Back in January, a bride and groom-to-be contacted me about making their wedding cake in June. I prepared them a sample cake, seen in the post “It’s Wedding Season”, and fully expected them to go with another baker…not that my cake wasn’t good. If there is one thing I am very confident about, it’s that I make a mighty tasty cake. I just assumed they would find someone who had been making cakes for some time and go in that direction. A couple of weeks passed and there was a message in my inbox. “Dear Josh, We would like to book you for our June 19th wedding.” Booked? I was booked? I didn’t even have a book to be booked in. I had to buy a book so I could check my schedule. I guess when your book is new, your schedule is pretty open. So for 5 months I looked forward to making this cake.
It was to be a “simple” cake with four square tiers measuring twelve inches, ten inches, eight inches and six inches. The bottom three tiers would be four layers each. The bottom tier was to be layered with a whipped mocha filling and chocolate ganache. The middle two tiers would be layered with custard and a raspberry filling. The top tier is to be saved for the one year anniversary of the bride and groom, so only two layers of cake filled with icing. The exterior was to be iced and decorated with flowers from the florist and an imprint of the bride and groom’s name on the second tier. Easy enough.
Time kept passing until May rolled around and I thought to myself, “Wow, the cake is due next month.” Then June hit and my nerves kicked in…not to mention my whole immediate family was coming in from out of town the week of the wedding (you know, the week I am supposed to help my wife clean and straighten). Oh, and for the first time in eight months I started a job, the week before the wedding. So, to recap, while I thought this would be a relaxing, fun, learning experience, I decided to turn up the stress level fifteen notches. Thank you Lord for a patient wife.
Baking the cake was easy. I purchased some new pans for the square tiers and had a full oven three times. I made four batches of icing, which is about fourteen pounds of powdered sugar. The fillings were easy, however, it is frustrating when each one of your fillings calls for a two-quart saucepan and you only have one, and each one needs to set in the fridge. The layering I thought was going to give me problems, but it didn’t. I had enough filling for each of the cakes. You see this is important, because I have been stacking a cake and halfway through I have ran out of filling, and that is not a happy feeling. On this occasion, however, I was prepared.
Now it was time to stack the tiers. I had two thoughts on this. The first was to stack the tiers when I got to the church; the second was to stack the tiers at home, then transport the cake. Now here is where the stress started to really kick in. You see, when I transport a sheet cake ten minutes across town (you know, a cake that is completely flat and there is no possible way for it to fall over) I stress out that a student driver, in his specially marked car, is going to forget that a stop sign is not a suggestion and pull out in front of me, resulting in the cake flying past my head and leaving a nice patch of icing in my line of sight. Throw in a 45 minute trek and a four tier cake in the back, and one would think this is a no brainer, stack it at the church. Not so fast! I also stress out when I am working on my cake and people are looking at me, not bothering me, not tugging on my shorts saying “Dada,” just looking at me. I started to picture the wedding party gathering around me, pointing and laughing, and the cake not holding, the icing not spreading, etc. It was too much stress to handle stacking my largest tiered cake in front of an audience. So after a nap from stressing myself out, I decided to stack the cake at home and transport it fully stacked. I loaded the cake into my SUV, after weighing it, of course. This thing was heavy–40 pounds to be exact. That is two times the weight of my daughter. Ha, I just pictured her getting into the cake, eating half of it and becoming super ninja, hopped up on sugar, running around, laughing, while I am trying to catch her engulfed in tears. I’m not kidding, if anything happened to that cake, I was going to cry.
So I started heading out to the wedding, slowly, surely, taking turns at five mph. Yeah, I’m that guy at the light that only let two people through the red, because I wouldn’t step on the gas while making the turn. I got fifteen minutes away and realized, I forgot my camera. This was the biggest cake of my career so far and no camera. I told the wedding coordinator I would be there at four. I was in a wedding, I know how important schedule is, so I left the camera behind. I got to the church a little after four and met with Jen the florist/wedding coordinator and we came up with a plan for the flowers on the cake. She mentioned that around 6:30 we would start decorating it with the flowers. YES! I had time to go get my camera. So I raced home, had some dinner and got dressed for the wedding. I headed out the door and fifteen minutes down the road I realized I again forgot the camera. Did I mention I was stressed? No time to go back.
