Sunday, August 10, 2014

Paper Trail

The Evil Cake Genius has been decorating wedding cakes for a long time.  A very long time.  Allow me to take a moment to rant like an old lady about "in my day" for a second.
When Gateaux Inc. opened in 1996, things were simpler...and harder.  There was no Pinterest, no Ipads, and cellular phones were just that, phones.  Simple.  Brides and Grooms would come in for their appointment with a ring binder (insert young, techie howling laughter here) filled with torn-out pages of wedding magazines, photos, (yes, printed photos) of the bride's wedding dress, and a few swatches of linens, etc.  Any additional inspiration collateral would have to be mailed (snail, that is) to us.

Likewise, when we made an awesome cake, we printed an 8x10 the photo shop (not on Photoshop) and put it in our adorable little photo album for other potential clients to see.  Nothing went viral except the occasional head-cold.

That didn't stop The Evil Cake Genius from creating some pretty bad-ass cakes.

One in particular was designed for a couple who were living in San Francisco, but marrying in Minneapolis.  They loved good wine, their Golden Retriever, and their new "home" City by the Bay.  So, we decided to make a cake that would bring a little San Francisco to their Minnesota guests by way of a three tier cake topped with a frosting sugar Trolley and adorned with little candy striped awnings, under which would be frosting vignettes of store fronts.  We had Lombard Street Wines, a wedding cake shop, a wedding dress shop, and of course, a pet shop, with their sweet little dog silhouetted out of golden fondant.
Photo by Studio 306

It was a delightful cake.  The couple loved it, their guests loved it, and we loved it...despite the fact that hand-cutting every tiny detail out of fondant with an Exacto blade took us a record-breaking 54 hours of decorating time.  A night that will live in Gateaux infamy as the "holy crap, we may not get this cake done in time for the reception tomorrow" night.

Needless to say, we made it "to the church(reception) on time, but when we received pictures of this adorable cake from the couple's photographer, we admired them, and promptly filed them deep in the bowels of the cake shop, never to be shown to any potential client for fear of a repeat performance.  Simple.

If that cake had happened today, those photos would have been plastered on the Internet via Facebook, Pinterest, Weddingwire, Reddit, Diddit, Haddit, UptoMyEyballsInit!  Thank God for a simpler time.

Enter Sarah and Joe...last year.

Sarah knew exactly what she wanted in a wedding cake.  It was simple...she'd known since the moment she saw it...years ago...while working part time at the Calhoun Beach Club as a server.  How cool is that?  Long before she had the ring, or even the guy, she fell in love with her future wedding cake.  The Evil Cake Genius is pleased with such flattery.  Now, which of the many little gems that we've delivered to CBC was it?  The beautiful lacy cake with the big bow?  The Architectural square tiers with little fondant lemons?  Not quite.  Imagine the Evil One's panic when she pulled out of her bag of cake tricks...THE cake.  We had that sucker buried deeper than the Ark of the Covenant in that government warehouse at the end of "Indiana Jones" (don't get the reference? stop reading this...right now...go sit your ass down and watch one of the most entertaining movies ever...what's wrong with you?)

Anyway, after reviving myself, I realized that while we didn't have the Internet barrage that we have today, we weren't living in the stone age when we made that cake.  Sarah didn't have to ride her dinosaur home and paint a picture of that cake on the wall of her cave to remember it, she just had to snap a quick photo with an ancient device known as a camera.  Which she did, and now that photo-paper-trail has led her directly to my lair.  I wanted to hate her for it.  I wanted to zap her with that deneuralyzer thingy from "Men in Black" (don't get the reference, see above note after "Indiana Jones" for your dose of shame).  I wanted to...kiss her.  After meeting her, I discovered that she was an absolute joy to work with.  We customized the idea of the cake from storefronts, to the fronts of the three little boutique hotels that they'd be staying at on their honeymoon...a whirlwind trip to London, Lisbon, and Amsterdam.  With our advanced technology this time around, Sarah provided me with pictures of the three hotels right from her phone, and we were off!

We added Sarah's beloved pup-Jobie (interestingly enough, another Golden Retriever) but this time sculpted him in 3-D out of chocolate paste for our usual donation to the ASPCA.
Best of all, we surrounded the cake with the bride and groom's favorite sweets.  From cake pops and Petit fours adorned with the Portuguese word for "love" to little frosting Big Ben cookies, S'mores tartlets and hand-made peanut butter cups, we made a dessert spread that would make you consider skipping the honeymoon and just camping out in your hotel room with a big box of leftovers.

