Last year, I had the tremendous honor of making the wedding cake for one of my favorite couples, Heather and Mike. That's right, our husband's have the same first name - we must be on to something! I offered my baking services as a wedding gift and was blown away when they accepted. There are tons of talented bakeries out there and I am so touched that they would trust me with such an awesome responsibility. It was time to roll up the sleeves and get serious.
The biggest obstacle was distance. Heather and Mike live in the Midwest and I am in Northern Virginia. How the heck does one pick their cake from their baker when they're thousands of miles apart? Fortunately, the beautiful couple knew that they wanted a chocolate cake with raspberries so that question was already answered - it was a matter of picking the right combination of recipes.
We only had one shot for a formal cake tasting when they visited VA shortly before the wedding. To expedite the process, I had pulled together an expert team of taste testers to form, "the Cake Committee." Based on the Committee's feedback, I had a strong recipe in mind but still wanted the bride and groom's full participation. As a blind taste test, I included two entirely new chocolate cake recipes and fillings with two frosting options.
Much to my delight, they picked the same chocolate cake and Swiss buttercream frosting as the committee, both from Smitten Kitchen! As for the filling, the winner was Bonne Maman Natural Raspberry Preserves. This delicious and convenient spread beat out a fancy raspberry curd that I bought from an up-scale bake shop. Delicious doesn't have to be over-budget. The final cake was three tiered, two layers each with a 12 inch round base. There was a pan of sheet cake on deck just in case!
Now that the recipe was settled upon, it was time to strategize! The wedding was being held down near Richmond, about a two hour drive from our home, and there was no way a fully frosted cake would make it in our car. Luckily, the reception hall had a small kitchen and agreed to let us put the cake together on-site the night before.
Three days before the wedding, I made a huge batch of Swiss buttercream and let it rest in the fridge, Two days before the wedding, all the cakes were made with extra layers as back up should something go wrong en route and mummified in saran wrap. We headed down to the in-laws to mitigate the impact of potential traffic. The day prior to the wedding was reserved solely for cake transportation and construction.
This was honestly a stress free experience thanks to careful planning and an INCREDIBLE support team. My husband jumped all in with cake transportation and set-up. For the life of me, I could not cut the cake skewers needed to stabilize all the layers of cake. Mike managed to find a box cutter at the reception hall and made it happen through sheer force. He also managed to find dinner that I wolfed down while the crumb coat set - I seriously cannot function without food. He is my biggest supporter and I cannot thank him enough for always helping out.
Additionally, my wonderful in-laws pitched in by emptying out their refrigerator to store the wedding cake. Their home was the in-between point between the reception hall and our house. You can never trust traffic on the highways out here and we left no room to chance. When we arrived, the contents of their fridge was distributed between coolers in the kitchen to make sure the entire cake fit. I couldn't ask for a more awesome family to marry into!
There was one vital lesson learned - if you really want a white frosting - don't rely on butter. I thought it was the vanilla adding a slight hue but even with clear vanilla extract there was a noticeable tint. To ensure a snow white look, I resorted to a thin layer of marshmallow frosting covering up the beautiful Swiss buttercream right there in the reception hall. It was a snap decision and was much harder to stylize. We settled on horizontal stripes than the planned vertical lines. For a manageable white finish - use a frosting that is shortening based.
Adorned with purple and blue flowers, golden acorns, and tiny pine cones - this cake captured the natural simplicity and gentle spirit of Heather and Mike. It was an incredible ceremony and reception, filled with thoughtful accents of their journey together- from the dried Wyoming wildflowers to the cute puns on the buffet tables. You are amazing individuals and bring out the best in one another. Thank you both for believing in me! Sending much love and wishing you many happy anniversaries to come!
PS. Mike, keep HB away from those darn moose! We can only handle so much wildlife!