Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Piece of Cake

Piece of cake... or at least it should have been.

I made a wedding cake for my nephew's wedding on Saturday.  I have made many wedding cakes in my day.  I even made my own wedding cake.  Who does that?  Me, that's who.  Yes, me the crazy one who thinks she can pull off an entire wedding reception and all that goes into that as well as bake, ice, and decorate her own wedding cake.  But, somehow and miraculously I did pull it off.   
My own wedding cake.
I used to be able to do those kind of insanity based things back then.  Now, not so much.  At least that is what Saturday proved.

It all started out as an easy peasy item on my to do list that I anticipated should take around 3-4 hours tops.  The cake that Mary (my nephew Weston's bride) picked out was one of the simplest looking ones I have ever attempted to do.  I am used to doing a lot of scroll work and delicate lace art and having to measure every single inch of each layer to get it to look perfect.  This cake had none of that.  In fact, it was called "messy cake".  How hard could it be?  

I was actually excited to do a cake that would look like a piece of art but really wasn't.  It would be my first cake that I didn't have to bake one day, crumb coat the next day, and decorate the final day.  I was sure it would be a half a day for all three of those things combined.  And the bottom layer was going to be Styrofoam which is fabulous to work with. The only thing I was concerned about was transporting it to Salt Lake which was a little over an hour away. 

So, the day before the wedding, I went to work.  I baked it.  I trimmed it.  I filled it with raspberry filling.  I stacked it.  I crumb coated it.  I iced it.  And then I cursed it.  Or cursed at it.  All of those steps are the easy part of a wedding cake.  Not this time.  The filling decided to ooze out of the sides as I was icing the top layer. I scraped some out and it seemed to be okay until it sat for a bit and then it was bulging out again.  That has never happened to me.  Was I losing my touch?  My skill?  

I iced the middle layer with a thick amount of icing but you could still faintly see the chocolate cake showing through.  That is not a good thing for a wedding cake and so I kept going over it again and again and again.  Then it began to fall on itself as well.  I later learned that the brand of cake mix I used was the culprit.  When my nephew's mother Karen and I did a trial naked cake a couple months ago we tried two different brands and we couldn't remember which one was the sturdy one.  We had a 50-50 chance of getting it right, but we got it wrong.  So wrong.  But, I figured since icing can hide a multitude of sins that it would be okay. 

I just kept persevering and was determined to make it work.  I have worked many a miracle with a cake disaster in the past and I was not about to give up on this one.  

I probably should have.

Once I got the layers iced, I attempted to do the horizontal lines.  The bottom layer, which was 12 inches in diameter, was actually very easy and a lot of fun.  It looked great! I was so excited because I thought the other two would go even faster. However, when I got to the real cakes, what appeared to be an very easy technique was very much deceiving.  It was not as easy as I had thought....on Styrofoam yes, on real cake no.  I would get it all done and then look at it and start over.  A million times.  When it comes to my cakes, I am a perfectionist on steroids.  You really can't be a perfectionist with a technique called "messy"  but I managed to be anyway.  

Hours passed.  My arm was tired.  I was tired.  I was frustrated.  I had issues with the filling coming out again and I had issues with getting the icing the right thickness because with the lines, you scrape a lot off in the process to get the right look.  I just couldn't get them to look how I wanted.  

I finally decided to write off the middle layer because no matter how thick I applied the icing, you could still tell it was a chocolate cake.  So, I did the middle layer out of Styrofoam.  It wasn't as easy as the 12 inch, but it much easier than the real cake.  But the only size I had was a 10 inch one and it was supposed to be an 8 inch one.  At this point, I did not care.  Nope.  I was just happy to get that layer done.  
I finished the top layer and it actually looked great. I was so relieved. I had all three of them done!  They weren't the sizes I planned on, but they would be okay. I thought.

As I was lifting the top layer off of my turn table, it decided to fall on itself!  Yep.  I could NOT believe it.  That just does not happen.  That brand of cake really should be taken off the market!  I don't want to rag on it, so I won't say the brand name, but it has the same initials as the city where I live.  

