Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer lovin'

I had about three weeks to recover from the last wedding cake debacle before embarking on the next one. The decorating on this cake was much simpler and more rustic, and I wasn't IN the wedding! But, I still had to travel - not as far as Pennsylvania, but still pretty far, and in even warmer weather.

This is easily the biggest cake I've ever made. This was a four-tier cake with an 18" tier, a 14" tier, a 10" tier, and a 6" tier. This cake is designed to serve 197! And, I learned something new while baking this cake - my oven is only 18" deep! So, baking an 18" cake is quite the challenge.

Like last time, I started baking 2 weeks before the wedding. But, given the size restrictions in my freezer, I actually had to slice the 18" cake into semi-circles before freezing. I also made the gum paste peonies ahead of time, using the bride's beautiful color and pearl colors to inspire me:
Prep work
Coral beauty
Pro tip: always make extras!
Again, as before, I decorated each tier individually, and packed them up to make the trip to Cleveland, OH.
The challenge of traveling with an 18" cake!
If you can believe it, this drive was even hotter than the drive to State College. And, I didn't have the night to let the cake set up in the fridge once I arrived - I was driving the morning of the wedding. Unfortunately, when I got to the venue, things were very melty and very droopy. I had some time to re-ice, and I brought extra icing, which is great, but the icing itself was very soft, so I ran into some challenges.
Re-icing at the actual venue - not ideal!
This was another scenario in which "all things considered," I think the cake turned out beautifully. Again, the bride and groom loved it and were very happy, so that's what I'm putting in the bank.
Final product
I think the big takeaway here is that I will no longer be doing traveling cakes in the summer heat!


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Baking and bridesmaiding

I'm back from an epic East coast tour and am happy to report that my second of three wedding cakes for 2014 is done. This was a BIG DEAL for a few reasons. First, it was a big cake - four tiers. Second, not only was I making the wedding cake, but I was a bridesmaid as well - what an honor! Third, this was my first time doing an order (a) with string work and (b) with dark on light (navy piping on white icing!). Fourth, and most importantly, the wedding was not local - it was 568 miles away in State College, PA!

I started baking two weeks before the wedding. As long as you let your cakes cool completely and wrap them really well (I do 2 layers of saran wrap followed by 1 layer of aluminum foil), it is perfectly acceptable to bake ahead of time and then freeze your cakes. Now, if you are a normal human with the normal number of refrigerators in your home (which would be 1), this is only going to get you so far ahead of the game, but it's better than nothing.

I then decorated each tier the day before I left for PA. I used Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which is perfectly safe at room temperature, though I wanted the cakes to be as cold as possible before I left since they were going to sit in a car for 11 hours... Unfortunately, since I am still a normal human with a normal number of refrigerators in my home, I could not fit all four tiers in the refrigerator at once, meaning they had to take turns in the refrigerator overnight.

Fast forward to the drive to PA. It was HOT. So so very hot. I had the air conditioner on full blast, but I just knew in my heart of hearts that it was too hot for the poor cakes, which were stuck in the backseat and trunk of the car. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about that... When I arrived at the venue in PA, the cakes were looking VERY MELTY and VERY DROOPY, which caused me to melt into a puddle of tears.

This is where I have to give a shout-out to the fine folks at the Nittany Lion Inn. The event planner took one look at my tear-streaked face and immediately went into problem solving mode. I needed to be at the wedding rehearsal in one hour, and then had to make my appearance at the rehearsal dinner following - because, remember, not only was I baking for the wedding, but I was also IN the wedding. He made room in the walk-in cooler for the cake, introduced me to the kitchen manager, and set up time and space for me to come fix the cake first thing the following morning (the day of the wedding, ARE YOU KIDDING ME). The kitchen manager even offered to whip up batches of extra icing for me, which was SO GENEROUS, but luckily this was not my first time at the wedding cake rodeo, so I had brought plenty of extra - it was just very, VERY soft from the car ride.

The next morning, I appeared in the kitchen at 5:30am. I needed to be ready for a hair appointment at 9am. It was go time. I did as much repair on the individual tiers as I could, which was a challenge, since with the heat, the dark navy icing had bled into the beautiful white icing underneath. I then stacked the cakes, added the borders, and bit off all my nails as I watched two very strong men move the cake from the table onto a ROLLING CART to put back into the walk in freezer. I then prayed to all the gods of cake and headed off to fulfill my bridesmaid duties.

The wedding was, of course, beautiful. We had a great time. I tried to forget about the cake since there was nothing I could do about it at this point!

Once we got back to the Inn, I went to check on the cake and help the caterers place it on the display table. Once again, I bit off what remained of my nails while I watched two very strong men move the cake from the rolling cart to the cake table. I placed the gum paste flowers on the cake and called it a day!
The final product
The beautiful bride and groom
In the end, Jack and Lauren loved it, and that should be all that matters.

From my perspective, I am happy with how the cake turned out, all things considered. I don't like that caveat, though, "all things considered." I want to be happy with how the cake turned out, period. So, I chalk this up to a learning experience... and now I have some good strategies for next time!