We decorated the cake and it turned out great. I even had a few minutes to spare before transporting it from the kitchen to the reception area. Did I mention the reception area was outside about 150 yards away? I know I mentioned the cake was heavy, and I already destroyed my box to put the finishing touches around the bottom of the cake. So I took a deep breath, placed the cake on a cutting board that would support it, and started praying. I had my own personal escort in Mary Beth. She walked in front and navigated a path for me. I kept hearing her, “Look out for the root…we have a step up here…you’re doing well.” Meanwhile all I can think of is this cake landing on the ground, and, if it did, how fast could I get out of there. We made it! As soon as I set the cake down, the sun peaked out from a cloud, birds landed on my shoulders and somewhere someone was singing Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. All was right with the world.
The reception was beautiful. I was set in a semi-wooded area, not a forest, but shade trees and lanterns strung from tree to tree, you know those receptions you see in movies, where the bridesmaid just realizes she is in love and needs to run to the airport and catch her beau before he leaves for Paris? It was that kind of reception. The last step of the night was cutting the cake for the guests. I started cutting it by myself and noticed the line getting longer and longer. Oh no, here comes the stress again. And then an angel named Nicole appeared and asked if she could help me. I must have looked like I needed help, because I did. We knocked out that dessert line
in no time. I am still grateful for that gesture.
At the end of the day, I had several compliments on the cake, a good friend of mine from high school let me use her camera (thanks Megan!) and the cake did not fall apart. If there is one thing I learned, it’s this…I can’t wait to do it again.
Thanks to the newlyweds, David and Andrea, for the opportunity and may God bless your marriage.
So I know I haven’t been on here in a while, but I have some good reasons you see…this is the part where I make excuses for not blogging and your mind starts to wander a little and you lose interest, so I am going to fast forward to the end…and finally we are back
in our house in Greenville. I have had the opportunity to make a couple cakes for non-family members and these cakes stressed me out! Don’t get me wrong I loved every minute of it, but the anticipation of someone I have never met eating my cake was enough to give me some gray hair. Yes, I know I already have a lot of gray, but that’s not the point.
So let’s get down to it and check out these cakes I made. The first one was for a 40th birthday party, my first “stranger” cake. The cake was supposed to look like a gift wrapped in a bow. I thought I would use modeling chocolate for the tops of the gift boxes and the ribbon. The order called for a gift tag also, so I made one out of sugar paste, dusted off my calligraphy skills and used black food coloring for ink. (I must say, I am not too bad at the calligraphy). Anyway, here is my 40th birthday cake.
The next was for a first birthday, and the theme of this one was golf. I felt I needed to get some inspiration for this cake by playing 18 holes, but my wife game me enough inspiration by having me run to the store, so I had to go off memory. I took a plaid design for the bottom tier and topped that tier with green fondant. I decided to create a 9 hole, non-playable, course on top of the bottom tier. I used golf balls to elevate the middle tier to sit over the course. On the middle tier I used green fondant and green icing to simulate grass, then made the tees, clubs and balls out of modeling chocolate. For the very top of the cake I made the replica golf ball out of cake and fondant and the club and flag out of modeling chocolate. Again, dusting off the calligraphy, I wrote the happy birthday greeting.
Next, I made a cake for some dear friends who are leaving for Korea. He is in the military, so
I decided to make camouflage fondant to cover the top tier. I wanted to do something signifying them going to Korea, so I made a Korean flag and an American flag out of fondant. In the middle I wrote out goodbye, literally translated “to see you again,” in Korean. I placed what I call a tent and a Korean palace on the top. I get the fact he isn’t going to live in a tent, I just had a lot of green modeling chocolate to use.
