Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lindsay, Sean, and the Durability of Rice Crispy Treats

When I met with Lindsay and Sean, I was instantly intrigued by the fact that they are both commercial airline pilots. Of course, all sorts of travel-inspired cakes came into my head. After all, cake and traveling are two of my favorite things in life. However, as details of their wedding plans came out, the chance of working in some crazy whimsey travel themed cake slipped away.

Their reception would be at the Semple Mansion in Minneapolis, one of my favorite venues, but also incredibly traditional in decor. Their palette would be Ivory,Pale Yellow and Silver, with accents of French Blue in the floral, also subdued and classic. But the nail in the "Crazy Cake" coffin, was that Lindsay had chosen to wear the most beautiful Priscilla of Boston gown that had incredible ribbon embroidery accents.

Honestly, it was a cake waiting to happen. That, coupled with their Fleur de Lis motif popping up throughout the stationery, decor, and even attire, made the cake practically design itself. We all loved the design, and I quickly forgot about my visions of travel-cake grandeur.

That is, until I got a call from Ashleigh. Ashleigh is one of my favorite former brides, and actually the person who referred Lindsay and Sean to us in the first place. Ashleigh was planning a bridal shower for Lindsay...with...a travel theme! Hell to the yeah, the cake lady gets to make the elegant wedding cake, and the theme cake too!

Now, Ashleigh's timing was impeccable, as we were about to film three more episodes of "Amazing Wedding Cakes" for WeTV. The producers were looking for cakes that were unusual, interesting, and most importantly, cakes that would put me in a position in which I was likely to have a full-on mental meltdown on television. I can oblige. Instead of the original thought of a stack of vintage suitcases, I pitched to Ashleigh a vintage travel trunk cake with a full-size globe on top of it. Why do I do these things? I don't know. The producers, Ashleigh, Lindsay, all would have been thrilled with a stack of vintage suitcase cakes. But instead, I had to go and pitch a sphere. Have we ever done a sphere before? No. Why not do it with a kitchen full of camera men (hello Amazing Larry and Kimmel) to record my descent into complete madness.

For details on how that worked out for us, just watch the episode, but let's get back to our couple. We made the globe out of Rice Crispie Treats, then frosted it in fondant. We delivered the cake to the shower, they ate the cake, loved it, but didn't cut into the globe. As it happens, they decided to save the globe to display it on their candy table at the wedding reception...6 months later. God Speed little Crispie...and I'm staying completely out of this.

The wedding came, and we delivered the beautiful wedding cake.

When we arrived, there it was, the Rice Crispie globe, in all its glory, mounted on top of a cute little suitcase that they'd bought as a display stand for it.

I've got to admit, I was shocked at how well preserved it was. We've kept dummy cakes for over a year at the shop, but those are styrofoam underneath. I had no idea that rice crispies could last that long without imploding, exploding, or otherwise ploding. Makes you want to treat the crispies with a little more respect, doesn't it?
Thanks to Brandis Alves Photography for the photographic evidence of this mad science experiment...and the beautiful couple.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Courtney and David at the Walker

Courtney and David had their wedding and reception at the Walker. You might call it "returning to the scene of the crime". After all, they had their first date at that very museum.

We've designed cakes for weddings at The Walker before. It's easy. After all, if you are the type of people to have your wedding at an art museum, you are definitely not afraid of good design, clean lines, and creativity. Come to think of it, almost any of our clients fit that description, but we're lucky that way.

So we sketched up something clean, something modern, something that would suit the venue and our design-driven couple. We even did their invitations for them. Modern, minimalist, and beautiful.

The cake would be equally modern. Rather than a lot of color, we decided to emboss the fondant with geometric patterns so that the detail would be a play of light and shadow. We'd accent the embossing with a few touches of color (they had a great palette) but mostly, the cake would remain white.

Until...several weeks later, when I got an email from the groom. It turns out they'd been holding out on me. There was photographic evidence from their first The Walker. Two little snapshots. One of him, one of her, that they'd taken of each other. Would it be too weird, he asked, to incorporate those photos into the cake design?

Well, that depends. If you treat it like a graduation cake, and get the photos printed on edible images, then attach those to the cake with a birthday-cake-shell-border so that Aunt Cindy can eat part of your cheek and your right ear, then yes...too weird. But these are creative people, I am creative people. We can work this out!

Enter Captain Leisure. The Captain, for those of you who do not know, is married to the Evil Cake Genius. He also designs t-shirts embossed signs, and other gift products to amuse, and support the Cake Lady's cakey lifestyle. A good egg. But more importantly...insanely talented in graphic design. The Captain took those little snapshots and worked a little of his magic and next thing we Cakey art.

We shot a screen, and printed their first date in royal icing, right on the bottom tier of their wedding cake. LOVE IT.
Best of all, the Bride and Groom loved it. The guests loved it, and Aunt Cindy still got to eat somebody's ear, but... do you taste that Auntie? That's what art tastes like.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Elizabeth, Mike and July in Minnesota

Many of you cake fans out there saw us deliver Stephanie and Pete's cake in the Snowmageddon blizzard of 2010 on Amazing Wedding Cakes. It's true, Minnesota is a Harsh, blustery climate with awful winters. You'd think that the weather gods would cut us some slack the rest of the year, but what many of you don't know, is that come mid July, a cake lady can find herself longing for 10 below and snow covered roads. You see, Minnesota in the summertime can be a relentless steam bath. And fondant cakes plus humidity and heat are a cake decorators worst nightmare.

