By Garland Davis
Before I enlisted in the Navy, I spent some time in a vocational school where I learned how to bake. The school concentrated more on yeast-raised products, bread, rolls, and pastries. There was a short section on fruit and custard pies, and a short course on cakes. I think we may have spent a day in the classroom with no hands-on practice about cake decorating.
While working in the bakeshop at NAS Lemoore, the CS2 who did the infrequent cake decorating showed me some techniques and let me practice forming letters and borders with leftover icing. He showed me how to layout and letter a cake.
After I reported to USS Vesuvius and became the ship’s baker, I used the rudimentary decorating implements I found in the bakeshop to sometimes add some color to the cakes I baked. It was in CS “B” School where I really learned more of the art of decorating cakes, but a three year assignment to the Commissary Store in Yokohama allowed my budding skills as a decorator to atrophy. I did decorate a couple of birthday cakes for my wife’s brothers and sisters.
After being assigned to USS Mahopac, I acquired some rudimentary decorating tools and sometimes added some color to cakes. Mostly roses. I developed the ability to make flowers. After Mahopac, I was assigned shore duty at NAS North Island where I supervised the bakeshop for eighteen months. I often decorated cakes for functions and for the mess line.
Assignment into USS Morton also gave me the opportunity to sometimes decorate cakes. My next ship was Ponchatoula. To tell you the truth, I was getting a little burned out on cake decorating, so I didn’t let on that I could decorate. I had been aboard for over a year. The ship was getting a new Commanding Officer. The change of command would be on the day that marked the twentieth year since the ship was commissioned. I did a large cake for the occasion. One side contained the ship’s crest and the other commemorated the change of command.
We moved the cake from the bakeshop to the messdecks. I told the Supply Officer that I had done the cake. A short time later the two Captains and the XO were in the mess decks to see the cake. It was decided that after the change of command and ship’s birthday remarks, a cake cutting would be held in the messdecks.
Another three-year tour in a Commissary store with no cake decorating and then I was off to Japan. I don’t recall doing any decorating while in Hammond although I’m sure that I probably did. I had an MS2 in Midway who was a better cake decorator that I could ever hope to be. There was a lot of demand for decorated cakes for one reason or another. I have heard it said, “Airdales want a cake every time they successfully land on the carrier. We did a lot of cakes for every time a pilot added a hundred carrier landing to his log, squadron CO’s birthdays, and etc.
The decorator and I did an elaborate cake for the Marine Detachment’s Ball. We were enroute to Subic so we did it in the butcher shop which was kept at a temperature below 50°, that way the icing wouldn’t melt in the heat. After we finished, I brought the Marine Captain, the First Sergeant, and the Gunny in to show them the cake. They were so happy, that they invited me to their Ball. A short time later, I walked past the butcher shop and there was a Marine with a rifle standing at Parade Rest by the Bakeshop door. When I queried him about it, he informed me that he was Honor Guard for the cake. The Marine Detachment maintained an armed guard on the cake until we pulled into Cubi and the cake was transported to the Marine NCO Club.
Oh, the Ponchatoula cake. When everyone arrived in the messdecks for the cake cutting, we found that three large pieces had been cut out of the cake. It was later determined that the Sounding and Security watch, the Cold Iron watch and another snipe had celebrated early
BTW, if you ever get the chance to attend a Marine Corps Ball, jump at it. They throw a good party!