The day of the wedding, we had the privilege of seeing the couple enter the cocktail hour to see their cake.  It is always a little unnerving to do so, especially when a bride has been anticipating her cake since she was in high school.  Sarah quickly put any doubt to rest, with a resounding hoot and a few choice words that the Evil Cake Genius cannot repeat in proper company.  God, I love it when we make brides use expletives of joy!!

In hindsight, the second version of the "San Francisco cake" took pretty much the same amount of time as the first.  Happily, there are two things that make that kind of work day okay.  First, both couples were absolutely fabulous people, who were so appreciative of the care that went into making their dream cakes.  Second, these little miniature cakes are very much like playing dollhouse with sugar, making the time spent on them a series of delighted squeals, cooing, and laughing like a kid in a candy (cake) shop.  So go ahead, cruel internet...share, pin, and dig away.  We'll be waiting for the next couple to be about another ten years.

Many thanks to Ben Colvin Photography for the beautiful pictures of Sarah and Joe's wedding.

Decorator's Notes:

We still had to hand craft the details from each hotel using our trusty Exacto Blades, but The Evil Cake Genius has gained a little street cred in the technology department since that first awning cake.

We created a custom Mesh Stencil for the Wrought Iron and the hotel signage and got them onto the cake in one swipe of a palette knife...Hallelujah! We've even added our Wrought Iron Mesh Stencil to our Evil cake Genius Site HERE to save some of you other Evil Cake Geniuses a load of time!
We created the little moldings around the windows using an Artway Clay extruder and some of their incredible moulding discs.  They are Available HERE and they are awesome beyond belief.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hello Gatsby

When the Evil Cake Genius was but a wee Cake Minion, her family would trek back to the East Coast to visit the grandparents once a year.  And a trek, it was.  18 hours in a car in the time before personal DVD Players (who am I kidding, even before VCR's) hand-held video games, iPods, iPads, iAnything...with three other siblings and two stressed out parents.  There are only so many times you can play eye spy, and midway through Ohio, you realize that you aren't going to get those last 35 US state license plates to check off your License Plate List game (apparently most Hawaiians and Californians are smart enough to keep out of the midwest).  Overall, it was a study in patience that I wouldn't wish on any kid, or parent for that matter.  There were two things that made this ride bearable to Mini ECG.  First, there would be Dunny's Pizza when we arrived in Reading, unlike any you could find in the limited Pizza desert that was Wisconsin in the early 1970's and Second, a walk over to see my Grandpa at work.  My Grandpa was a Pharmacist.  Those of you who didn't grow up in the '70's may not understand this.  But those of us who did can still smell the sweet mix of plastic prescription bottles, greeting card paper and candy that was a Pharmacy in the 1970's.  Before big box stores, the corner Pharmacy was a spot to pick up your prescription, along with a few necessities and impulse buys.  It was where greeting cards were king, and little trinkets and tchotchkes made up the Royal Court.  I would often score a new coloring book and a handful of Penny Candy when visiting my Grandpa, but the real score was in the corner display.  That's where SHE lived. 

Hello Kitty.  The cat herself, poised on a four sided rotating Point of Purchase display full of miniature toys, notepads, lip balms, stickers and other items completely foreign in value to anyone but a seven year old girl.  Fortunately, The Evil Cake Genius was just that.

As the years passed, so did my voracity for those little treasures.  But the lure of the Kitty never fully left me.  Even as an adult, I'd find myself drawn to the Sanrio displays when shopping for a birthday present for any of my nieces or nephews, just to revisit the glory of tiny little diaries and mini pencils to write in them that only a very coordinated elf could functionally use.

I'm not entirely sure when, but at some point in my adult life, word got out about my obsession with The Kitty.  Simultaneously, or so it seemed, Miss Kitty sold out.  She moved from her corner in the drug store to the mainstream.  And the market was flooded with Hello Kitty....well...everything.  I have since been showered with gifts ranging from fuzzy slippers to gym bags, cell phone cases, blankets, t-shirts, even my nightstand lamp dons that cat.  You can get a Hello Kitty Microwave, bathroom and bedroom decor, bicycle, and even things that I can't mention here, but let's just say you'd have to be over 18 and a little...a lot...weird in your amorous tastes to buy.

Now, truly....what the hell does any of this have to do with wedding cakes?  Patience, grasshoppers.

There is a certain feeling that I got when my special little white cat became the media slut that she now is.  A mixed bag of elation that I can go to the gym with a Hello Kitty water bottle, and disdain for all of the Hello Kitty Posers that have emerged.  After all, "she was MINE FIRST".  I liked her before you could find her little white face on everything from Fruit Snacks to Steering wheel covers.  And now all of these people have jumped on my Kitty Bandwagon.

