11.03.2012

A Wedding Cake Roller Coaster... the novel.

the wedding cake
Here's to hoping that someone out there subscribes to the wonderful saying better late than never. 

To catch you up to speed or jog your memory, I made a wedding cake for 150 people this summer.  With few baking skills to claim and an ambitious attitude, I took on this project and it turned out to be quite the undertaking.  Without further ado, here is the wedding cake story...


There has never been a situation in my life that I could so easily equate every step to a roller coaster. There were days I was loving life and felt like the wind was in my hair gliding along and there were days where I hit the peak of the largest drop and could feel my stomach move right into my chest. Luckily, it was one of the those roller coasters  that was so worth every high and low in the end.  And now I will do my best to recount each step of the wedding cake roller coaster.

We can sum up the beginning of this journey with a few short facts.
Fact #1 A coworker asked me to do a wedding cake for a friend of hers.
Why would she ask someone who has never baked a wedding cake?! 
Ah, I knew that was what you were thinking.  There was not a huge budget for the cake and they wanted something simple.  "Simple" was still going to cost them a pretty hefty amount according to the bakeries they had checked.  As long as we  were on the same page (the page being... I've never done this before but am always up for a challenge), I just couldn't seem to talk myself out of it.   I had a moment of weakness and I decided to commit because my non baking self has always had a desire to learn how to ice cakes that look pretty.  A basic tiered cake for 150... no biggie, right?

Fact #2 When I would merrily announce to friends and family that I was baking a wedding cake, most conversations boiled down to the question... "are you insane?"

Fact #3 I was pretty busy at work so I decided to wait and give myself 5 weeks to really figure this out.

Fact #4  In the beginning, there were You tube videos and lots of googling.  Best tasting wedding cakes... how to ice a cake... how to stack a cake... how to decorate a cake... the list was a little bit all over the place, but there seemed to be a plethora of information on the subject. Truly, I owe the beginning stages of my fears calming to Sandy.  She's my hero.

Fact #5 Then came Wilton icing classes at Michaels for 4 Mondays in a row with my friend Katie.  We loaded up on supplies and tried to gather a few skills (more on these classes to come).  And what do you know, we earned ourselves one of these.  Just about the classiest degree I've ever received.
wilton certificate
Thanks to a handy guide I found on Pinterest, I had decided to go with one 18-inch sheet cake, one 18-inch round, one 14-inch round, one 10-inch round and one 6-inch round. My little guide promised me that this would feed 150 people and leave the top cake for the bride and groom to take home. I baked and froze each layer starting the Sunday before.  (Oh let's back track... I forgot to tell you the very important step of us eating everything out of our freezer to make room for all this cake).

All of these facts (and lots of practice cakes) lead up to the final week and it was time to get my bake on.  Don't get me wrong, there were ups and downs getting all of the elements right and so many countless hours making practice cakes, but the end of this story was such a ride in itself we will head to the final week.
stocked pantry
I had one pretty rough night.  I really shouldn't be complaining because to be this in over my head, I should be counting my blessings that there had not been more disasters up until this point.  All of my cakes had baked up perfectly to this point and I thought this large sheet cake would be no different.  It was late.  I wanted to be finished for the night so I probably was a bit hasty when I turned it over.  Only to discover I got about half out of the pan.  I was perturbed but knew I would not be doing anything about it at midnight.  I was exhausted and I thought I would get just a few dishes clean and head to bed.  In my tired, weary state I was hastily cleaning, which led me to accidentally knock my oh so important hand mixer into a bowl of water.  I think I was working with half a brain at that hour when I reached in to get it out.  I definitely did not check to see if it was unplugged and as I plunged into get it, I somehow turned it on.  A quick shock went all the way up my arm. Seconds later, my left arm was completely numb.  I started panicking and ran into where Mr. Hungry was hanging out.  As I was flailing around proclaiming, "I've been shocked! I can't feel my left arm! Is this going to get worse?! Am I going to ever be able to feel my arm again?!"  In the same calm manner, that Mr. Hungry does most things, he simply turned away from me and started typing away at his computer.  "Did you not hear me?  I've been shocked and my left arm is lifeless!" I continually remind him with all the drama that I usually approach emergencies like this.  He simply replies, "I'm googling."  Well, that was at least more sane than my approach.  All signs from his heavily scientific googling pointed to the fact that I would be okay.  And lo and behold, I woke up the next morning with all feeling and movement in tact.  I did however, have to say goodbye to the mixer that I sufficiently drowned.
cake tragedies
There happened to be a small blessing from a past tragedy that would help me make it through this night.  Remember the incident last April where my fingers actually got wrapped around an old timey, hand mixer?  Well, a very kind party guest gifted my parents a brand new hand mixer with instructions to not let my touch it.  I went over to my parent's house first thing the next morning, to find that beautiful brand new mixer just waiting for a job like this.

Besides the minor electrocution and one ruined cake, I had discovered only one major problem left to tackle.  I waited till there was one week left  to get my larger pans and suddenly I realized my 18-inch round would not quite fit in my oven or freezer.  I was too far down the road to change the whole cake dimensions so I knew I must come up with a different plan.  As I was lamenting to my coworkers, one life saver, Jan, spoke up and said she had keys to the commercial kitchen at her church.  Ah... all is not lost.  We devised a plan to bake the 18-incher the Friday before (it would not fit in the freezer so it was going to have to wait till the last minute).  And I felt totally back on track... what a relief.


