I dearly wish I had taken pictures of the fancy cakes I baked last summer when they were in the car. Then I could have shown you that they did actually survive being in my car. Alas. I must have been too panicked about delivering them in pristine condition despite the scorching heat. You will just have to take my word for it! Instead, I will share a few photos of a smaller, much simpler cake I made for a baby shower.
Transport is the most terrifying part of baking a wedding cake. After spending about 24 hours actively working on these cakes, I had to put them in the back of my car, where I couldn’t see or protect them, and drive them away from my house.
I am a big believer in “practice makes perfect,” so I practiced transpo, as well! I gingerly placed that trial bridal cake in my trunk and drove 20 minutes away, down windy two-lane roads, to see whether the cake would arrive at the bride’s house in one piece. It did! What a relief.
And the Big Day went without a hitch, as well, all cakes delivered as pristine as they started.
Last summer, I tried on the hat of official wedding cake baker, and I baked for a gorgeous wedding with 200 guests! Today I am going to share with you the ultimate challenge of that adventure: the bridal cake.
After making this cake, I truly understand why wedding cakes are so costly.
The intricate detail, the careful timing, the insane pressure of delivering a perfect masterpiece for the most well photographed day of anyone’s life…
The lovely bride envisioned some very fancy decorations on her cake, with a swirly, lacy look and pearls and pretty much everything that a fairy tale cake would have, minus the ability to actually glow. (The bride would glow enough on her own!)
I was initially so worried about frosting a bridal cake with a brown frosting (can you make a cake look “bridal” when the natural color of the frosting is so dark? and not at all conducive to being dyed a pretty color?), but in the dark, romantic light of the country club where the reception was held, this cake stood tall and lovely, surrounded by pink flowers and twinkle lights, and it was a vision.
You can’t photograph flavor, but I can promise you that this wedding cake, with its dark chocolate crumb and rich espresso buttercream, was utterly delicious.
Last summer I made a wedding cake! Or, to be more precise, I made a bridal cake, a groom’s cake, and several sheet cakes for the absolutely gorgeous wedding of some friends of mine! The bride used to babysit my children, and her mother is one of my dearest friends and mentors.
It was such a labor of love. Delicious, chocolatey labor.
And today I am sharing part two of my series about my wedding baking adventure!
Last time I shared with you the ups and downs of my planning stages, including the timing of making all this happen. Today I want to share with you the recipes for the groom’s cake: a two-tiered vanilla cake with chocolate ganache filling, chocolate mousse frosting, and a shiny chocolate drizzle, topped with a chocolate fish to honor the groom’s favorite pasttime.
Last year, when a dear friend asked me to do the wedding cake for her daughter, I was immediately all in. Yes, of course!
The beautiful bride and groom just celebrated their first anniversary, so despite all of the changes going on around these parts, I thought this was the perfect time to share with you last summer’s adventure of fancy baking!
Little did I know how much baking for this elegant wedding would stretch me as a baker.
These wedding cakes humbled me in many ways. I had to ask lots of questions of professional bakers. I renewed my search for the perfect yellow cake recipe, one that produced a consistently moist and tender and flavorful vanilla cake. I had to practice my piping technique. I also had to ask for help from friends!
I think they turned out just beautiful (and amazingly delicious). These cakes were my babies. And they took a village!
These cakes were powered by: one very understanding and patient husband; my parents, who spent the wedding weekend at my house offering moral and practical support; beautiful friends who shared supplies, refrigerator space, childcare, kitten care, and an extra hand; lots of prayer; the entire first season of Gilmore Girls; several gallons of coffee; a bottle of Riesling; not enough sleep; quite a bit of anxiety; and one happy little taste tester.
Not to mention: 9 pounds of butter, 16 pounds of sugar, 6 dozen eggs, 4 pounds of chocolate, and 150 pounds of love.
One month ago, my darling baby Caitlin turned 2!
Of course, if you ask her how old she is, she says, “Cake!”