Enter Connie and Kelly.  A sophisticated, established couple getting married at one of my favorite venues in Minneapolis.  Not only my favorite venue, but my favorite room of that venue.  The Calhoun Beach Club's Solarium.  The first time I saw this room, I was transported back to 1925 and east about 1800 miles.  It was straight out of The Great Gatsby.  That Perfect white trimmed room with french doors leading onto a stone balcony, and palm decor.  Real Palm Trees...inside.  It was Opulent without a stitch of pretense.  I have always felt like Daisy looking around that room for...him...the moment I cross its thresh-hold.

I met with Connie and the Coordinators from Style Architects to discuss the cake and stationery for the event.  We all agreed that the room had to be considered in the design, and I couldn't help but bring up my Gatsby take on the room.  Connie agreed, and before I knew it, we were designing the cake and stationery around the most beautiful Art Deco Chandelier Pattern that I had found a few months prior.  I had been waiting for the right client, the right venue, and the right time...and this was it! 

We laid out the invitations with the pattern across the top edge.  Letterpressed and backed in a Gunmetal Grey liner.  The programs, menu cards, place cards, etc. would follow would the cake.  We split the pattern up over three of the tiers and tied in the fourth with details from Connie's incredible Monique L'huillier gown which, by the way, also incorporated the diamond drop patterns in the stationery art.  And all was aligning perfectly.

Photos by Laura Ivanova Photography

And then it happened.  A couple of months before the wedding, I started to see a surge in Art Deco design.  Everywhere.  From print to fashion, the 1920's was making a comeback.  And one night, while snuggled up with a bowl of popcorn watching The Amazing Race with The Captain, I found out why.  There he was in all his movie star glory...Leonardo Di Caprio...cast as the man himself...The Great Gatsby.  And I felt that same pang of resentment. My hand dropped down into my Hello Kitty Popcorn Bowl with disgust.  Hollywood.  Hollywood would corrupt my perfect Art Deco dream wedding.  Within two months, you'd be able to buy Kleenex designer boxes with Art Deco geometric patterns.  And I would look like a lemming.  No Fair!  Total BS!!  Didn't they know that Gatsby was mine?

I kept my disgust to myself, and stayed the course.  The wedding day came, and the cake was one of the most striking cakes I have made to this date.

The room looked stunning, the bride, sophisticated and beautiful...and the groom...when he looked at her, you knew she was his "Daisy".  And suddenly, I didn't care.  I didn't care that Hollywood had claimed my inspiration.  That more weddings to follow would have an Art Deco inspiration, or that "it was MINE FIRST".   I realized that maybe when the rest of the world catches onto something you've loved for a long time, you should be happy.  Happy to share something wonderful with everyone else for a while.  And when the fad passes, and everyone moves onto Art Nouveau and My Little Pony instead of Art Deco and Hello Kitty, I'll love them just the same.

Decorator's Notes:

Connie and Kelly's cake was truly one of the most elegant cakes I've ever made.  Just like any great cake, it had its challenges.  Being the perfectionist that I am, I couldn't bear the thought of free-hand piping what was meant to be a precise, geometric pattern.  So, the Evil Cake Genius decided to lay out custom stencils for three of the  tiers.  

The top and bottom tiers were 6" tall, and we wanted the wrap around chandelier pattern to stand out,  so we made that tier a "Supertorte"...our term for what others may call a "double barrel" tier.  Basically, two standard-height tiers, stacked with dowels and a separator plate, but then frosted and fondanted as one tier.  We love the elongated look.

You can find the Wrap Around Stencil HERE

You can find the Top Tier Stencil HERE

You can Find the Bottom Tier Stencil HERE

The stencils kept the precision of the design, and allowed us to embellish between diamond patterns with edible pearls and some hand-piping.  The flower topper was meant to be sculptural rather than organic, so we used the flower template that we designed for our Evil Cake Genius "Vow Flower" and actually had the pleasure of following one of our own Tutorials while making it (happy to's a great tutorial).

The Vow Flower Mesh Stencil Set and Tutorial are available HERE

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Having it all

Compromise...Life is full of compromises...and marriage is a minefield of them.  After all, when you marry, you're committing to sharing your life, your home, your finances, and your bathroom sink with another person...forever.

When the Evil Cake Genius married The Captain, there were compromises even before the wedding.  I would take his last name (only after losing a fateful round of Rock, Paper, Scissors just before filling out the marriage license) and he would stop sleeping with a box fan (circa 1970) on high, aimed directly at his head. 