Things seemed to be so great.  It was Friday before the big day and I was feeling the highest of highs.  I had been crumb coating all day in my pajamas drinking coffee while it poured down rain outside and I was simply in heaven.
base icing
And finally, most everything was base iced and we were right on schedule.
frosted fridge
I decided to pull myself together around 3 pm to go bake the final and largest cake... the 18 incher.  I made six batters and divided into my cake pan and the other half into a huge aluminum pan.  I carefully ushered them into my car. I was not going far... who would need to cover this stuff?  It will be just fine.  As I took off, one batter was resting in the back seat while the other one balanced on the front seat.  I took off on top of the world.  I was simply having a great little time with this project and I felt like I was perfectly on track.  About a mile away from my house, I was cruising down the street and I happen to see a car to my left making a hardly-to-be-considered-a-stop at a stop sign, look left, (I was coming from the right) and jet out into the intersection.  This chick gunned through the first lane since there was a car coming, but since she had never bothered to look my way, she thought she could cruise through my lane.

BAM.

Just like that, I t-bone her.

After my initial extreme fear that I had somehow missed a stop sign, I realize that this is not the case and it seemed like I started to take in all that was going on in about 5 seconds.

Wow, I just nailed a car... wow, (breathe in breathe out) I'm okay. Oh no, oh no. I am currently transporting cake batter.  Oh no, oh no.... It's everywhere! What to do first?  I guess I should pull over and talk to this knuckle head.  Uh oh, cake batter is spreading.  Forget the girl, start scooping cake batter onto the ground as quickly as possible.

I'm pretty sure all of this took place in the matter of 5 seconds, but as I jumped out of my car I announced, "You are going to have to hold on a second, I have much bigger problems."  All I can think about is saving enough cake batter to continue on my journey.  Ten seconds later, I'm dripping in chocolate batter and not sure what to do next. chocolate covered hand  
Can't turn off my car, can't get my purse, there is cake batter dripping down my elbows.  This gal starts asking me if I have insurance and acting real perturbed about the whole situation.  I quickly realize she thinks this is my fault. As I head to a puddle to wash off one hand, she starts telling me how she can't believe this happened to her brand new 2013 Mustang.   Really?  Really?  You have problems?! As I stand there dripping in chocolate trying to gather my thoughts, we decide I should go wash up in the Taco Bell across the street before we deal with this mess.

With my semi clean hand from the puddle of water, I grab my camera and snap a blurry picture of my chocolate coated self.  After a quick scrub in Taco Bell's restroom, I head back out to deal with the situation.

Long story short... I have to break it to this girl that this is actually her fault.  The police will not come because there were no injuries so we have to head to a police station.  Somewhere between the scene of the crime and the station, she chats with her insurance company and realizes this was her fault and finally apologizes.

So let's just call that our 4 hour detour on the wedding cake weekend.  After this short/ disastrous delay, I surmise I still have enough batter in the pans to make this work.  I head to the commercial kitchen and have a few hours by myself to take in all that has happened.  Just. Keep. Going.... is all I can think.
giant cake
I returned home around 10 pm and my agitated attitude was probably quite clear to Mr. Hungry and his friend.  They were insisting that we go to dinner.  I knew I wasn't going anywhere until I filled the middle of the cake and stacked the two layers of this monster cake on top of each other in order to fit in the fridge.  I guess I was a little bit at the end of my rope as I decided to slam one 18 inch cake onto the other.  I missed the edge of the pan by an inch to which the two grown men gasped in horror, but all I cared about was getting that sucker in the fridge.  "Oh don't be so worried, that chunk will just get a lot of extra icing."  Off to dinner we went.

I woke up the next morning feeling a bit flustered and behind, but determined.  The first three hours were catch up from the night before and filling in my missing inch of cake on my bottom layer with quite a bit of icing.  By noon, I had pulled myself together, base iced all the cakes, and was ready to add the garland decor.  Ah.... back into my happy place.

I added my garland garnish to each layer and while I was feeling really great, I felt as if the real challenge was just around the corner... putting this beast together.

The time had come... Mr. Hungry helped me semi-secure each layer in the car.  The only thing that seemed to comfort me was riding in the backseat with these precious layers.  We were only going .5 miles thankfully but I felt they needed me to be watching them the whole way.

And all that's left to can be said in pictures...

IMG_3408
Little by little... this labor of love came together... right before our eyes. building the cake copy
And after a good bit of dot work, we were complete.
adding the dots
And that my friends is the journey of my first wedding cake.  Will there be more?  It's still hard to say at this point.  I'm not sure I see to many more 18-inchers in my future, but we will see.

The end.

3 comments:

  1. ...and that's why it is called The Little Kitchen That Could. Great story, beautiful ending. May you continue to bake happily ever after.

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  2. Nice post Ashlea...beautiful cake...love it!
    Thanks for sharing this post and hope you are having a great week :)

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  3. your story-telling cracks me up - I love it!

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