Memorial Day weekend part 1: wedding

Part 1 comes with big news: I made my first official wedding cake for one of my closest friends.  Em and I met while we were camp counselors for inner-city kids (it was hilarious b/c a lot of them were bigger than we were) and we shared a cozy apartment in Jersey City during college.  Our boyfriends (now husbands) got along b/c they were both conservative and liked talking politics and Em and I got along b/c we were both super sarcastic tiny tough cookies.  =)  When we turned 21 (our birthdays are just 5 days apart), we trudged over to the fancy Astor Place Wine and Liquor store during a blizzard so we could proudly whip out our legal drinking age driver’s licenses.  We bought some obscure orange-flavored vodka just b/c they were giving free samples of it and @ the register…  nothing.  I distinctly remember that we were bundled up and had cute woven hats and big puffy winter jackets b/c it was so cold and sh*tty outside so I’m pretty sure to most people we looked like we were eleven… MAYBE twelve years old, but the cashier didn’t card us or ask for ID @ all.  That was a relative bummer.  haha  I was super psyched when she told me S had proposed, and when she and her fiance asked me to do their wedding cake and favors, I said, “YES!!!”

Em and S's pastel themed wedding cake

I met up with Em and the now-Mr. Em for lunch several months ago and they brought me a tear out of the cake they wanted from some bridal mag.  I took one look @ it and said I could definitely do it.  I asked them about what flavors and how many people, the color and theme, etc… and it seemed pretty straight forward.  Em wanted the cake and favors to be pastel themed, and I said I could make her cake look exactly like this picture (minus the flower toppers)…

Requested cake pic from magazine

…and for her wedding favors… I suggested cake balls.  I would make them pastel pink, packaged in white boxes in pale green tissue paper.  The future Mr. Em was more interested in the cake flavor itself, and gave his input for one tier being chocolate, one tier red velvet, and one tier vanilla.  I hugged them both and said, “You got it!” and started buying ingredients and equipment for their cake.

The local Michael’s has a big cake supply aisle, but the stock changes on a weekly basis.  I’d say that half the stuff in that aisle is useless to me.  I found they had cake pans, but wasn’t thrilled with the selection so I bought them on amazon.  They DID however have a sale on the candy coating I needed for the wedding favors AND I had a coupon for the entire order, so I stocked up and filled a whole cabinet shelf in our pantry with candy melts.  And when Stop ‘n Shop had a sale on butter…  I stuffed AT LEAST 20 pounds of it in our freezer and downstairs fridge.  For the next few months, I just collected equipment and materials needed for their wedding cake so that I’d just have to buy fresh eggs and milk to bake a couple days just before the wedding.

My twin set of 6 qt. KitchenAid stand mixers

I requested 2 days off before their wedding to have ample time to bake and decorate.  With this big project, I needed additional equipment.  I broke out the “twins” and opened the 2nd mixer I bought myself as a Christmas present.  I used both Thing 1 and Thing 2 to mix the chocolate and red velvet cake batter, baked one tier @ a time and while the cakes were baking in the oven, I cleaned out the mixer to get ready for the vanilla cake batter. Preparing 2 batters at the same time is WAY more efficient than prepping one at a time.  It was so awesome.  While the cake layers were baking (they took MUCH longer than cupcake batches), I prepped bright pink fondant for the the flower accents on the middle tier. Once all the cake layers were baked, I set them on the dining room table to totally cool and whipped up gallons of frosting: vanilla to go with the chocolate and vanilla tiers and cream cheese frosting to go with the red velvet.

Perfectly spaced fridge shelves for iced cake tiers

I dirty iced the cakes and left them in the fridge overnight.  Look how awesome my packrat and storage skills are in the above pic; after readjusting the shelves I made use of every nook and cranny in that refrigerator and crammed everything into the “Snacks/Fruits”, “Vegetables” or “Meats/Cheese” drawers to make room for the cakes.  That was end of day 1.  Day 2 started with mixing crumbled cake with vanilla frosting and hand-rolling cake balls.  I let them harden in the fridge and melted pastel pink candy melts for dipping, then hand-punched white fondant blossoms and added pink sugar beads to top off the favors.  The favors were the easier part of the wedding project; out of the 79 balls I made, I only had two f*ck ups.  Nice job, Me.  Anyway, I wrapped up the balls in pale green tissue paper and boxed them up as individual favors.  I wish I had more time to let the fondant harden though… I realized the pressure of the tissue paper may have squished the fondant flowers a tiny bit =/

Pink cake balls... the lone ball in the top-middle of the pic was a lucky save. It fell off the candy dipper but it wasn't damaged @ all since it landed perfectly and didn't hit any other balls.