But sometimes, compromising to please your partner isn't a compromise at all.  The Evil Cake Genius is thrilled to admit that she and The Captain have attended both "La Traviata" at the Vienna Opera House, and the Premiere of Jackass the movie.  Yeah, I said it.  And both experiences expanded our horizons.  If you ask me, being open to your partner's tastes and wants leads less to compromise and more to "having it all".

That's where Carly and Ryan come in.

Carly and Ryan met in a soccer league.  They both love soccer.  Do they love soccer enough to have a soccer themed wedding?  No.  So when Carly brought in a magazine shot of her dream wedding cake, we needed to figure out just how to incorporate their love of the sport and its significance in their relationship into this pristinely preppy design.  Add to it, Ryan's love of airplanes.  He even works in the airline industry. 

Now, this is where we might need to take a detour into designing a groom's cake.  After all, the navy blue pleated cake that Carly loved really didn't lend itself to airplanes and soccer balls.  Or maybe it did?  The cake had a lovely trail of fondant ribbon flowers running down the front side, but the back was, well, the back.  Why not let this cake have it all?  Carly came up with the brilliant idea of having a soccer ball busting out the back side of the cake.  Ryan loved it, and the Evil Cake Genius silently reeled with questions about how to make it happen out of frosting (usually a mild panic means a great cake) so we added a little chocolate airplane in orbit around the ball, and it was a done deal.

We set up the cake in an area that the guests would all approach it from the front.  While stacking the tiers and putting on the finishing touches, we got to "test drive" it with the caterers and other wedding vendors wandering in and out of the room.  And it was a blast.  Nothing beats that look of puzzlement that quickly turns into delight when someone discovers a secret.  And this cake had a great one.

So my advice to the happy couple.  Stay the course.  Keep embracing everything that you love about each other and you will surely have it all.

Decorators Notes:

Carly and Ryan's cake was a beautiful deep blue fondant.  As many of you decorators know deep fondant colors are a nightmare to work with.  So for this cake, we tinted the fondant a medium blue, and airbrushed the tiers with a beautiful Navy Blue Luster Dust mixed with vodka to form a paint.  The luster gave the cake a mild satin sheen, keeping it from the dreaded "Play Doh" look that colored fondant tends to have.
The Soccer ball was a trouble spot.  We worried that the weight of the ball would cause it to tear away from the side of the cake during transport or worse, while it was on display.  So we molded a hollow chocolate soccer ball to keep it light.  
The little silver airplane was also molded out of chocolate and airbrushed with a mixture of our Evil Cake Genius Silver powder and Vodka.  The same mixture paints like a dream for those of you who don't have an airbrush.  The silver powder is available HERE

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Where it's at

There's a destination a little up the road
From the habitations and the towns we know
A place we saw the lights turn low
Jig-saw jazz and the get-fresh flow
Pulling out jives and jamboree handouts
Two turntables and a microphone
Bottles and cans and just clap your hands and just clap your hands

Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone
Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone

That's it.  That's all I ever wanted to be..."Where it's at"...

But I wasn't.  I'm not saying I was a total outcast, a geek, nerd, or member of any other socially shunned clique.  But I wasn't the trend-setting cook kid either.  I just always kept my head low and let the other guys take the social risks.  When Jessie Springer showed up wearing her new "Olivia Newton John" style head band in 6th grade, I was green with envy.  I wanted to "get physical" too.  But I didn't have the fashion or the social chops that Jessie had.  Apparently, neither did Jessie, because when she came back to school after lunch hour, that headband had mysteriously disappeared.

It's the oldest story in the book.  Kids are cruel.  Society is dog-eat-dog, and being cool can get you in places that all the money, smarts, and skills in the world can't.  But that's okay.  As I got older, I learned that it didn't matter as much as I thought all those years.  I'm good with "where I'm at" and can walk through life confident and happy.

Now let's talk about Matt.

Matt is by all definitions "Where it's at."  He's a trainer with the Minnesota Vikings, so he's literally "where it's at" every game of the season...on the field.  In his younger days in Boston, he was a DJ...another completely "where it's at" profession.  Matt's mom and dad, Linda and Paul, also "where it's at" decided to contact me to make him a groom's cake for the rehearsal dinner for his upcoming wedding.   So we met.  Let's just get this out of the way now.  I have a serious bias toward East Coast people.  My own family was from eastern Pennsylvania, and every time I hear someone with any variety of East Coast accent, I am immediately drawn to them.  I've had my share of backfires, but typically, this attraction has proven beneficial.  Linda and Paul are no exception. They are true Bostonians...straightforward, and without pretense...outgoing, hilarious to chat with, and oh, that accent...what I wouldn't give to have that accent.  In talking with them, my little bits of East Coast (like things being "harrible" instead of "horrible" and how I just love my "dawg") crept back into my voice, just as it does every time I visit New York.  And I was home.

