Often, during these sessions, we turn to more than simply the look of the event for inspiration. More than most elements party decor, the cake can actually tell a couple's story. So, I was particularly excited to meet with Sue about her 20th Wedding Anniversary cake.
Sue wanted a Vikings/Razorbacks themed cake to surprise her husband Mike. A very sweet gesture, but, as I pointed out to her, it takes two to be married for 20 years, so even by law, the anniversary cake is 50% yours...community property....I can't believe you haven't taken advantage of this concept in 20 years, learn from the master, Miss Sue...I can teach you so much...
Sue followed with the fact that she wanted this cake to be his because he had given her so much, and she wanted to give him something that was all about him. She then proceeded to tell me why Mike deserved an all-football-all-man anniversary cake.
Turns out, these two have been through a lot together. Like most love stories, they met, they fell in love, got married, bought a house, and had an otherwise happy new life together. Until Christmas, 1999, when Sue's car was hit. Bad.
She was broken up, put back together, had surgery after surgery, and had enough metal pieces and parts put in her to have earned her new Gateaux code name "Bionic Sue". This spanned not months, but years of recovery (enough that Sue was actually embarking on writing a book about it) . And Mike was right there to pick up the pieces.
So we talked. She started selling me on why he deserved a football cake, and the more adorable, sweet, caring, loving stories she told me, the more I decided that Mikey wasn't gonna get a football cake. This guy deserved far more.
How about we make the cake a prequel to Sue's upcoming book. Why not use the anniversary to tell the couple's story in the best way possible...cake. So I set Sue to work...give me... in book title format...the events that made your marriage and you as a couple what you are today. She was up for the challenge. By the time we met for our design session, she had covered everything from how she asked him out, to how he proposed. Couple that with some touching stories, some tragic moments, and some touchingly tragically funny moments (like the day that she returned home from Physical Therapy to, not Mike, but "Miguel"...who had been to her hair dresser that afternoon for a lesson in how to style Sue's hair, as she was too broken up to hold her arms up long enough to do it for herself. Miguel, by the way, was fired after a 2nd degree burn to Sue's forehead, but Mike still earned husband of the decade for trying.)
Once we had our book titles (and a LOT of laughs) we worked on adding in the Vikings and Razorbacks. Turns out, that Sue gave Mike Season Tickets to the Vikings for their anniversary one year, so that was easy...one pair of frosting Vikings tickets. Mike became a Razorbacks fan once the couple moved to Arkansas, so we put a Fondant Razorback's pennant next to the Arkansas chapter of their cake.
Now onto the dirt. No man is as perfect as she is leading me to believe, so I had to do some digging. Turns out, Mike had some baggage. In the form of a Cat named Stinky, that came along with him in the deal, and a 1950 Chevy that lay dormant in their garage for more years than either of them would care to admit. Perfect. No good cakey homage is complete without a good ribbing!! Add in the fact that he was acting so nervous the night that he proposed, that at dinner, Sue asked him if he had gas. Gold!!! Pure Gold!!!
Sue also wanted their fur-babies represented on the cakes. These two have had so many rescue pups that to name them on the book titles would be a whole other library of a cake. So we made frosting dog tags for each of them and scattered them on the tiers. Now all that was left was to top this off. Literally. What do you put on top of such an epic cake? Twenty years is a long time, but it is really just the beginning...so how about a frosting pen and inkwell to represent the rest of their unwritten story.
I can honestly say that I hope to make them another cake in 20 years, and another after that. I love my job. I always say that us cake people have it easy. Florists get to work on weddings, but they have to work on funerals too. Cake is typically saved for happy occasions. We do mostly weddings here at Gateaux, Inc. I'm thrilled to always be meeting with people who are in love, and excited to start their lives together. But, it is the anniversary cakes that always get me. After the ease of youth, good health, and new love passes, it is these folks...my anniversary clients...who give me the most joy. After the rubber hits the road, and time has passed, for love to be as sweet as cake and sugary frosting...that is something to smile about.
Mike and Sue's cake was a true labor of love. I had made book cakes before, but this was the most titles I've ever included in one design. In the past, I would have laid out each title and projected the art onto the side of the cake with a Kopykake-type projector and hand-painted each letter. For such volume, I decided that I had to utilize my favorite new method of Silk screening fondant with royal icing. I burned custom silk screens for the titles. We sell silk screens on our Shop Gateaux Page Evil Cake Genius and have made custom screens for other decorators with specific text and design needs. To see one of our silk screens in action, click HERE
Another of my favorite cake decorating toys was used quite a lot on this design. It took me a couple of years using a standard clay extruder before I finally bit the cakey bullet, and bought one of these bad boys. I wish I had done it earlier...hell, I wish I would have invented these, they are brilliant. You can get them in various places, but the one I got was from Polymer Clay Express
I used the extruder to make the book bindings, striped bands on the covers, and the gold ring around the inkwell. I couldn't live without a clay gun, it makes precision work so much easier.
The Black fondant on the bottom tier was chocolate fondant to start with. I always warn my clients, that if they want to have a black tier, that it is best to make that tier a chocolate cake. The dark chocolate fondant is so close to black to start, that it keeps the fondant from fully saturating with food color and becoming unworkable. We typically split our multi-tiered cakes between several flavors, so a chocolate tier is almost always somewhere in the mix, might as well use it strategically!