Last Saturday, two of our best friends got married. (Hooray!) R and I, the bride and groom and our friends CJ & C spent the weekend in a beautiful, grand cabin on Lake Whatcom. The ceremony was to be held at the cabin on Saturday afternoon, the six of us and a small group of family members in attendance. The theme of the wedding, and the weekend, was low-stress, fun, simplicity. That said, there were to be two wedding cakes. And, they were to be made on the day of the ceremony.
For some reason, the reality of that undertaking didn’t set in until about four hours into the six-hour cake-making process. Perhaps my late wake-up call was because I was not the primary baker– that role was clearly for CJ. The six of us are a tight-knit group; we get together fairly often, and 96% of our gatherings involve food. Okay, 98%. We all have specialties, and there is no question that CJ’s niche is baking, especially cake. Give her some cake flour and some good quality chocolate and you will weep with happiness at the resulting dessert. I still dream of the root beer bundt cake from two Christmases ago. Yum. When we first learned that M and S would be married, there was no doubt that CJ would bake the cake.
As the weekend got closer, I realized that “cake” was in fact “cakes”, and that would mean a long day in the kitchen for her. I elected myself Assistant Baker about a week before the wedding, pledging to help CJ with whatever she needed to get the cakes together. Besides, I like to bake and don’t often get the chance to play in the kitchen with my friends, so I was really looking forward to being part of the process. I would be the pan butterer, the egg seperator, the sifter of flours.
We started Saturday morning around 9:30, just after the kitchen was clear of breakfast makers and makings. CJ was prepared! She had the recipes chosen, bowls and pans and utensils packed and ingredients procured. I had an apron and a good attitude. We were ready to bake!
She had chosen two recipes from the first Baked cookbook. (A quick aside: if you do any baking, you must own this book, and the follow-up. The recipes are foolproof, and to die for. CJ, M and I each have both books and have never made anything less than divine from the recipes in either one. As cookbooks go, these receive my highest rating and recommendation.) The first was the Milk Chocolate Malt Ball Cake and the second was The Whiteout Cake. We had all had the Milk Chocolate Malt Ball cake and knew that it was a great recipe; the bride wisely requested something non-chocolate for the second cake, and though the Whiteout Cake has white chocolate in the frosting, it was the perfect, perfect choice. Each had three layers of cake and a single kind of icing for between the layers as well as the outside coating. As we got farther along in the day, I was so happy that CJ had been smart enough to choose recipes without too many bells and whistles– we would have been baking until Monday.
I hadn’t considered the challenge of heavy-duty baking in an unfamiliar kitchen. We had to figure out the stove and cross fingers that it would heat and bake true to temperature. (Thankfully, it did.) As I mentioned, CJ wisely brought bowls, utensils, pans and a spiffy new mixer with her, but we had to make do with a tiny cutting board and strange knives. The new mixer was powerful and easy to clean, so it was well-suited for moving from random bowl to random bowl. And as unfamiliar kitchens go, it was spacious and clean, with outlets everywhere you looked and lighting for days. This was not a rustic operation.
So, the only thing to really worry about was making mistakes. If anything burned, if the icing was not heated or cooled properly at any point– we would have been in trouble. There really was no room for error! We had no clue where the nearest grocery store was and it probably wasn’t very near. We had almost no time to redo any missed or botched step. We had to be mindful of the recipes at all times and just go. Thinking back, there was an angel on someone’s shoulder that day, whether it was the wedding gods or the ghost of Julia Child or something else, because nothing went wrong. Nothing. The cakes baked up like a dream, the icing thickened and cooled as it was supposed to, the decorating was relatively easy. We had just enough downtime to keep things calm, but very little standing-around time.
One task that took us longer than anything else was figuring out how to incorporate live flowers as part of the decoration. We didn’t want them directly on the cake, so I started crafting a topper from a leftover round of cardboard, which I covered with frosting to blend into the cake. But… it didn’t really blend. It probably would have been fine, but I am happy to say we scrapped it in exchange for a round of parchment, also covered with frosting, onto which we placed the flowers. The cakes were not “perfect”, but they were beautiful and we were both really proud of our first-ever wedding cakes! From start to finish, the process took about six hours; we finished just about an hour before the ceremony. It was great to receive excited, positive feedback from the bride, groom and their families. We started joking about opening a cake business, backed by M’s father, who is quite a cook himself.
The ceremony was beautiful: the bride was happy and relaxed, the groom looked confident and excited. The weather was lovely, the setting was idyllic. After pictures and congratulations and some food, it was time for the cake, and I won’t lie: my breath was held as they cut into the Malt Ball cake. It was exactly, exactly right! We had done it! As we cut the Whiteout cake to serve, it was clear that it was also just right. The bride and groom were pleased with the results, the guests oohed and mmm-ed and came back for seconds. Really, there’s no better feedback than that.
For the rest of time, I will give the credit mostly to CJ for pulling off the Great Wedding Cake Operation, but I am proud that I helped and had a role in an important part of an important day. Congratulations to M and S!