It’s been two years since I made a cake, and never have I made one for a wedding. Wedding cakes are scary because that is a moment in time that can never be regained if it goes wrong. When my friends Glenn and Val asked me to make their wedding cake I was honored they trusted me with it, and at the same time terrified of letting them down.
A couple of months ago I started making the orchids. My Facebook friends are probably sick of looking at my instagram progress photos of these orchids.
It was challenging at first because once the various parts dry they can be rather fragile.
Wiring them together took a little finesse.
Once I finished the flowers and wired them into a spray I thought I was pretty much home free. This was the hardest part, right? I was a little worried that the heavy flowers would tear away from the fondant, but I already had a plan if that happened.
My friend Pam was generous enough to offer to do the actual baking, which helped me a lot. And boy oh boy, her cakes and fillings are delicious! I just had a bite of cake, OK 3 bites of cake, from the first in a long line of things that went wrong. As I said, it’s been over 2 years since I made a cake, so one of my layers was a dismal and yet delicious leaning tower of fail. My poor husband has offered to eat the evidence, because that’s the kind of guy he is. Always willing to take one for the team.
All day I torted, filled, stacked and buttercreamed cakes. After all 4 cakes chilled out in the fridge I started covering them in fondant. At the end of July in Nevada (where it’s drier than a sawdust sandwich) working with fondant is tricky because it dries and cracks really easily, especially on 95* days. Each cake I covered in fondant, I set aside on the counter because once you put fondant in the fridge it hardens into an impenetrable force field that just laughs at cake knives.
Did I mention it was 95*? And that I don’t have air conditioning? And since my internal thermostat has decided that 95* is perfectly comfortable, I didn’t notice how hot it was in the house. The buttercream under the fondant started to melt. My perfect (ok, almost perfect) layers now sported more ripples than a shar-pei as the fondant sagged and slid down the sides of the cakes.
*cue meltdown that included pronouncements of NEVER AGAIN and I’M GETTING RID OF ALL MY CAKE STUFF” and much hand wringing*
Crashing and burning in front of a hundred people is not on my Life List.
Pam and I devised Plan B. I would go get yards and yards of sheer organza and tie it around the cakes to cover the ripples, because I definitely couldn’t take it like it was, and I just as definitely couldn’t show up empty handed. It was a wedding – there must be cake! And it must! not! suck! It would still be pretty, but it wouldn’t be what I had envisioned for this cake.
About 4:30 the next morning I decided that was bullshit and cheating and fuck me sideways if I’ll be beat by a cake and cranky-ass fondant. I carefully peeled the wrinkled, bubbled and cracked fondant off of every one of those cakes. I buttercreamed each one again and chucked them in the fridge. I was at the store when it opened to get more fondant, and I re-covered those cakes and slapped them in the fridge again as fast as I could because hard fondant was infinitely better than melted cakes.
After that all I had to do was get it there. On another 95* day, about an hour’s drive from my house, up the side of a mountain. Luckily the Yukon has rear A/C vents and we blasted the A/C the whole way there. I was a frozen nervous wreck by the time we got to the venue, but finally my luck had turned and we made it with the cakes intact. All I had to do was set it up and then it was out of my hands.
Apparently the Universe decided I’d had enough because I didn’t break any orchids or stick my finger in the side of the cake. It went together pretty much like I wanted it to, and it even looked straight and level. I took my first deep breath and set it free out into the world.
Every time I make one of these people ask me why I don’t do this for a living. I’ve considered it, but I’m not convinced it’s what I want to do. I don’t enjoy baking, so it was so nice to have Pam involved. She loves baking and doesn’t like decorating, while for me the baking is a necessary evil to get a medium with which to create edible art. If I had a setup like that each time, a cake business would be a lot more appealing.
Cake makes people happy. People love to look at it and they love to eat it. It’s always fun and gratifying to make something that makes people happy. It’s especially satisfying to make one you’re not sure you can actually pull off, and have it turn out well even after a cake disaster that seemed unrecoverable.
I always swear “never again” during the making when things are going wrong, because something always goes wrong, and then when it’s done I’m already thinking about another one, bigger and more complicated than the last.
It seems I’m not finished with cake yet.