Monday, January 2, 2012

First Wedding Cake Part V: THE REAL DEAL - Decoration and Presentation!

(Carrying on with the play-by-play from the last post:)

11:00am Friday: After hitting snooze a few times, I removed the t-shirt wrapped around my eyes (SO bright in that room from the beach rays coming in (I know, what a thing to complain about) that I had to create a makeshift eye mask) and dragged my ass out of bed. I felt pretty confident after the previous day's work, with only the major parts left: stacking the tiers and decorating. At this point I was SO grateful I did the practice run, as doweling and stacking was like cake (pun somewhat intended) now. Cutting the cardboard, dowels, and rods was much easier with the utility knife picked up the day before rather than the steak knife I had used in the practice run. A ruler to measure the dowels exactly rather than eye-balling was also a smart move. After doweling the first two tiers, I was ready to stack. I carefully lifted each tier with the cake lifter and placed it gingerly on top of its base. Alas, I stood back and took a look...

Driving the wooden rod through.
12:00pm: WE ARE UP! Seeing it stacked was an amazing feeling, like I had defied gravity. No one was around, and I was completely in the zone. I felt good enough to take a short yoga break on the deck, both as a release of gratitude and for a little practice since I was missing my yoga teacher-training sessions that weekend (yes, my interests are VERY diversified). I suddenly was overcome with some of the strongest feelings of happiness I have ever felt. Here, in this kitchen in Florida, making this cake, was one of the happiest moments of my life. I was so grateful to have that experience so I could know that I was capable of producing that sort of happiness by myself and for myself. It resides within me. Tears started coming to my eyes. I wanted to relish this moment forever, then figure out how to replicate it going forward. My only idea was to become a traveling cake maker for the wealthy...

12:30pm: Anyways, emotional digression. Pull it together, girl: I know you're happy, but there's a cake to make! I prepped my piping bags and got to work. As I started piping, I became inspired to break away from the practice run designs, so I started piping different ideas onto a sheet of parchment paper. The vertical edges of the cake were so strong that I wanted to accentuate them. I piped the balls at the base of each tier, as planned. But then I piped a few balls going up and down each vertical edge and horizontal edge, framing the corners. I liked that but felt it needed some sort of connection, so I grabbed a smaller tip and piped graduated balls between the corners, so that all the edges were subtly delineated. I was really pleased with this look and moved onto the faces of the tiers. I measured out exact distances between balls and piped them on. At this point, more of Traci's family had started to arrive, and I could hear kids screaming as they jumped in the pool. I tried to not let this ruin my inner peace from earlier. More people = more likely something is going to get messed up, so I focused and worked steadily to finish.

4:00pm: I'M DONE! Exactly 24 hours later. So precisely 16 hours of work to make this cake. I carried the cake like it was my firstborn child over to the fridge and gently placed it inside. We had made a sign the night before for the outside that said, "Please do not open," and I made sure it was firmly in place. I breathed in deeply to trust that when I returned the next day it would look exactly the same (try putting your baby in a fridge overnight! Yeah, exactly...), then left the house to check into the hotel and await the arrival of more friends.

5:00pm Saturday: One of the final, scary duties: transporting the cake to the reception. The ceremony was beautiful, and some friends and I went and got lunch and drinks afterward (again, only one beer), but the thought of transporting the cake loomed in the back of my mind. While I was done, I wasn't actually done yet, and knew I wouldn't feel done until the cake was safely on the table at the reception. My friends, boyfriend Ted, and I walked into what had been my home the last couple days, and I slowly opened the fridge. PHEW - the cake looked exactly the same. Apparently many people sleeping at that house didn't even know the cake was in there. Trickery - even better. I packed up the last of my supplies, grabbed the bowls of extra frosting (for any touch-ups that could arise, god forbid) and lemon curd (for snacks in the car - so freaking good), and watched Ted pull the cake from the fridge. While he's a very agile, steady gentleman that I have never once seen trip or fall, except maybe when slipping on ice or a wet dance floor, I was still nervous as hell. I walked in front of him to clear the path, only having to threaten one small child along the way. Interaction went as follows:

Kid sees the cake. Says: "Oooo is that the cake?" (makes fist gesture) "I'm going to smush it!"
Me: "I'm going to smush you!" - and then realized the Jersey Shore had given that word another meaning that suddenly made me a pedophile...

I held my breath as Ted carried the cake down the twisting front stairs. But, as he is rather tall with large, steady feet and hands, the cake made it safely to my minivan. We folded down some seats and I hopped in the back. We placed the cake on the floor of the trunk, and I held it down with a death grip, while Ted drove like his firstborn child was in the back of the van.

5:20pm: While driving, my friends had some fun with the leftover frosting and curd:

Holding on for life.
5:45pm: We arrived at the reception with the cake intact. I kept having these nightmare flashes that, just when I thought we were almost there, something bad happened. In the car, we were going to get rear-ended. Now that we arrive, Ted was going to trip in the grass while walking the cake to the table. Of course I fret for no reason: the cake made it safely to the table. However, we were not done yet! Traci had ordered a few extra springs of orchids to match her bouquet, and now it was time to artfully arrange them on the cake. This was one part I actually didn't prep for at all, and was suddenly like, "Oh, crap, I hope this goes as smoothly as I figured it would." The only weird part was actually having to smash the flowers into the side of the cake - if for some reason I changed my mind about the arrangement, I was screwed. So I went slowly and deliberately, until we had a stream of purple orchids coming down the cake. Much more beautiful than I had anticipated.

I thought I would feel "done" at this point, but I didn't. During the lovely cocktail hour, my mind kept wandering to whether the cake was okay. I realized then that I wouldn't feel "done" until the final piece: the cake-cutting ceremony.

8:00pm: Traci rushed over to my reception table to grab me for pictures with her, Stephen, and the cake. Then, it was time for the cake cutting. I think the expected feeling is that watching them cut and eat it would feel like someone was ruining your masterpiece. Au contraire - as everyone was gathering, expressing both happiness for the couple and excitement for me, I knew I wasn't going to feel upset. And, as the knife touched the surface of the cake, halted for a second, then slowly sunk through, I actually felt a wave of relief wash over me. IT WAS DONE. I had made my first wedding cake, and it was a complete success.

The cake joined the other fabulous desserts at the dessert bar, and people started mulling through. While the cake was small, the staff did an excellent job of cutting it into smaller pieces so that everyone who wanted to try a bit of cake was able to. I received dozens of compliments from guests; some people who said they normally don't even like cake or frosting LOVED this cake, probably because it was so light and refreshing.

Overall, it was a fantastic success, and I am so grateful to Traci and Stephen for giving me this opportunity. I cannot wait to make my next wedding cake, so if you're getting married soon and are looking for a great-tasting, affordable baker, I'm your girl ;)

No comments: