Baker's dream: vanishing mushrooms


Photo: Pat Mannino, Fatt Cat Cafe

In my next life, before I return, I plan on one simple request. I have come to believe I would be better served by a mind well mannered and orderly; well restrained, tethered, never allowing even one toe to breach the defining line.

For those of us already succumbed, helpless, fools traveling the path grown over, only faint footsteps ahead: we live life with reckless abandon.

This past week, unusually hectic, I found myself torn between garden and kitchen; my heart lived uneasily in two separate places. The kitchen, a little on the warm side, buttercream softened by heat and humidity, almost brought me to my knees. "Just two dozen left," I breathed, spreading a layer of mocha frosting across a chocolate cupcake bulging with sticky caramel. A quick sprinkle of chopped Heath bar, a single piped flower… finished. 

Early in the week I happened upon a trio of miniature toadstools, their best life lived atop a rotted log - magical, fanciful, fairy like in appearance. Faintly they whispered of good luck, spoke softly of good fortune, of blessings still in the womb. Unfortunately I dawdled, paused seconds too long in my effort to record their being. The full sun of midday proved to be the undoing of so delicate a species. It was as if the log had taken them in, absorbed the very essence of all that they had been. Sadly they were no more. 

The chance encounter stayed with me as if it had taken root in the depths of my being, as if it carried more than I saw, and more than once I rechecked the bare log as I berated myself for an opportunity passed. I stood empty handed with only a shadowed memory as proof of their existence. My mind - stubborn, relentless, unwilling to let me move - pricked and prodded with the persistence of a recalcitrant child. urged me to look closer, to inspect the counter lined with sweet treats. Frosting, chopped candy... to anyone possessed of even a smidgen of imagination there was an almost uncanny resemblance to dirt, crumbled log, woodland floor. 

Before I had time to form my resolve, to reconsider, I was piping miniature mushroom stems onto squares of parchment paper, mixing red, yellow and brown to get just the right shade. Before a found wand could be waved,  24 stems and caps were napping in the cooler. Putting the two together proved to be no easy task. Working with toothpicks and sticky fingers, my head began to pound, creatures with tiny prickly legs ran laps across my scalp, a cold sweat formed in the crevice between my slouched shoulder blades. Lest you think the results sloppy, and I say this in my defense, the tiny white spots are the results of three tries.

Rockton writer Pat Mannino is the owner of Fatt Cat Cafe in Rockton, where she makes cupcakes and hosts special events. To place an order, call her at 815-624-2832 or email

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