Enter Elizabeth and Mike. A nicer couple you would be hard-pressed to find. They've got a great back story for cake-spiration too. They're currently living in Hong Kong, but having a Lakeside reception in her parent's beautiful backyard in Sun Fish Lake. Without being too themey, they wanted to incorporate some Chinese design elements into an otherwise "summer on the lake" themed cake. This might sound like a tricky proposition, however, we had a few tricks up our sleeves.

To start, the couple had Mimi Designs coordinating their wedding, and while I am still convinced that they are out to kill me,(we'll get to that later) they do amazing design work that has inspired many a Gateaux cake. Second, the Cake Lady has had the opportunity to travel to China within the past two years, and was overwhelmed with inspiration in the Yu Yuan Garden in Shanghai.

Easy, we take the birch tree motif from their invitation, add in some laquered chinese garden pagoda lattice (made entirely of frosting, of course) and top it with a frosting double happiness character. A few frosting water lilies at the base, and we had a winner. Elizabeth and Mike were happy, I was happy, the Mimi's were happy, Mother Nature was laughing at all of us.

Now, let's get back to some history here. Amy and Amy from Mimi Designs have been bringing their clients to us for cakes for many years. They are creative, unique, and very talented event designers. And...they are out to kill me. If I had a buck for every time I've heard Amy Red say "don't freak out, but..." to me, I'd be retired and living in a villa in the hills outside of Florence, Italy(mmmmm...Florence). I've shown up to deliver elaborate cakes, followed in by Irish Step Dancers (not kidding...STEP DANCERS) who asked Amy where to set up. The answer..."You'll be dancing around the cake". Trying to kill me. Other cakes, I've been informed that "The bride didn't want the cake cut until 11:00" while setting up the 3:00 in the afternoon. Trying to kill me. "Don't freak out, but the florist has brought you 300 of the wrong color roses for the cake". TRYING TO KILL ME. Funny thing is, these situations always work out. The step dancers were a hit, and the cake stayed upright, the 11:00 cake cutting was a dramatic highlight of the late night reception, and the Mimi's had already cleared the flower color change with the bride before her high strung cake lady arrived.

The Monday before Elizabeth and Mike's wedding, I got the dreaded call from Amy. "Don't freak out, but they're predicting record high temperatures and heat advisories for Saturday". Just what every cake lady loves to hear. We worked through any possibility of setting the cake up inside the house, but the guests wouldn't be in the house for any portion of the reception, so that was out. We then figured out the absolute latest possible set up time frame so that the cake would be stacked and done when the guests arrived, but not standing for a second longer than it had to be before being seen. None of this would matter,however, because the weather forcasters were wrong. Dead Wrong...they had to be. There's no way, we'd get stuck with three weddings in a blizzard, and one outdoor set up during a heat advisory in the same year. It simply wasn't a possibility.

Until, of course, Saturday morning, when I woke up to the most torrential downpour and thunderstorms I can remember. Overnight on Friday, Minneapolis got 4.85 inches of rain. By mid afternoon, it had heated up to 93 degrees, evaporating all of that water into the air, causing a near record 77 degree dew point. For those of you who don't have a meteorology degree, and aren't anal retentive paranoid cake decorators, let's have a lesson, shall we? You know how when you take a can of soda out of the fridge, and set it on a table in the summer, it sweats? Well, the dew point is the temperature at which that water will condense on a surface on any given day. Anything over 65 is not pleasant, the record for Minnesota is in the early 80 degrees, and on Elizabeth and Mike's wedding day it was 77 degrees. That means, that if you took the can of soda out of the 38 degree fridge, put it in the oven, heated it to 77 degrees, and took it outside, it would get sweaty.

Our cakes are kept in a 38 degree refrigerator. We let this one come to room temperature in Elizabeth's parent's livingroom before we took it outside to stack it. The wooden cake stand that I brought for the cake table, and my camera tripod (typically not stored under refrigeration) were sweating. I was SWEATING.

We set up the cake in a record 30 minutes. We had stabilized the buttercream as we always do for outside events, but with a heat index of 108 degrees, who really knows. Funny thing. The condensation on the tiers made the cake high gloss, no, really high gloss. It actually looked like we lacquered it. If you didn't know that to a cake lady, that's terrifying, you'd think it was really quite pretty.

The Mimi's did their best to comfort me, as usual, and in the end, the couple loved their cake. We had the pleasure of seeing some of their photos, and just like our blizzard couples, you wouldn't even know that there was any issue. As a matter of fact, the reception looked like a blast to attend. Other than the Double Happiness flopping over (now the symbol for double heat exhaustion) the cake stood tall and lasted until they cut it...thankfully NOT at 11:00 at night. And the Mimi's...have still not succeeded in killing me.