My Second Wedding Cake (for a wedding)

The last few days of 2014 were filled with my biggest cake challenge of the year, a wedding cake:534

Early in 2014 I was asked by friends Jenny and James if I would be up for making their wedding cake.  I was flattered that they had so much faith in my abilities and after checking that I could logistically make the cake (it was a Christmas wedding in London), I agreed.  Jenny and James were very relaxed about what they wanted for their wedding cake.  Jenny sent through some pictures of cakes she had seen that she liked, alongside a picture of the wedding signing book, the tartan and the bridesmaid dresses.  I had a lot of things to look at that really ranged in style, so after much thought I decided to start with the common themes/things I knew to be fairly inflexible:

  • The cake was for 60-80 people
  • The flavours they wanted were chocolate and vanilla sponges with cherry jam
  • The cake should be circular and stacked – all the pictures they had sent of cakes that they liked were circular and stacked
  • I saw a reoccurring theme of small, delicate detail in all the decoration they had chosen to include in their wedding
  • The wedding colours were white and green – a specific green that the bridesmaids were wearing that matched the tartan the groom was wearing

dress and tartan

When I started baking the cake on the 27th December I had no idea how it would turn out. The decorating day was the 28th and after covering the layers of chocolate and vanilla cake in white fondant I mixed the green fondant to get the right colour and started the decoration.

If I’m honest, my first idea didn’t work – I wanted to make Rob Ryan inspired panels for the middle tier which would sit on a green background.  I designed and piped the panels but I thought they looked too messy and clumsy for the paper-cut effect I was after:

construction

So, after going through my standard ‘I-want-to-throw-this-cake-out-of-the-window-why-did-I-agree-to-this-I-should-never-bake-again’ wobble, I went back to the drawing board and really thought about the tiny delicate details that I noticed in a lot of the pictures Jenny had sent. I had bought some tiny ivy cutters for the cake as it was a December wedding and I had seen the florist idea boards for the wedding which included ivy.  I also had a set of little star and flower cutters and it is with these and a tiny piping nozzle I started on tiny details in green, working upwards, making each tier individual.

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Once I had finished the cake (about 9pm before the wedding day), I had a sudden panic that they might not like it.  As they had been so relaxed and open about the cake we had only talked in very vague terms about what the decoration would be.  I decided at that point not to send them a picture as it was too late to change anything and went to bed with a panicked mind.

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Happily, my worries were unfounded and Jenny and James were very happy with their cake.  That or they are very good actors… The wedding day itself was wonderful, with a fantastic ceremony followed by a romantic, beautiful and atmospheric reception with love, merriment and friendship filling every corner of the venue.

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I have to thank Jenny and James for having so much faith in my baking and also for letting me do what I liked in the way of design.  So there we have it, my second wedding cake for a wedding.  You can read about my first one here and my first wedding cake not for a wedding here.

Unblogged cakes – 2013

Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe that this little blog has been going for a year. My 2013 resolution was to get it on the road, and low and behold, here it is!

Self congratulations over, I wanted to do a round up blog about the year and a write up for all the bakes that never get mentioned. It is common knowledge amongst my friends that I take a lot of pictures. My phone memory groans under the strain of 2000+ photos that often don’t go any further than my little handset. It would be fair to say that about a third of the photos that I take are of cakes or baking activity and for every cake I write about, there are probably at least two others made around the same time that I don’t mention on the blog. This can be for many reasons – time, being the main one, or maybe they are repeat designs, or just plain cakes that aren’t worth blogging about (sorry plain cakes).

But now is their moment – a moment for some of the unmentioned and unseen cakes to be celebrated!

