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