen ponds. “Preposterous!” she said. “Who is going to buy this in the desert? The desert! Think! Know your customer! What a waste of product.” To prove her point, she put it in the dessert case.
The next two days I had off, but I heard it received many compliments. When I came back to work, it was gone. I figured the owner dumped it. Missy began teaching me all the standard Baskin-Robbins desserts. A month later, her husband, who was a Marine, got transferred and she was gone. I became the cake decorator!
For a decade, even while in college, I worked in a number of bakeries in Southern California as a cake decorator to help pay for school. To this day, I don’t like to eat cake and I can’t stand the smell of commercial buttercream frosting, which always smells like day-old buttercream on an apron. Yuck!