Now that the wedding is over, I have a confession to make; I almost had a baked good breakdown @ 10 pm on day 2, a mere 12 hours before I had to deliver the cake.  I didn’t have time to make tons of marshmallow fondant (also known as “MMF”), so I shopped and sampled around and found a readymade fondant that actually tasted pretty similar to MMF.  I ordered a huge @ss 10-lb tub of it and didn’t open the container till last night b/c I didn’t want to expose the fondant to air before actual use.  When I ripped off the lid, I found that the plastic covering for the fondant was not airtight and secure, so the fondant was pretty damn stiff  to the touch.  A wave of panic started to set in and I sliced off a small section of the ten-pound chunk to see if I could zap some life into it in the microwave.  Thank God that trick worked, otherwise I would have just broken down in tears since the only other option was to make my own fondant, and I was already on a time crunch.  I would never, ever tell Em all this BEFORE the wedding since that’s the worse thing you could do to a bride before she gets married!

Vanilla cake balls with pink candy coating, white fondant flowers, and pink sugar beads

I started off kneading pink food color into a hunk of fondant for the top layer.  Kneading salvaged fondant is a highly recommended upper body workout… wow.  I’m surprised full time cake decorators don’t all have Michelle Obama arms.  Around 1015 pm I started getting tired so I decided to take a powernap.  Vin was all irritated with me and was like, “… Baby, what are you doing you have so much more to do you can’t sleep now!” And I just told him to wake me up in an hour and I needed a little sleep @ SOME point to recharge a bit, so might as well do it now. @ 1115 he poked me to get up and I said, “15 more minutes.”  @ 1145 he was going to bed and I mumbled something in my state of half-consciousness about my cell phone alarm waking me up @ midnight, but like a good husband, Vin made sure I got up.  I rubbed my eyes, tied up my hair, washed my hands, and got back to decorating the tiers.  It took a couple tries to put fondant on the cake tiers.  The fondant was too sticky and would start to tear, or I didn’t roll out a big enough piece… or it was always SOMETHING.  The top layer was the first one I did, and to be honest it looked a little rough.  Luckily, I knew there would be white ribbon covering the bottom so that would hide some of the wrinkles.  The middle tier had blue fondant, and it took three attempts to get it right.  By the time I got to the bottom tier I finally figured out to patch 2 pieces of fondant together and knew this would be fine since strategically placed fondant stripes would cover it. I rolled and punched out white fondant circles for the top layer and worked on measuring and cutting the fondant ribbons for the bottom tier. I tried my best to match the colors from the photo (I’ve been studying it everyday for the past month as if I were the bride-to-be getting married and couldn’t wait to see her cake haha). For the middle tier, just measured and marked where the fondant flower buds would go.  The last prep step was putting in hidden straws to keep the cake from collapsing into itself.  I put in @ least 10 straws on the bottom tier (these cakes were wayyyy heavier than they look) and stuck 7 in the middle tier.  I found a box that would fit the bottom tiers, and my 10″ cake boxes were used for the top and middle.  The sun was coming up as I let the cake fondant dry out a little and started to get ready for the party.

Hot pink rolled fondant flowers

When we were packing up the car with the cake tiers and rest of the decorations (and emergency disaster supplies), paranoia and fear started to set in and I was on the verge of freaking out.  We had secured the cake boxes with random boxes of stuff from the house, just to stabilize the cakes and HOPEFULLY prevent my hard work from sliding around in the car.   The night before Vin had said, “I worry about the drive up… I hope the cakes will be OK, ya know?” and I said, “Eh, they’ll be fine,” and brushed it off.  But just as he backed out of the driveway and made a sudden stop to avoid hitting a cute bunny, we heard a quick distinct “swoosh” of something heavy shifting in the trunk.  I gasped and held my breath and the color drained from my face as the doubt started to set in…  Did I secure it enough?  Maybe I should have put them in the back seat instead of the trunk of the SUV?  Were the boxes too big?  Too small?  Would the fondant sag?  Would the cakes get dented?  Would the fondant tear and crack or fall off?  WOULD THIS BE A COMPLETE DISASTER???