2013 roundup

From left to right, top to bottom:

One of 4 impromptu name cakes make from spare cupcakes and icing; A set of chocolate orange cakes for my Mum’s birthday; Cheesy cupcakes before baking for Tash (read about her arms here); Birthday cakes for Mike whipped up in an hour and a half; Birthday cakes for Nikki including a ukulele playing rabbit (she plays ukulele and has a rabbit); General cakes for my parent’s Bed and Breakfast guests; My name cake as part of a set of name cakes for my friend’s hen party, I then went on to make her wedding cake; An icing music stand that never made it to a cake, I will write a blog about the cake this was intended for; A slice of trial wedding cake that I doodled on in edible ink; All the little powder pots before they went on cupcakes for the Victorian Medicine cakes; A Victoria sponge, whipped up at the whim of Felix Hagan; A lonely Christmas cupcake on a tiny single-cake stand; An impromptu batch of cakes made from all I could find in a friend’s cupboard; A 60th birthday cake shaped like a pyramid; Wedding cupcakes with white chocolate leaves; A chocolate beetroot cake pre-decoration (blog to follow about this one).

This year I was also sent a picture of a cake that was made by Serafina, inspired by my Easter Cupcakes, a lovely surprise:

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This made me incredibly happy; any other cake pictures inspired by mine would be most welcome!

There was also this cake that I made to practise smooth icing for the wedding cake. I then took it to work for everyone to doodle on for the recipient, Simon. I love this graffiti cake with about 12 contributors to the artwork:

Simon's cake

A picture that should have made it into the blog post about the wedding cake is this beauty of Duncan, the groom, “helping” during its creation:

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And lastly, a couple of photos of what it took to make the aged posters for the Victorian cupcakes – help from my very lovely, very tolerant house mates:

Poster making

There are many more photos from 2013, but that is probably enough for the moment. Now is the time to look forward to what baking adventures 2014 will bring… watch this space and Happy New Year!

My First Wedding Cake (for a Wedding)

So I’ve already documented how I tackled my first wedding cake (with a degree of panic and trial and error) but it didn’t matter so much, it was a wedding cake not for a wedding. So for my latest and biggest cakey challenge, the pressure was really on as I agreed to make a wedding cake for one of my best friends, wedding. Oh, and I was her Bridesmaid so there was no chance of keeping a low profile.

Annie (the Bride) runs a wedding stylist and decoration business in the North West so I knew that her wedding would be spectacular and the decoration details would be carefully planned and measured to the nth degree. Months before Annie’s wedding we were discussing the cake and she was thinking about ordering one from M&S but before she did, she asked me if I’d consider making it. I thought about the practicalities – I’d have to take a couple of days off work, bake the cake in her kitchen (she lives about 250 miles away) and come up with a fitting design and I was unconvinced I’d be able to do it. Annie then showed me a broach she had sourced to use in the decoration and alongside other bits and bobs she had bought for her vintage film inspired wedding, my cake brain started thinking.

The fateful broach

The fateful broach

It seemed such a shame to order a bog standard cake (as lovely as they are) when I thought a cake maker could really go to town with such a striking theme. So, rather recklessly, I agreed to take on the challenge with the proviso that my cake might not be as perfect as the M&S cake, but it would certainly be more personal.

Between making that decision in May and the actual wedding in September I had many sleepless nights about the cake. Specifically what should be under the fondant. Duncan, the Groom, is allergic to nuts, so marzipan was out the window. I then spent a lot of time googling alternatives and found myself in cakey hell comparing the various merits of chocolate ganache verses buttercream. After producing test cakes and generally fretting about smooth icing, I decided to go with buttercream as something I’ve used many times before.

So when it came close to the big day, the plan was for me to travel up north on the Wednesday night, bake on Thursday, decorate on Friday, deliver on Saturday and the wedding was on Sunday. A sponge cake for about 100 people, 3 tiers – simple, right? Well, best laid plans and all that – I ended up being quite ill and was not able to travel till late Thursday evening. I had to call up the bride and ask her to make her own wedding sponge. Luckily Annie rose to the challenge, I had left my cake tins with her during a bridesmaid dress fitting, and under careful instructions she made the necessary 9 cakes (and 4 extra spares that went to very receptive family members…).

I set about stacking the cakes and decorating early Friday morning. I didn’t really know what my final design would be, but I had a few ideas and a general aesthetic in mind. Having iced and stacked the cake I started on the finishing touches.