I was ready to cry.   Or throw up.  I wanted to cry AND puke.  I was sick inside.  I was defeated.  I questioned my skill.  I questioned why anyone needed or wanted a ^(+#%*@! wedding cake for a wedding in the first place.  Who needs cake?  I wanted to ban all wedding cakes at all weddings from here on out.  A law needs to be passed.

I have never in all my wedding cake days been so discouraged or felt so overwhelmed with failure.  But, lucky for me my son Skyler was there to encourage me.  I was ready to bake a brand new cake and start over from the beginning, but he suggested I use the middle layer that I hated - the one you could see the chocolate cake showing through as the top.  He said it would be faster to fix it rather than start from scratch.  I knew he was right and so I decided to give that layer another try.  I made more icing.  But that would mean the top layer would be 8 inches instead of 6.  At that point it didn't even matter.  
So, after another hour or two, I finally managed to get that one looking up to snuff. 

I was so happy to be done!  Happier than a flea on a dirty dog.  Happier than a dirty dog on a lake. 

Pure relief!

Deep down I was wishing the sizes were the ones Mary asked for and that the middle layer was real cake, but there comes a point when you just have to say, it is what it is and it will have to do.  I was far beyond that point.  

After I went to bed, I lay awake thinking I should get up at 5:00 a.m and re-bake the top layer (with my homemade wedding cake recipe that is dense enough to be sturdy) and make more icing so it would be perfect.  I even got up to look at them but I decided it was good enough and it would still be beautiful.

When I got up the next morning, I looked at them again and still felt like all would be well.  I was just so done with that cake. 

The scary part was now transporting them to SLC in one piece!   I had the Styrofoam layers on the cake stand and I had put a dowel down between them both to keep them from slipping.  The top layer was on the cake slider and I was going to just transport it like that so I could easily place it on top once we arrived.

I put that layer on a cookie sheet with some of that non slip rug stuff that I had cut.  And then I put that in a box.  It wasn't moving and so I was feeling good about that.  I held the two stacked Styrofoam ones.  Dave got off earlier than he planned and so he ended up riding down with us and so I had Taylor hold the top layer. I felt it would be safer in his arms than in the back.

We had only been driving for 10 minutes when a car in front of us slammed on their brakes!  Dave had to slam on his and as he did so, he instinctively reached over to keep the cake from going off my lap.  In the process, his fingers went through the middle layer.  Lovely.  Just lovely.  I figured I would just use that side as the back.  Little did I know the cake would be in front of a mirror and so there was no hiding ANY sides!

When we arrive at the reception center to drop it off before the wedding, Taylor said, "Uh, Mom.  It's cracked in several places."  He was right!!!  It had not only cracked but an entire section had almost came off and you could see chocolate cake!   
You can see how much this cake settled just on the way down because the dowels are poking out of the top and they weren't before we left.  (It was doweled because it was originally supposed to be the center tier.)

That cake was cursed!  Cursed from the first step! 

I had brought a little bit of icing for repair work, but I didn't have enough to redo the entire outside.  I knew I would have to order more icing to fix it.  So I called Dick's Bakery and explained my situation to the cake decorator.  I then realized I didn't have my turn table and it would be IMPOSSIBLE to do the horizontal Ines without it and there was no time to go buy one either.  I decided to just order an entire cake and have her ice it.  I would have ordered a 6" but she only had 8" already baked. It was supposed to be a 12" 8" and 6".  It ended up being a 12" 10" and 8". The decorator asked me if I wanted her to do the lines as well.  She said I could send her a picture and she would attempt to get it to match the others.  I was so relieved!  SO RELIEVED!  Even though I knew the chances of hers matching mine perfectly were slim to none, but I was totally okay with it.  I would have been okay if we had got in a minor crash and they all went through the window.  I would have been okay with going to Costco and buying three of their chocolate cakes and stacking them.  At this point, that cake was my nemesis. 