Together, we designed a Two Turntable masterpiece for Matt.  We had each LP label represent the two teams he's been a trainer for, and found a laundry list of inside jokes and references to stash here and there on the cake.  We had so much fun, that Linda scheduled an appointment for Matt's bride to come in with them on their next trip to town so that we could convince her that she absolutely needed that wedding cake that she had no interest in.

A few weeks later, we did just that.  Jamie actually had a beautiful little two tier cake hidden away on her Pinterest page that was labelled "Almost makes me want a cake".  Once she shared that, it was all down hill.  We created a beautiful two tier cake and surrounded it with all the desserts she had dreamed of.

Linda and Paul went back to Boston, and I had my typical moment of "What the hell did I just agree to?)  It was time to figure out how to actually create not one, but two edible turntables (thank God, no microphone, at least). 

So began my more than one way.

I found a place in Uptown that rents Turntables and other audio equipment.  Not the kind of AV Geek equipment I was hoping for, but a full on DJ emporium.  A place that a 42 year old cake decorator had no business visiting.  I'm pretty sure that they agreed.  I walked in the front door to some house hip-hop mix I didn't recognize, and the distinct whiff of some herb that had no business in a bakery (at least not in Minnesota yet).  The guy behind the counter looked at me as though I must be here for directions to the nearest Scrapbooking Supply Store, when I told him I was there to pick up my rental.  He pulled the paperwork, and began writing up the order, and just when I realized that I was Jessie Springer at home for lunch, sadly removing my awesome headband, and re-feathering my defeated hair, he asked me what I was doing renting this thing.  My mind raced.  Maybe I'd bluff him.  Maybe I was gonna "go down to Eight Mile with my usual DJ setup, a Traktor Scratch Pro with a Mac Book Pro and an Allen & Heath Mixer Xone 3D through a BBE Sonic Maximizer with a Mackie Blackjack audio interface through my computer to the Web. Control vinyl with Traktor and a Pioneer CDJ 1000 and a mic.  But I thought it might be dope to dubstep some Electro old school with this turntable."

But what really came out was "cake."  


But much to my surprise, he was intrigued.   I believe the actual word that came out of his mouth was "cool."  So we discussed my plans, he had a schematic for one of their turntable wraps that had the layout and dimensions of all the whatz-its and thingys (technical terms) on the turntables that he emailed me.  Now I had a perfectly sized template for the decks (yeah, I said it, that's what us cool people call turntables).  Not understanding that the truly cool have their own needles, I was left without that particular piece to model my frosting needle from.  But now that I was "where it's at" he happily lent me one of his.  I loaded the turntable into my car and drove off, a newly baptized "cool" broad.

For the next day, we measured, molded, and photographed every part of that turntable (ahem, deck) from every possible angle, and began recreating it in sugar.  Meanwhile, Linda got me the details on all the other elements that would make this cake truly special, and even invited me to the wedding reception.  

We set up the Groom's cake at the rehearsal dinner, and saw Linda and Paul as they entered the room.  Still dressed in my chef coat, I tried to sneak out quietly, but I was spotted, and promptly introduced to the family and treated like a guest.  That's just the kind of people these are...the truly "cool" who don't care if you're wearing no makeup and look like you've spent the last 48 hours straight in a bakery with no daylight (and certainly no mirrors).  They embrace you as family.  They're not "Minnesota Nice", they're East Coast Fabulous...and they can make a girl feel like she is always "where it's at".

 The next night, we set up the wedding desserts and cake and actually changed into something less "cheffy" to have a drink at the cocktail hour.  We got to meet the whole family, perfected a few words in "proper" Boston dialect, learned what a "Southie" is, and got to bask in the perfect energy that surrounds a couple who has just proclaimed their love and commitment to each other for all to witness.  I left the reception just before dinner was served to go home to my own husband, realizing that cool or not cool, when you're surrounded by those who you love and respect, you're always "where it's at".

Decorator's Notes:

 Matt's groom's cake was one of those cakes that was structurally simple, but would hinge on the fine details.  I always recommend getting your hands on the "real thing" if you can.  We've had brides bring in Fender guitars, Navy officer's hats, and all sorts of other objects to model cakes after.  Anything you can measure, trace, mold, and see three-dimensionally will help make the cake that much more accurate.  The detailing on the turntables was molded out of mexican paste (a mixture of fondant and gum paste) allowed to dry for 5-7 days, and airbrushed in Silver Powder mixed with Vodka.  The silver powder that we used is available on our Evil Cake Genius site.
The Records on the turntables were also Mexican paste, and the grooves in them were made in the simplest of ways...We wet a large paintbrush with Pam nonstick spray and held it on the records as we spun them on a turntable (bakery, not DJ).  The grooves stay shiny and raised.
 The fine details on the record labels, Tequila bottle, and DVD case were custom Mesh Stencils that we created and stenciled onto the fondant in Royal Icing.  Many similar stencils are available on our Evil Cake Genius site as well, but we make custom ones for other bakeries all the time, just contact us at if you're looking for something specific.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Men. The mystery unravelled...