Making cake

Making and stacking

I made 3 huge art deco fans, inspired by the broach, that I wanted to go up the cake. They were fragile and the gum paste needed 24 hours to set so I wasn’t able to stick them on straight away. Having added the ribbon to tie the cake in with the wedding colours, I wanted to make the middle tier more elaborate so piped beads and pearls using royal icing. I decided to leave the fans off the cake until I got to the venue as we had a 40 minute drive to deliver it.

This is me and the cake in transit.

This is me and the cake in transit.

It was quite risky to wait to put the cake all together design-wise, as certainly without the fans, the cake wasn’t impressive enough. I had some black feathers as a back up in case the fans didn’t survive the journey. I assembled the cake at the venue, was happy with the result and then had to quickly leave as there was another wedding about to happen. All I could do then was to hope the fans would stay put, the venue didn’t use it by mistake for the Saturday wedding(!) and the cake would be ok for the big day.

Luckily my worrying was unnecessary and the cake survived in one piece.

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Official photos by wedding photographer Paul Edwards

Official photos by wedding photographer Paul Edwards

I couldn’t have done it without Annie and her patience but I am very grateful that she and Duncan believed in me enough to let me do what I liked for their big day. They even took a tier on mini-moon!

Cutcake

The cut cake and the surviving top tier.

As I predicted, the wedding was beautiful and Annie’s attention to detail was astounding. I was very proud to be a part of their big day.

Annie and I and the cake

Annie and I and the cake

My first Wedding Cake (not for a wedding)

“Yes I’m cursing myself for volunteering to do this. It’s all going horribly wrong.  I might throw a cake out of the window or something.” – A text to my friend a day into making this cake.

I took two days off my day job to complete this one – a three tiered wedding cake not for a wedding.

Wedding cake1

You might wonder why I was making a wedding cake not for a wedding.  And if not for a wedding, is it actually a wedding cake?

Both good questions.

This cake was an edible prop, but not a prop just for the actors, this cake was also for the audience, about 60 of them.  It was used as part of a Halloween party thrown by Kill the Beast Theatre Company where the audience were treated to an immersive theatre/party experience willingly or unwillingly undertaking the roles of guests at a doomed Victorian wedding.  I volunteered to make a cake for the event and on offering the idea, I found myself with very little brief apart from to fit with the aesthetic of the night.  After a bit of googling, I concluded that a lot of lace and frills were in order and started making baking plans.

I learnt a lot in the making of this cake for which I am eternally grateful.  I feel that if someone were to ask me to make their wedding cake now I would be able to accept the challenge and be savvy enough not to make some of the mistakes that befell me during this creation. Although I didn’t throw a cake out the window after sending that text I did have to re-bake the bottom tier… 

Egg casualties after the day of baking.

Egg casualties after the day of baking.

This was a sponge cake rather than a fruit cake which made it possible to create in two days – I spent a day baking and a day decorating.  Since I had no design to adhere to I let my imagination run wild and decided to use this as an opportunity to practise frilly decorating techniques.

wedding cake detail

The flowers on top were an afterthought; I had finished all the other decoration and felt that it was lacking something so decided to try out some flowers with the spare icing. I think it is far too over the top for a serious wedding cake but everyone likes different things!

My deeply macabre side wanted the actors to throw red food colouring all over it before cutting it – the evening centred round the fact the bride had failed to make it to her wedding and at the end she appeared as a zombie (Halloween party remember) – but having a “blood” spattered cake didn’t quite work.  Instead the “groom” gave an impassioned speech about how his beloved would want the party to continue despite her absence before cutting the cake to give to his guests.  Even though the cake wasn’t covered in food dye blood it was cut with a fervent stabbing motion that seemed perfect for the over-the-top design.

Happily, the cake made it into this little video where an audience member captured the evening. – see 12 seconds in for crying and stabby cake cutting.

So, even though it was a cake for a wedding involving actors, costumed audience members and a zombie bride, I think you can still call it a wedding cake.  And if you were wondering how I got involved in such a ridiculous task then there is only one person to blame – you can read about her long arms here.