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.


Lipstick Jungle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carla Reich said...

Well done, Robin! It is an utterly stunning cake, made even more awe-inspiring by the conditions in which you set it up.

I have a question - how DO you stabilize buttercream for the heat?

Anonymous said...

Awesome story :) It was a stunning, delicious and much admired cake indeed. THANK YOU! -- Mike

Evil Cake Genius said...

Thank you Mike! You were a pleasure to work with. If you ever find yourself on this side of the world, don't be a stranger!