Those of you who have read this blog for awhile know that The Evil Cake Genius is married to Captain Leisure.  I have to say that when it comes to husbandly types, I truly hit the jackpot.  That being said, he is still...a there are certain elements of his make up that I will never fully understand.

For years, The Captain, and around 10 of his buddies would go up to Myles' cabin for an annual golf weekend.  Each year, I questioned why they never brought the wives along, and each year, The Captain would skirt around the issue with answers like "it wouldn't be the same"or "it's not that kind of trip".

In 2002, I had a momentary lapse of reason, and agreed to go to "Jackass: The Movie" with the Captain.  The movie's opening is set to Carl Orff's Oh Fortuna and features the entire cast riding down a steep hill in a giant shopping cart, the entire time, beating the crap out of each other.  For those unfortunates who have not had the pleasure of viewing this, here you go:

As I settled in for the next hour and a half of testosterone-filled humor, I had no idea that this movie would be the single most important tool I would ever encounter for demystifying that bizarre beast that is called Man.  The movie is replete with horrible bathroom humor and shots to the groin.  At any given time a cast member would either deliver a blow to the crotch of another cast member, or sneak up behind him with an electric razor and shave a patch of hair off of his head.  All received with a big laugh by the recipient of the abuse and a "you got me" smile.

And all of a sudden I got it...the essence, the very base difference between the male and female of the species.  If Jenna walked up behind me, kicked me in the crotch, and shaved off a patch of my hair, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't find it funny.  At least not until after the charges had been filed.  I've seen women end friendships over far less.  But these guys relished it.  By the end of the movie, they all looked as if they had been through a war...and Chemo therapy...and they were all patting each other on the backs and laughing.

And I never asked to go to the cabin again.

Enter Monique and Carl.

I met with Monique and her sister to design the wedding cake.  They were in from Tampa for the week planning the wedding that would be held in Minneapolis.  We designed a beautiful four tier cake with Swarovski crystals and over 900 frosting hydrangeas that would ombre from pink (Monique's favorite color) to blue (Carl's favorite).  It would be a stunner.  But that wouldn't be the only cake.

Monique wanted to surprise Carl with a groom's cake.  She explained that, like most weddings, the decor, the floral, etc. was all about her.  So she wanted one thing to be all about Carl.  Carl is a guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so I immediately thought we'd be putting together a football themed cake...but I was wrong.  Monique wanted a "Man Cave" cake.  You see, some guys are smart enough to not have to wait for one weekend a year to do whatever it is that they do when the women aren't around (see above movie clip).  Some guys, like Carl, have their own space, their Manctuary, where they can smoke cigars, drink Mickey's, eat jelly doughnuts, listen to their music, and scratch themselves where ever and whenever they want.  This was Carl's Man Cave.

It started as a room in their first house, but when they moved into their current residence, Carl and his buddies took over the pool house as their Cave.  It has all the essential ingredients of a Man Cave...great sound system, huge TV, beer fridge, and couches fit for a Man King and his court to lounge away any womaniness they may have encountered in the outside world.  The only thing that Carl claims is missing in his new lair, is a padlock to keep out the women.

And we have a cake.
On the wedding day, we set up the beautiful wedding cake in the cocktail area.  Then, once we received the all-clear, we snuck into the ballroom and set up the Man Cave cake behind a curtain.  No one was the wiser.  Monique waited until guests were seated for dinner, and had the cake rolled out to surprise Carl during the toasts.  She took the microphone and toasted her groom, sharing the inspiration behind his all-man cake.
So, what is the appropriate man-reaction to such a thing?  If I referred to my Johnny Knoxville school of man-havior, I would have to guess he would thank his bride by kneeing her in the groin, but thankfully, those bonding mechanisms are only used between the male of the species, not to be carried over to the fairer sex.  What he did do, surprised me.  He listened to her story, looked at his cake, and cried.  You heard me, 6'5", 349lbs. of pure NFL man-power...cried.  Moved by the fact that she would take the time and care to do something completely for him, he was overwhelmed.  Or maybe it was that he was so happy that she finally got him the padlock and chain for the Man Cave that he'd been requesting...we'll never know for sure, but I prefer the former theory.
So there it is.  Just when I thought I had men figured out, something like this proves me entirely wrong.  So much for my Social Sciences side career.  But that's okay, I think I'll stick to cake decorating as long as I have clients who are as awesome as Monique and Carl.  Here she is taking a bite out of the cake to prove that it's a cake...did I mention how much I love this woman?