If this ended up being a mess, I would have cried more than Em about the cake; she’d brush it off and say it was fine, I’m sure of it.  haha  It was the most nerve wracking 90 minute drive ever.  I was so neurotic and kept saying things like, “Maybe we should pull over so I can check…  Maybe I can climb into the backseat and peek into the trunk to make sure the cakes are OK… Maybe–” and luckily, when I’m a bundle of nerves, Vin takes his turn being the sane, calm one (usually my job) and wouldn’t stop the car and wouldn’t let me look and kept reassuring me everything would be fine.  As soon as we pulled into a parking spot @ the restaurant, I jumped out of the car and made a beeline to the trunk and moved the junk boxes away and… they were pretty much OK.  Thankfully, Vin was right <3 I think I finally let out the breath of air I was holding the whole drive.  There were a few tiny dents in the fondant on the bottom tier and top tier, but it really wasn’t bad at all.  Vin and Em’s sister helped me carry the tiers into the restaurant and I started to set up the cake.

Me setting up the cake: wrapping ribbon and inserting wired fondant flowers

I got a little anxious seeing that I was supposed to finish stacking and decorating right out in the open while people were watching, but after the initial “whoa” I just focused on getting this done. I bought this nice white cake base and put the bottom tier on it.  Centering and stacking the middle tier was tricky; you kind of only get one shot and you have to be quick about it.  I held the second tier with the edges of my fingertips, looked down over the bottom and eyeballed the center… and then basically just dropped it on to the bottom with a big plop.  I did the same with the top layer, but since it was tougher to gauge the center as it was more elevated and I couldn’t look straight down, I think it was a TEENY bit off center.  And I was mad @ this stupid air bulge that had formed under the fondant.  Bah.  But the cake was solidly stacked and was totally even and stable and I was glad the hardest part was done.  Not bad for an engineering school drop out, eh?  I wrapped pink and white ribbons around the bottom of the tiers (yay for masking most of the unsightly amateur fondant wrinkles!) and poked the fondant flowers into the middle tier.  Em’s mom had given me the cake toppers (they were cute little bride and groom birds that looked like the Twitter logo and matched perfectly!) and I placed them facing each other.  Once that was done, I think I finally smiled a little for the first time in a couple days.

Wedding cake close ups

I ran up to the bridal suite to get changed (my pants were covered in powdered sugar and Vin said I got it all over the passenger seat) and I got to see the bride.  Em looked absolutely stunning.  So beautiful!  S looked spiffy in his suit and Vin complimented his cool vest.  They had such a nice ceremony with the sun shining and a gorgeous view and special tear-jerking vows they wrote for each other.  I gave her and her new husband a huge hug and was so happy for them.  They looked so sweet and in love.  <3  While they were busy with photos, Vin and I mingled and sampled some delicious food.  Everything was excellent.  It really was a perfect wedding day for a wonderful couple =)

Vin and me <3

I still didn’t feel like I was off the hook yet until the bride and groom tried the cake.  Em fed her newly minted husband a forkful from the bottom tier (chocolate) and I wiggled my way up front to watch their reaction.  He gave a thumbs up!  Then he fed Em a bite and she gave me this knowing smile. I think that’s when all the worry slipped away.  I was finally satisfied and relieved and had this huge grin on my face.  I slipped in and got a pic with the lovely bride and groom with the cake and Em pointed out to everyone, “This is the baker.  She made the cake AND the delicious cake balls you have as favors, too.” =)  Our table was served the middle vanilla tier (though I was the lone wolf and was given chocolate… but it was good I could check to see how that tier came out) and I got feedback saying it was light and fluffy and tasted really good.  I was so incredibly happy everything turned out well and that my friends loved their cake.  Em said that everyone kept telling her how beautiful the cake was, and she had gone around telling the guests that her old roommate made it.  Actually she said, “People keep coming up to us raving about the cake and saying how amazing it is and I just keep saying to them, ‘See that pretty little Asian lady?  My friend Katherine made it.'”  <3

Left: This is such a sweet photo that epitomizes love; Right: After Em and S cut and tried their cake, I got props for the baked goods =P

I passed out in the car ride home and I wanted to type up this post, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open for long.  But all the work, worry, and lack of sleep was well worth it to make a special bride and groom happy.  As long as they’re happy, I’m happy.  Congratulations, you two!!!  =D

My first official wedding cake wasn't bad... not bad @ all...

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming right up!

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