Caitlin is a sweet and determined little girl. She always knows what she wants and what she doesn’t! It has been so fun watching her learn over this past year: just when I think she might take forever to figure something out, she takes off running (literally. at 13½ months. walking is for chumps). She studies everything around her, speaks in complete sentences, and stands up for herself. She loves hugs and being outside and picture books. She loves shoes and farm animals and helping with chores. Her favorite foods are peanut butter and grapes.
Caitlin loves nothing better than sitting in our laps and reading books, so we threw her a storybook party to celebrate her second year of life!
This year, Jake knew exactly what he wanted for his birthday.
It was s’moresy. It had ice cream. It was a layer cake.
I had never made an ice cream cake before, but it turns out that it isn’t hard! Also, it turns out that Jake is once again a dessert genius, because this birthday cake was phenomenal!
My crazy little man is 4 years old!
Jake definitely gave me a run for my money this year. He is rambunctious and giddy and willful and very invested in understanding every single thing.
This year we celebrated Jake’s birthday in the most fitting way I could imagine: with a mountain of candy and a giant board game. Jake’s sweet tooth rivals mine, and he has spent the last year in a quest to become a board game geek like his daddy. (It should be noted here that his favorite game is called Just Desserts, which is a game where you feed pretend customers all their favorite sugary treats, and that when we play Candyland, he cherishes the pink dessert cards so much that I have a hard time convincing him to keep them in the stack.)
Happy fourth birthday, Jake! I can’t believe how big you are, and I can’t wait to see how you grow over the next year!
Somehow a whole year has flown by, and my baby girl turned 1!
In some ways, it doesn’t even seem real: she still has no teeth and she’s not walking on her own quite yet. Although she loves to enthusiastically yell, “Hi!” on the phone, she still seems to think blowing raspberries is the best form of communication. She’s still my baby—she can’t possibly be a whole year old!
Caitlin has a smile that lights up her whole face. She throws back her head when she grins, and it’s like her entire body quivers with joy. She loves her brother, she loves to explore, she loves hugs, she loves books and ripping paper (not the best combination), and she loves to put every small thing into her mouth. She certainly keeps us on our toes, and we are so glad to know her!
For Caitlin’s first birthday, we threw a bubble bash. I bought bubble machines and wands and set out a bunch of food and we invited friends and family to come celebrate!
I like to call people up on their birthdays and sing to them.
So someone call me up and croon a little tune, because this blog is FIVE YEARS OLD! And I just can’t believe it.
Naturally, to mark the occasion, I baked a cake. Because what good is a birthday celebration without cake?
Happy birthday to Smells Like Brownies! Here’s to five more years of doing things deliciously (and making my family and friends wait around to eat until I finish staging a hundred photos).
I have noticed a change in myself recently.
The longer I do this blogging thing, the more I bake and cook and try new things, the less I am daunted by recipes that have many steps or seem like they may take a while. I am no longer irritated by sifting. I expect to leave a mountain of dirty dishes in my wake…it doesn’t even seem like a deterrent anymore.
Surprisingly, recipes that I once thought of as time-consuming actually go faster! (I think I finally gained some knife skills, y’all.)
I have become more of a perfectionist, more critical of the foods I produce…because I can actually think of a dozen ways to balance the flavors or improve the texture! (Consequently, I no longer even bother to photograph every new dish I make, because I know I will want to tweak it before I share it.)
Last week, someone sent me a recipe that was literally just a list of ingredients. And I made a pretty amazing cake out of it without batting an eye or consulting any cookbooks.
I feel almost like a different person…I have started to trust myself in the kitchen. I have started to listen to my instincts more and have fewer facepalm moments.
I realized all of this due in large part to this cake. (Thank you, cake, and thank you, mom’s birthday!)
This cake is nothing short of delicious. It’s tender and airy, richly cinnamon and sweet. It tastes like a crisp snickerdoodle cookie. Oh, and it’s made entirely without wheat or dairy. Woot!