After the marriage we ran to get it and I was so happy to see it looked pretty close.  Not exact, and mine was more perfectionistic than hers, but it would do!  That was very difficult putting someone elses work on my cake.  But it was the only thing I could do.  I knew I still had the flowers to help with any flaws. 
My sister in law and niece were so nice to help me with the flowers and it ended up looking rather nice.  We were only given two orchid plants for the flowers!  Yikes!  I was planning on a lot of little flowers to spread out on it.  We did pick from the bride's bouquet that she was going to throw (with her permission) thank goodness!  I can not tell you what a nightmare this cake was to me!  After I got it on display, many of my nieces and their friends asked me if I would do their wedding cakes. I told them that it was like having a baby or running a marathon.  Right after the answer is NO, but give me some time and I will become stupid again and probably say yes.

The finished product!  No one would have ANY idea what it took to get it to this point! 
 Putting it all together and doing the flowers.
This is truly how I felt!!!!
 A few different angles and lighting.

Before we added the baby's breath around the bottom

 The bride and groom cutting the cursed cake
 This one will go down in history as the cake that should have been a piece of cake but was just plain crummy!

I should have known this would happen after me and Karen's attempt to do the naked cake.

Okay....going back in time. Waaaaaaay back!  Proof that not all of my cakes are disasters. 
However THIS one was... ↓
 There was supposed to be two cakes just like the one by my elbow, but the other one didn't quite survive the transport.  As I pulled into the reception parking lot, one of cake's layers separated and slid off.  I had to scramble and somehow make it work without the matching one.  I sent Dave to the craft store and had him buy some stairs and I tried to make it look like it was supposed to only have the one.  It was my cousin Candi's cake.  Happy to say they are still married and so it wasn't an omen of things to come. Interestingly enough her mother's cake was in a car crash on the way to her wedding.

 But it turned out nicely.

A few more from over the years....
I've always let the couple choose whatever kind of cake and design they want.  I have enjoyed the variety over the years.  Some have really stretched me and others have just been fun.  Some are just plain ugly now! 

Bad lighting on this one but it had a lot of scroll work.

 Anniversary cake for Dave's parents 50th anniversary.  We were sending them to Hawaii for their anniversary.

My parents 50th anniversary cake
 This one I did for Dave's brother Kevin's wedding.  It had words of endearment written all over the sides.  I think it is my favorite cake I've made so far.  I even got offered a job at Joseph Smith Memorial after the owner saw it.  I turned it down saying that they couldn't pay me enough to do wedding cakes.  I have to REALLY love you to make you one.

There are many more, but that is all for now.  I am caked out and I don't want to see another one for a very long time!


Nancy Mc said...

I was so sure that I saw you begin to walk out of the SLC temple on 1-2-16 as we entered the temple for my nieces wedding.
I understand your struggle. I've had the same issues on 1 occasion. Only I was not wise enough to order a cake for the bride and groom. It was just a flop. That was in 2000.
Like you, I have made a few cakes.
I happen to like BC cake mix but prefer a heavier cake like homemade banana or even chocolate buttermilk, when I can convince the bride.
Love the details of this post. My heart was racing as I read it. So glad it all worked out. It was a beautiful cake.

Nancy Mc said...

Let me add...You have made SO many beautiful cakes!

Jodi Wilding said...

Oh it's so nice to know someone that can relate! No one "gets" the labor of love that goes in to one of these things! Since they only see the finished product I guess that is no wonder. When I first started to do cakes, BC was the best brand. I ONLY used it for the white cakes. But the decorator at Dick's told me that was my problem and that she never uses BC brand because it isn't dense enough and the cakes always fall on themselves. I should have just used a homemade one and saved myself HOURS and HOURS! Oh well, I know better for next time!
I would love your recipes for choc buttermilk and your banana one!

Jodi Wilding said...

Oh, I wish you would have yelled at me when you saw me at the temple!!

Audrey said...

You are so innovative! Great job on making it work out. I'm so impressed with all of your talents!

Dawn said... about a little stress! It turned out beautiful. I really like all your cakes and I think it's cool that you have all the pictures together. I took a cake decorating class once but only made the cakes I required to make. Not sure why....oh yes I'm pretty sure it's because it is so much work and I had at least 4 babies at the time. :D You're amazing!


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