Thursday, August 26, 2010

DIY----the secret ingredient is better be, cause otherwise, this thing is a mess!

My first test of a Swedish princess cake for Sara's sister's wedding.
 NPR ran a feature on DIY wedding cakes yesterday and it made me think about our experience with wedding cakes, past and future.

Carey's mom and sister have been delving into the world of cake making and we asked his mom if she would take on the challenge of creating cupcakes for our big day. She graciously excepted and has been trying out recipes during her summer vacation from teaching (and has come up with some great ones!). She is doing a great job, taking on the task head on, including designing DIY cake plates and cupcake wrappers for display.

Not having to buy a cake is of course, a great relief, not only by avoiding much of the $543 average cost of a wedding cake, not including cutting fees, but because I know that the cupcakes will taste every bit as good as they look. I am not a fondant lover...pretty, sure, but, usually, blech!!! I also know a little bit about the stresses of creating a wedding cake, and that makes me all the more grateful to Carey's mom (way to go, future M-I-L)!

About a year ago, I took on wedding cake making for my best friend's sister. It was an intimate wedding with only about 25 guests, but the groom was a vegan, and the bride wanted a Swedish princess cake. I like baking and suggested to Sara that I might make the cakes. Talk about taking on a challenge! I had no idea what I was in for! For about 6 months, I played around with recipes and eventually got four tasty desserts together. To my surprise, a decidedly non-vegan friend of mine introduced me to wacky cake and a recipe that his mom had been making since he was a kid which wound up as one of the vegan options. The princess cake made with genoise (french sponge) cake layers, fresh whipped cream, and marzipan was decidedly more difficult. I eventually wound up using a cheater for the genoise because mine kept collapsing into dense frisbees. I tried store-bought marzipan, but the stuff I made myself tasted way better, albeit less smooth and prone to melting. Avoiding having the princess cake melt into a mass of goo was the most difficult thing to overcome.

On the big day, when I thought I had it down, one faulty cake holder made me squish one side of one of the princess cakes. I repaired it the best I could. The 45-minute drive to the wedding site had also taken its toll, and both of the cakes were decidedly droopy.  It made me really glad that I had decided to buy a bunch of fruit to garnish the dessert hid a lot of the imperfections. Lumpy or not, they really did taste good. The vegan desserts wound up being hits---even the non-vegans were gobbling up the veg fruit tarts and wacky cake. Plus, I discovered the best chocolate cake recipe ever...and made it even more tasty with white chocolate ganache (seriously, it's my favorite kind of cake now)!

I don't anticipate the cupcakes for our wedding being nearly so difficult as the princess cakes, but I (and Carey, who had to deal with my triumphs and failures during the experience) can appreciate how much of a task we are handing over. I have no doubt that the cakes will be lovely, but I am also sure that even if something turns out a bit wonky, everyone will appreciate the yummy factor (#1 priority) and how much love, sweat, and tears go into the mix. And, as a DIY kind of gal, I don't think I could have our cake, and eat it too, any other way.

the full spread

lumpy, bumpy princess cake

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