I also had the pleasure of making a cake for my nephew’s fifth birthday. I called him and asked him what kind of cake he wanted, and here is what he said. “I want a chocolate cake, with dinosaurs.” “Ok,” I replied. “Then I want a volcano.” “Ok.”
“And trees.” “Ok.” “And dinosaur eggs.” “Dinosaur eggs, got it.” “And I want water where the dinosaurs can drink.” “Ok.” “And I want dinosaur bones where they died.” “Dead dinos, got it.” “And I want people and a sky and clouds.” “I’m not sure the sky and clouds will fit,” I told him. “Do what you can.” he replied.
So here are some more cakes, hope to get a few hits from this posting.
This past week my daughter, Marcella, whom Cella’s Sweets is named after, turned a year old. I asked Marcella what kind of party she wanted and she just looked at me and said “Dada” so my wife and I decided to go with a Candy Land theme. I use the word “theme”
loosely. It was more like an obsession. For the past two months Candy Land was all I could think about. Did you know there was a troll named “Plumpy” in the original game but he has been kicked off of more recent versions? Also, there is Mr. Mint, Princess Lolli, Queen Frostine and Gloppy, just to name a few more. You see, I know way too much about this game. But, that being said, it does make the basis for one great party. Weeks of painting, carving, planning, cutting and pasting led to a real life Candy Land, complete with eight lands, a rainbow trail, 300 balloons and over 78 pounds of candy, not to mention a fabulous cake made by yours truly.
So without delay let’s enter Candy Land. The first thing you see is a sign from King Kandy asking the boys and girls to help him find his castle.
Quaint, isn’t it? Next we see Plumpy and the Gingerbread Plum Tree. Plumpy was kind enough to share his gingersnaps with the children. With three foot suckers lining the path we then come upon the Peppermint Forest. Once inside we see the Licorice Castle and the Ice Cream Sea. Through the Rainbow Trail we stumble upon the Lollipop Woods.
Our path takes us back outside to see Gramma Nut’s House and the Molasses Swamp, complete with “fishing” and “digging for worms.” I took crushed Oreos and threw a buch of gummy worms in a planter so the kids could dig up fishing worms. Back inside we pass through the Gumdrop Mountains and finally find our Candy Castle.
The cake was the centerpiece of our “Candy Castle.”
I took a vanilla sheet cake and iced it with vanilla buttercream icing. I used my new favorite toys, the Wilton Color Misters, to spray the different colors on the sheet. Once the background colors were in place, I cut out the squares from fondant to simulate the squares on the game board. The gingerbread tree was made out of modeling chocolate. The peanut brittle house was made out of…well…peanut brittle…what else would a peanut brittle house be made of? That being said, I’m sure you can guess what the Licorice Castle was made out of. I cheated on the Peppermint Forest and the Lollipop Woods, although I did unwrap the suckers and the peppermints before I placed them on the cake. For the Molasses Swamp, I spread out my fudge icing and then piped Gloppy into place.
The fudgcicles were made from toothpicks and modeling chocolate and the leaves from fondant. The Ice Cream Sea was fun. I took a cookie dough scoop and scooped out vanilla, chocolate and green icing to look like ice cream, and it did. I happened upon my gingerbread cookie cutters and decided to add the game pieces made of fondant. Finally, the castle was a separate cake. I made it two layers and iced it with my buttercream icing. I used the yellow color mister and sprayed it golden. I attached four large ice cream cones filled with chocolate cake and added the scoops, from a real ice cream scoop, on top of the cones. After adding a couple of other colored cones for decoration, I used some sprinkles to top the ice cream. This was my favorite cake to make. All that candy and sugar made me feel like a little boy, and I “occasionally” acted like one.
