Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Gift Box Wedding Cake

When two very special people decided to get married, my offer seemed relatively simple and straightforward. I would “sponsor” the wedding cake. That meant I was planning to buy the wedding cake. I mean, scratch baking is great, but who has time?

But, during a rather mundane night during a hotel stay in Denver, a series of Internet searches reveal the cold, hard truth of the situation. Pastry chefs who specialize in wedding cakes require at least a three-month lead-time and the wedding is in less than two weeks.

My wheels start turning. I studied pastry techniques for weeks at the French Culinary Institute. I even did pretty well with celebration cakes. I can create a gift box wedding cake with a fondant bow. It will be festive. I ought to be able to pull this off. Simple, right? Not really…

I develop a design and start my research. As Martha says, God is in the details. My first realization is that my square cake pans don’t have sharp enough edges to achieve the desired box-like effect. So I invest in two new cake pans, which Amazon ships just in time. I really don’t need another set of cake pans in my crowded kitchen cabinets…

Then there’s the planning. It’s really a three-day project when you add it all up. The fondant “ribbon” must be cut and dried overnight, and the bow needs to be assembled at least 24 hours before it is placed on the top of the cake.

Issues start to mount up on baking day. I lay out my mise en place like a good baker, and I am just about ready to start mixing when the power in the house goes out … for TWO hours! Sometimes, I am just not a lucky person. The eight separated eggs certainly get to room temperature, though.

Then, after baking two layers of white cake, I realize I still don’t have the desired height for the look of a tall, elegant gift box. So I bake another two layers, which means separating eight more eggs. Are you counting? That’s 16 eggs in total!

I decide that three layers – each split in half and filled with strawberry filling – will give me the desired height. When the cake is filled and frosted with butter cream, I discover that it is too tall for my tallest cake saver, so I must construct a large tent of tin foil to protect the not-yet-finished cake overnight.

So here’s how the kitchen looks at 10 p.m. less than 24 hours before the wedding. It’s at this point, I realize I have no back-up plan and I’m really wishing I could twitch my nose and make the entire mess vanish. And, there is still no fondant decorating the cake:

Waiting to cover the cake with fondant until the morning of the wedding is perhaps a risky move. But I’d heard horror stories of fondant cakes that “weep” when placed in the refrigerator. Fortunately, the pastry gods smile on me, and the draping of the fondant goes quite smoothly. I even manage to wrap up the decorating before lunch and take a bike ride before transporting the cake to the city for the nuptials.

I know that it was all meant to be when we arrive at the wedding suite and there is a pristine white café table framed by windows overlooking Manhattan. It’s the perfect spot to place the cake. Most important, the reaction of that special couple says it all.


©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

27 comments:

Matthew said...

Fantastic! I'm positive the couple was happy to have your cake and eat it too!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Fondant has always frightened me. I think I watch too many cake decorating shows on television. Their fondant is perfect, smooth, and hand-colored, and I don't think I could ever achieve that. I am in awe of your fondant skills!

Barbara said...

TW, I am totally impressed! Your cake is perfect, no matter the panic, the mess and the time. I've never had the nerve to work with fondant and keep thinking I should look for a class around here.
You did a super job and can be proud of the results...no wonder the couple was happy!

Anonymous said...

Shoulda sent a toaster. -- Splint

Zany said...

Huh. That kitchen the night before the wedding looks familiar...mostly like after any of my husband's baking adventures. Your cake looks awesome. Is it wrong to think about four-layered cake for breakfast on a Sunday??

Kat said...

It looks perfect! What a lucky couple to have a friend such as you. I have made wedding cakes, so know the stress of it all, but have never worked with fondant.

Julia said...

Your cake looks beautiful! So beautiful in fact, I kept reading thinking you would tell us how, in the end, you had to purchase a cake...

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Splint - I tried, but the fondant kept melting every time the toaster was turned on.

Julia - Ha! That is how my usual kitchen drama would typically play out. Fortunately, I got lucky this time!

Diana Leto said...

Nice work! I love the whole playful look!

lostpastremembered said...

I am so not a baker so I am crazy impressed by your cake. It looks absolutely professional (and I bet it tastes a million times better!).

I remember I made one important cake for a birthday and the cleaning lady had put the knob of the stove on wrong... how I missed that I'll never know but an hour later it was still soup... that's when i saw what had happened... I didn't have time to do anything about it (since it was a giant sheet cake) and it ended up being a little flatter than I would have liked. It turned out better than it should have so I was lucky, but man was it terrifying for a while.

Tracy Wood said...

Great post!! I love, love, love the picture of your kitchen mess..... reminds me of my own kitchen sometimes. Beautiful cake!

Velva said...

The wedding cake is beautiful-simply beautiful. What a wonderful gift of love prepared for the bride and groom.

I know it was stressful at times but, wow, look at the results.

Velva

sophiesfoodiefiles said...

This wedding cake looks apart, alternative & ooh so festive too!

A real winner & a lot of work too! :)
A job well done, my friend!

Mary said...

I had forgotten that you had classic pastry training, but it shows in the stunner you've created. The cake is a true delight and it is no wonder the bride and groom were pleased. Just out of curiosity, how lone did it take to restore order to the kitchen? Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Mary - I think I am still trying to restore order to the kitchen!

KENDRA BAILEY MORRIS said...

Wow, gorgeous!

Kendra

DEZMOND said...

simple, but nice, bravo T.W.!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Wow, I'm really impressed. I'm sure the special couple was as well.
P.S. Thanks for the photo of your kitchen. Looks like mine at times, even as I'm telling myself that everything is under control.

The Baking Gypsy said...

Hello! You have a wonderful blog and I have heard many good things about it from my mom, Catherine!
I am amazed at your story! That cake looks amazing, and I'm sure it tastes even better!! I've always wanted to try baking with fondant. :)
Well, nice meeting you T.W.!! See you over at Living the Gourmet!

Cheers,
Tammy

veron said...

Wow, you did an amazing job, T.W. ! That fondant went on smoothly and looks picture perfect! :)

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

It looks perfect to me. Very professional T.W. They must have been very pleased.

I'm not a baker, so I would never attempt anything this complicated. Maybe I need the number for how to get in touch with the pastry gods.
Sam

Catherine said...

Dear T.W., Bravo!! Looks wonderful. I am sure that the happy couple were very touched at all of the love and effort put into making this for such a blessed day in their life. I probably would have started counting the Devil Dogs to put together to make a cake when the countdown was less that 24 hour to go! You did it though and wonderfully too. Blessings, Catherine

Susan from Food Blogga said...

You know I think the world of you, TW, but now I may have to commission a statue in your honor. You're a god! I can't believe you made a wedding cake under the gun and pulled it off so beautifully. What a lucky couple the bride and groom are to have found each other and to have you as a friend.

maris said...

This is utterly amazing! Do you do birthday cakes too? :-)

tasteofbeirut said...

I knew a lady who had a cake business and she could not do a cake as pretty as this one! You did a fantastic job and should be proud and the kitchen mess is just a detail!

Gloria said...

amazing dear T.W. I never make a cake like this, I think is beautiful and spectacular,I think the couple will be happy!! nice work T.W.:)

~~louise~~ said...

I was finally "allowed" to take my eye patch off for a little while tonight and what to my wondering eyes should appear but the prettiest cake, ever!!

It's just wonderful to "see" you show off your talent T.W. I'm sure I could never create under such pressure. I'm sure your friends were delighted! Congratulations to them and to you!

Thank you so much for brightening up my evening:)