Decorator's Notes: 

Hot Pink!!!  Anyone who decorates cakes can tell you that this color is torture to achieve.  While making the hot pink hydrangeas for Monique and Carl's cake, we struggled, as we always have.  In a bizarre, desperate moment while trying to tint Royal Icing this evil color, I grabbed a bottle of pink airbrush color instead of my usual gel colors.  The Royal Icing came out that perfect shade of Barbie hot pink.  No gnashing of teeth, no agonizing struggle.

We posted our victory on our Facebook Page and quickly tried the same coloring in our Mexican Paste (1/2 fondant, 1/2 gum paste) to make the flowers.  Alas, it was a dismal failure.  But by the time we could post a warning, another decorator, Jennifer Whitmer Spaulding, had replied to our initial post.  She told us to try Candy Colors in the fondant.  We grabbed a bottle of pink Candy Color, and it was absolutely vibrant, beautiful pink!!  To get to the more magenta tone for these flowers, we added a tiny bit of Candy Color Purple as well.  After 17 years of epic Hot Pink struggle, I was so happy, that I immediately added the Pink Airbrush color and Pink and Purple Candy Colors to our shopping site Evil Cake Genius.

You will also find the Gold and silver powders that we used on the groom's cake on our shop.

Bob Marley was the big challenge for this cake.  It was the first thing that Monique requested be included on the Man Cave Cake.  We started by creating a custom mesh stencil of the black portions of the One Love poster.  Then, we printed out the image on Paper, and cut masks to block off the areas of the fondant that would be later airbrushed yellow, red, or remain white.

Once the fondant was fully airbrushed, we let it dry, and then stenciled the detail in black Royal Icing over the airbrushed fondant.  It's much faster and more accurate than hand painting the fondant. Mon!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rule Followers

I'm a rule follower.

From my first day in Kindergarten, my mom knew she had it made.  My parent teacher conferences were a "break" for my teachers.  They'd invite me in with my mom and just have a nice 20 minute break to chat and relax before the next parent showed up to have to reckon with their certainly "unruly" child's behavior.  I liked it that way.  I liked boundaries, order, and instruction.  When I got to college, I went to my classes, studied, turned in assignments on time, and when I got my first semester's grades, I was thrilled to see that I got straight A's.  And all was right with the universe.  You follow the are rewarded.

Then I met my future husband.

Brian was smart.  Maybe a little too smart.

While I was toiling over my studies every Sunday night, he was drinking beer and watching The Simpsons with his roommates.  My neurotic sense of inflexible deadline was completely rocked when I saw him get an extension on his final project for his painting class for not one, but TWO full semesters.  He rarely studied, never did homework, and still got good grades (all A's and B's).  He frequently calmed my overworked nerves around finals with the words of wisdom "nobody cares what your GPA was once you graduate" and he introduced me to the motto "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission".  And it worked for him just as well (if not better) than my rule following worked for me.  He got busted selling unlicensed U of MN Basketball t-shirts outside of Williams Arena.  He ended up parlaying it into a meeting with the University that resulted in them selling his t-shirts inside the Arena, and at their Hockey venue as well.  That Art Professor not only let him extend one painting across two semesters, but gave him an "A" and went out for drinks with him.  I couldn't decide if all of this made me hate him, or made me overwhelmed with attraction for him.  So I married him.

Just after we were married, I was miserable.  Not in our marriage...that was the best decision I ever made, seriously.  It was my job that was eating me up.  I was working as a photographer, and doing quite well.  I had won some awards, I had been promoted to head photographer between two studios, and was doing what I had always wanted to do.  But it was a nightmare.  As a small business owner myself, I can tell you that as a group, we are the most difficult, megalo-maniacal group of humans on this planet.  We rule like unchecked dictators, and frequently bash our employees for just being in the line of fire of a bad day.  And a rule follower like me, working for a typical small business owner, is not a good thing.  I took every criticism as a personal attack.  The slightest confrontation made me lose my nerve, and I just couldn't handle it anymore.  That's when Yin to my Yang, my husband (The Goo, The Captain) said to me one night.  "You should just quit."