The real star of the party was, of course, Marcella. She was a wonderful hostess, smiling and greeting everyone as they made their way through her kingdom. My wife made Marcella’s cake, and boy did she like it. It was a chocolate cake with a vanilla whipped icing and sprinkles for good measure. Here she is enjoying her big day.
All in all, it was a great day, and we had lots of fun planning and being a part of her special day.
Ah yes, the sun is shining. The birds are hiding. There is frost on the car windows. Yes, it’s wedding season…I mean wedding planning season. Sure, you get those brides who insist that a winter wonderland is the perfect backdrop or the grooms who forget that an autumn anniversary could fall on rivalry weekend, but the majority of weddings take place between May and August. This is a fact I made up, then decided to research…and, oh yeah, it’s a fact. As sure as Ares took out Adonis in a jealous rage, it’s true. That being said, I had an opportunity to hold my first tasting with a couple tying the knot this summer.
They wanted to try a couple of different flavors, so a couple of different flavors are what they got. Six to be exact: raspberry, raspberry with custard, raspberry ganache, mocha, mocha with ganache and raspberry with ganache. At first, I wasn’t sure how I was going to present this. I was thinking mini cakes, each having a different filling, but let’s be honest, I don’t do “mini.” I ended up making a 6″ round 4 layers high and a 9″ round four layers high. I decided to tier it just like a wedding cake…and that’s when my creative juices started flowing.
Since I have not made a wedding cake before, I decided to decorate this one a little. I took some ribbon and wrapped it around the bottom of each tier. Then I took colored sugar pearls and made a triangular pattern all around each of the tiers. To add just a little bling, I took a strand of oblong pearls and draped it around the tops of each ribbon. I headed out to find some flowers to finish it off with, but I ran into a snag…I LIVE IN GAFFNEY! If Bi-Lo and Wal-Mart are your best sources, just forget the flowers! I did find a “florist” but she didn’t have any flowers (and that’s the reason for the quotes around florist). So I came home, popped the tops off some fake flowers and presto, I had my cake toppers.
So then it was time to meet with the couple, and for some reason I got nervous. At the time I wasn’t sure why, but I think I narrowed it down to three reasons. Number one. This is my first time putting my culinary skills on display for a bride-to-be. I mean brides can be daunting. What if this is the centerpiece of her wedding? I mean this one meeting could ruin the whole day. Ok, it wouldn’t, but the thought crossed my mind. Second, outside of church and my wife, I don’t have many conversations with adults. My deepest conversation this week was my daughter saying “Dada” and I replied “Yes?”…we did this for five minutes straight, and we are now closer as a result.
Finally I had to transport the cake. Every time I put a dessert into the car, whether it is a pie, a cheesecake or anything else, I have flashes of some idiot pulling out in front of me and my dessert flying out the window and hitting the other driver in the face, Stooges style.
Well, I found the apartment just fine and the meeting went well. I have some things to work with as far as what to ask and what to expect, but overall it was a pleasant experience. A big thank you goes out to the bride and groom-to be…and oh yeah, here is the cake.
I am always looking for an excuse to make a cake. Especially a cake that is not your typical 9″ round or sheet cake. I’m talking 3D cakes (no glasses needed). I had such an excuse when THE Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines got together for the fiercest rivalry in college football. OK, I know what you are thinking, “How can a nut and a rabid woodland creature be rivals?” Trust me, it’s a long story including Toledo and I don’t want to bore you with the details. Anyhow, some friends and I get together to watch the game and eat way too much food while we do it. I thought I would try something different this year and the idea for the Helmet Cake was born.
A week prior to the game I sat down and mapped out just what I wanted to do for the cake. My overall plan was tinted sponge cake with buttercream frosting and vanilla almond fondant for the helmets and using modeling chocolate for the face masks. One side of the field would be sponge cake with cannoli filling and vanilla cream frosting and the other would be chocolate sponge cake with mocha filling and fudge icing. You have to understand, even before I decided to pursue baking full time, I always wanted to show off with what I made…this is the pinnacle of me showing off.
