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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pumpkin and Mocha and Berries, Oh My!

[Photos without a credit in this post were taken by Lindsay Pour, otherwise known as the most awesome best friend a person could have. Credited photos, as noted, are by Timmy Samuels/Starbelly Studios, who shot our wedding fantastically and for a ridiculously reasonable price.]

First up in our crafty wedding DIY madness posts is something we can all appreciate:* CAKE.
You may think I am crazy for having made my own wedding cake, but I promise you I'm not. Well, I guess it's debatable, but given how much I like to bake and my history of making really yummy cakes and the price of cake when you buy them from a bakery (starting at $6/slice, really?!) compared to the price of me making it ($100ish, including the pans) it just made sense. And, as you know, we are practical people. (Also? Theatre people, and therefore, pretty much perpetually broke.)

Now, lest you think we dove into this baking adventure mere days before our wedding, I should remind you, we are stage managers. So we're good at planning and rehearsal. It so happened that about six months before our wedding I was putting together an opening night party for a production of Brecht's The Wedding. What's that? You think that sounds like a perfect event for a wedding cake test drive? Exactly. It worked out well, and even made us change our minds about which flavor deserved to be the largest tier.

The whole cake project took place the day before the wedding. With the help of my best friend Lindsay and my younger sister Jeanne, I baked a total of 8 layers for 3 tiers and I went through about a half a dozen eggs and I'm really not exaggerating when I say at least 4 pounds of butter. Seriously, Jeanne had to run to the store to buy more. It was in the name of perfecting the frosting, which was delicious.

While this was happening, Julia was finishing up some details on our dresses, Lindsay was stitching binding on my corset when she wasn't helping with the cake, and our friend Jay was sitting on our couch composing the little notes that he then attached to the white knots we asked our guests to wear. Busy day, that.
At times, I baked so fast the camera could not catch me.
At other times, my baking frenzy was interrupted for dress fittings. And dancing.
{How to attack a wedding cake.}
Midway through the baking and stacking process, I noticed that the layers for the top tier had risen significantly more than the bottom two tiers, and were going to make it at least an inch taller. I had a near-breakdown about the possibility of uneven tiers (because you CANNOT have uneven layers. It simply will not do.) After leaving the kitchen to go try not to cry about it, I ultimately decided to bake a third layer of the pumpkin and chocolate so that once it was all stacked up it would be uniform.
Smooch Break!
I know you want to drool over all the yumminess, so please allow me to describe the actual cake. (Possibly I am just really proud of myself and I want you to want to eat my cake.) The bottom tier was Pumpkin cake with Ginger Buttercream.

The middle tier was Devil's Food cake with Mocha Whipped Cream filling.

The top tier was vanilla-almond cake with berries and pastry cream inside.

The frosting covering the outside of the whole cake was my trial-and-error love child of French, Italian, and Swiss style buttercreams with some extra whipped cream added. I decorated it with what is known in the world of Wilton cake decorating magazines from the seventies as Cornelli lace. It's the little squiggles all over. It takes a LONG. TIME. to do. Then we put some fresh strawberries on top for a splash of color.
The first few squiggles.
Two hours later, I am still making tiny squiggles, while Lindsay adds strawberries on top.
Nearly ten hours after starting, we packed up the cake in a box for the five block car trip to the restaurant where our reception would be.
Accoutrements of our wedding: cake, our rings, and a pile of white knots
I should note that when you make a layered cake like this, you're supposed to put a couple dowels through all the layers so that they don't go sliding about. I knew this, and had purchased said dowels. But once it was all stacked up, it seemed really sturdy... so I decided that I didn't really need to put them in. You know where this is going, right?

Yes, you do. We drove over, carried it into the restaurant's walk-in fridge, and as I turned to go, the manager asked if I was aware that my cake had fallen over.

I was not.

When I looked inside, I saw that the top two tiers had shifted and the entire cake was now squished up against one side of the box. Now at this point, we were already an hour late to go watch fireworks from a hotel rooftop with our families and the restaurant was about to close. So there was absolutely nothing I could do about it at that point.

Now you might think, given the fiasco of the uneven layers, that I was freaking out. But for reasons I do not understand - maybe because I'd been making cake all day, maybe because my wedding zen magically appeared, I don't know - I found this to be utterly hysterical. I laughed. Guffawed, even. And then I reached into the box, pushed those top tiers back where they belonged, and walked out the door with a plan to bring icing and tools to fix it in the morning.

It was a plan that totally would have worked. In fact, as the hours went by, I even made it better. How cool would it be, I thought, if instead of fixing it first thing in the morning, we waited until our walk over to the wedding, and stopped in on the way. Then, we could get awesome pictures of me fixing it while wearing my wedding dress!

But. When we got there, icing and apron in hand, I took one look at the cake and said, "Fuck it." I did not care one bit that the whole side was smashed. In fact, I still thought it was funny and I loved it. We discussed it very briefly and decided that, really, who would care anyway, as long as it still tasted amazing?

Our beautiful, delicious, fabulously smooshed wedding cake!
And I couldn't resist adding this picture because I love it so much!

*Unless you're gluten-free, vegan, or lactose intolerant. Sorry. And for what it's worth, we had vegan, gluten-free cupcakes from The Bleeding Heart Bakery as an alternative for those folks.


Julia said...

One of the other interruptions to this incredibly busy day was firing Cindy's mother as our calligrapher for our marriage license (Literally. I told her she was fired because she showed up without said license the day before our event), putting in an order of our back-up license at Kinko's (since we are big-time planners and had a back-up plan ready to go), and taking a drive to the only 24-hour Kinko's open on the 4th of July to pick up said license (which ended up serendipitously being free of charge because their computers decided to freeze right as I was checking out!). Busy day indeed.

ddayporter said...

awesome story! I love your smooshed cake, sounds ridiculously delicious.

my sister made my wedding cake, pretty sure she could have taken some pretty similar pictures of her process (particularly the "how to attack a wedding cake" one). thanks for sharing more of this story! :)

Cindy said...

It's important to attack cakes head on, lest they sneak around back and fall over.