Just like that. No grand presentation, no parting of the skies and thunderbolts, just a simple idea.  And with that, I realized that I had never considered that as an option.  Rule followers don't quit jobs.  But once he suggested it, it was all I could think about.  It was like an open invitation to the Dark Side...the Rule Breakers.

So I gave one month's notice, trained in my replacement, and with absolutely no culinary training,  opened Gateaux Inc.  Nothing that I would have ever considered without being married to Lord Vader himself.  Second best decision I ever made.

But what does this have to do with this beautiful lacey cake?  Plenty, my cakey friend, plenty.

Meet Catie and Chris.  Two rule followers to the highest degree.  Both graduated Magna Cum Laude from law school.  He works in Labor and Employment Law, she works in Merger and Acquisition Law (both fields simplified for my cakey brain).  Translation: they show their clients how to follow the rules...the law...and their both quite good at their jobs.

We had a lovely meeting to design a cake for their beautiful fall wedding.  We would incorporate Gunmetal grey, Persimmon, and Orange into the Gum Paste leaf medallion on the middle tier, and copy the incredible Alencon Lace from Catie's wedding dress on the other two tiers.

We made sure that they would have enough servings for all of their guests, and added a little sheet cake for the kitchen to start in on while the wedding cake could still be on display, and had a nice conversation.  I'm always flattered when someone who is in such a challenging career takes an interest in my work, so I was thrilled to field some questions from Chris.  He asked some of the usual questions like: How long does it take you to decorate a cake like this? How do you get the veining pattern on the frosting leaves? How is a cake like this cut? and What makes the Gunmetal fondant sparkle?

I fielded these questions with ease: About 60 hours. We have veining mats that are cast off of real leaves.  The cakes are unstacked before they are cut.  Ground Mica blended with Vodka to create an edible sparkly "paint".

And so, we parted ways until the wedding.

The wedding was on a perfect fall day.  They had the reception and ceremony at the Van Dusen Mansion in Minneapolis, a perfect location for an intimate classic wedding.  We stacked the cake with the aid of the couple's niece, who was waiting around between pictures and the ceremony, and sent her off with a hand full of extra frosting leaves to delight the other guests.  The couple was thrilled with their cake, and sent a gracious email to thank us for our hard work.

Several months passed, and I sent out an email to some of my clients asking for cake cutting photos.  Valentine's day was approaching, and I thought it would be fun to do an album of all of our couples from the previous year with their cakes on our Facebook Page.  When I got the email back from Catie, it had more than one photo, and this note:

Hi, wonderful Gateaux crew!

I'm sending two of my favorite cake-related photos from our wedding at the Van Dusen on October 20, 2012.  In photo #1, I have a horrified expression on my face because my husband thought we were supposed to take the cake apart before we cut it, so he had just picked up the top tier right off the cake!  Photo #2 is shortly thereafter when we were still laughing about it... and actually cutting the cake.

Oh. My. God.
My mind raced.  What on earth would possess a groom to do such a thing to an innocent cake?  Then it hit me.  He's a Rule Follower.  I thought back to our little Q&A session, and there it was.   He wasn't asking How a cake like this is cut.  He was asking "How do WE cut a cake like this?"  And I, thinking he was simply taking a pleasant interest in the nuances of cake structure and catering practices, rather than asking for literal instruction, inadvertently COMMANDED him to UNSTACK THE CAKE!!! And that is just what he, God Bless his little Rule Following heart, did.
I think the most impressive part of this is that he re-stacked it so expertly, that you can't even tell in the next photo that anything happened.  Well, besides the raucous laughter.
Many thanks to Catie for sending me what is my all-time favorite cake cutting photo.  And special thanks to the couple's quick thinking Photographer Ben Garvin for catching this on film.  

Decorator's Notes:

The cake for Catie and Chris was a great project for trying out some new techniques.

The gum paste leaves were made using leaf cutters and mixtures of fall colored luster dusts.  I've found that there aren't readily available leaf veiners for a larger-sized maple leaf, so I channeled my inner Rule Breaker and plucked a Maple leaf off of one of the trees around the shop.  We washed the leaf in soapy water and soaked it in our sanitizer sink.  Once it was dry, we used it to imprint the larger leaves.  It worked fabulously!

The Ribbon detail was airbrushed with Moonstone Luster Dust, available at most any cake decorator supply house.

For Catie's lace, we created two custom Alencon Lace stencils.  One that captured the unusual cartouche pattern on the back of her dress, and another that replicated the Floral pattern.  Both of these are now for sale on our Evil Cake Genius site HERE

Once we stenciled the pattern in royal icing, we overpiped the edges and added some of the lattice pattern piping in the center of the cartouche.  It is truly the most beautiful lace I've ever replicated on a cake.