So I started baking the cakes. For each helmet, I used two 6″ rounds and half of a “ball” pan. This pan gives the cake the rounded
top. I baked two 11″x14″ sheets for the field, one yellow sponge and the other chocolate sponge. After letting the cake cool to room temperature, I put all of the cake in the freezer to firm up a bit…this makes it easier to carve later. I then mixed up all of the icings and fillings, which meant a lot of washing the mixer and the beaters. The result of all the cakes, icings and fillings are pictured here. And yes, that is coffee, the lifeblood of making a cake such as this one.
To end a long day of prep work, I made the fondant…yes, I MADE THE FONDANT! It tastes good, no grrrreeeaaattt!, not like the fondant you may buy at the store. The kind I make has to cure for 8 hours, so I put it in a container, sealed it tight, and moved onto the modeling chocolate. This, too, needs to sit for a while, so I let it sit overnight.
This is where all the fun is; putting the cake together. As you can see in the picture, I started with the helmets. I took one 6″ round
and cut it at a slight angle. I used the angled piece as the base to give the helmet a slight tilt. I then layered the second 6″ round and domed piece to complete the stack. Once stacked, I carved out a little of the front to give the helmet a bit of depth (pictured left). I then “dirty iced” the helmet to keep it together and for the fondant to stick to the cake (pictured right).
Dirty icing is where you put a thin layer of icing to collect crumbs in a buttercream iced caked or just the layer used to have the fondant stick to the cake. After carving the cake and getting the general shape down, I rolled out the fondant and draped it over, smoothing it as I went. Having already cut the modeling chocolate into strips suitable for the face mask, I formed the strips and placed them onto my cake.
Giving the finishing touches to this cake was fun. I used a strip of white fondant, a strip of red fondant and a black food coloring marker to make the stripe and Buckeye leaves.
I used the same steps, albeit, different color ingredients for the Michigan helmet. I have to admit, it was difficult putting time and effort into making a Michigan helmet look good. (See “10 Years War” for any questions.) The Michigan helmet was a little more difficult to decorate. Their helmet has wings…uhhh…yeah…wings!
The helmets were complete and it was time to call it a day.
This is where the “fun” kicked in, and by fun I mean I wanted to punch a clown. I layered the cakes as I planned, the cannoli filling in the yellow sponge cake and the mocha filling in the chocolate, but when I placed them together, the cake was huge. Way bigger than I anticipated (22″x14″ for those keeping track.) So I decided to cut them in half, and place them together then cover the two halves with green fondant. Yeah…here is a fun fact. When you use two different types of cake and you don’t measure them exactly and you use two different types of filling…they will not line up. So after some “creative” icing, I started to cover the two sides of cake in green fondant…which I didn’t have enough of. So, after much deliberation (about 15 seconds) I decided to purchase the remaining fondant, since I didn’t have 8 hours worth of patience in me for the new fondant to set. I took the green fondant I had, placed it over the center of the cake. I had some grey fondant remaining from my football helmet and used it for one of the end zones and made a yellow end zone and yard markers out of the purchased, paste tasting fondant. The end result is the cake pictured below. Let me know what you think, or any other ideas for 3D cakes.
Hello and thank you for your interest in my goodies. For those of you who are new, you will find this blog a little nutty and hopefully entertaining. For those of you who aren’t, I’m sorry. You will have to put up with the same mindless drivel you have come to expect from my posts.
Last night we had over 50 people show up, resulting in the complete annihilation of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake, the utter destruction of the Carrot Cake, the near fatal wounding of the Chocolate Chip Cheesecake, and the Red Velvet Cake…well, it probably left with a severe headache or something (this recipe needs some work, but I will fix it soon). We received over 35 surveys, as well as two orders for cakes, two leads on business loans, some marketing advice on how to improve my survey, and a possible business opportunity. Thank God for blessing the evening.Statistics aside, here is the part where I tell you about the desserts, all of which are pictured on the blog.