Friday, February 15, 2013

How do people come up with this stuff?

When designing wedding cakes, my appointments usually have three phases.  Phase one, "Show and Tell", is where I have my clients open up their folders of Magazine Pages, iPads, and Pinterest Pages to give me an idea of the overall look of their wedding.  This is the most important part of the appointment.  It's during this time, that whether or not the client knows it, I design their wedding cake. 

Phase two, is what I like to consider the "put your money where your mouth is" part of the appointment.  It's when I pull out my albums of Gateaux wedding cakes, to show the client that I can actually do some of the stuff that I'm about to pitch to them.  I bet if you asked most people who met with me, they'd tell you that they thought this part of the appointment was where they got to pick their cake, but in all honesty, it's not.  You see, the Evil Cake Genius has an incredibly short attention span.  While I adore the cakes that we've made in the past, I have absolutely no desire to ever repeat a design.  After all, I've already done that.  Why would I want to do it again? 

Nonetheless, I enjoy the chance to show off my cakes. 

Gateaux's portfolio is split into four albums.  One traditional album, one preppy album, a modern album, and one that I lovingly call "The Weirdo Book".  Most brides and grooms don't have any reason to look through this book, aside from the fact that it's just damn fun to look through.  Let's be honest, the majority of my wedding clients aren't going to end up with a cake topped with two frosting otters holding hands, or the "Fab Five" walking across their bottom tier.  But even the most conservative of clients can appreciate these cakes for the creativity and artistry that goes into creating them.

When looking through this particular album with Cate, Adam, Cate's mom (recent client, responsible for this adorable cake) Kimberly, and Adam's mom, Pam, Pam asked me a question that I hear a lot after people look through  "The Weirdo Book"..."I'm just not that creative...How do people come up with this stuff?" 

She was about to find out.  First hand.

Kate and Adam were getting married at the beautiful Semple Mansion in Minneapolis.  The look would be Old Hollywood - a nod to that golden age of Art Deco decor and Nouveau thinking in America...the Jazz Age.  It made sense, they both worked in film, they even met on a set.  That being said, they weren't about to go theme party with it.

I'm a big fan of having a design scheme, rather than a theme to draw from.  So this was an easy one for me.  I had, on a recent trip to New York, finally gone to the top of the Empire State Building.   Funny, I had been there nearly a dozen times, over a span of twenty years, but I had never taken that pilgrimage until that most recent trip.  I shared that with Adam and Cate, and they agreed that that was the kind of graphic inspiration we should use for their cake.

Onto Phase Three - Free for All.  It's like stream of consciousness with multiple players.  There is no wrong answer, just throw out a bunch of ideas...we'll use some, we'll not use others, but together, we always end up with the perfect wedding cake.  Together.

I ran back to my office and grabbed a few Art Deco patterns that I had been saving for...well, I guess for these two.  We quickly sketched up the bottom and middle tiers of the cake using a Deco Fountain pattern and a great monogram panel, but when it came to the top tier, I drew a bit of a blank.  Then Cate suggested that we use the silhouette of the Empire state building on the top tier.  Adam agreed, and we added a stylized Deco Empire state to the top tier.  I recommended that we have the spire of the building extend beyond the top of the cake as a cake topper - "and you can have King Kong and Faye Wray hanging off the spire".  Great idea, Adam!...Cate...Kimberly...?  Nope, that idea came leaping out of Pam's head.  There was a brief pause.  One of those awkward silences.  She shifted in her chair and looked a little unsure.  Had she taken it too far?

As the cake lady, I knew it was genius the second she said it.  It tied in the Empire State design to the underlying Hollywood and film idea.  After all, they met on a film set!  But, it isn't my wedding cake.  Cate and Adam stopped, looked at each other, we all paused for a moment, and...Nope, not too far...just far enough!! We would replace the traditional bride and groom with Kong (decked in a tuxedo jacket, of course) and his bride.  Fortunately, Adam and Cate have a very talented friend who brought their vision of Kong and his bride to Art Deco perfection. 

And that... Pam, is how people come up with that stuff.  You are now an honorary Cake Lady.

We finished our sketch, and worked up an invitation design that would compliment the look and give their guests a little sneak preview of the wedding decor.  The Bride and Groom even had a little fun with the RSVP options - another little touch of film and humor.

I'm not actually sure if Cate and Adam's cake ended up in our "Weirdo Book".  After all, the cake is one of my favorite examples of a clean, elegant, graphic wedding cake.  It's fun to see people do a double take when they recognize the cake topper.  I think at heart, a lot of us are Weirdos.  Love makes you happy, sometimes even a little goofy.  I love when we can incorporate a little whimsy and humor into a wedding cake.  It's not like you're rolling the thing down the aisle at the church.  The reception is the party to celebrate that love that makes us a little goofy.  So enjoy yourselves, share a little inside joke with your guests, and most importantly, have fun.  Kong would want you to.

Decorator's Notes

The Cake

Cate and Adam's cake was frosted in buttercream and panelled in sheets of fondant to give it crisp perfect corners.  The black and white Art Deco embellishments were all screen printed in royal icing onto sheets of fondant.  We cut out the Deco patterns and attached them to the cake tiers. We weren't sure if the bottom tier's corner patterns would wrap around the corners of the cake without the royal icing cracking, so we planned to cut those in half vertically and attach them separately to each side of the cake.  On Jenna's suggestion, we tried doing one corner with the pattern in tact to see if it were possible to bend the pattern over the corner without the royal cracking if we worked quickly enough.  Fortunately, it worked!
We wanted Kong and the top spire of the Empire state building to be set back on the top tier so that it could be centered, like a cake topper.  In advance, we screen printed the top portion of the Emprire State building onto Mexican Paste (1 Part Gum Paste, to 1 Part Fondant) cut it out, and allowed it to dry with a pick sticking out of the bottom of it.  Once we decorated the cake with the fondant Empire State, we cut off the top of the pattern flush with the cake and replaced it with the set back Mexican Paste topper. 
The screens for this cake design are now for sale on our Evil Cake Genius site HERE - without King Kong, however...those were just for our Cate and Adam.
We'll even customize the Middle tier's in case your client's last name doesn't begin with an "H" ;)

The Cake Stand

We wanted a cake stand that had an Art Deco feel to it without distracting from the cake.  So we had our very own "Magic Phil" cut us three 1" thick squares of particle board.  One 14", one 16" and one 18".  He glued them together and painted them high gloss black.  It has become a very useful stand in our collection, and is quite easy to DIY.


Rachel said...

Oh my word I have just found your blog and am smitten. I do believe if I continue my attempt to read every past post since your original, I may get fired from my job. I must return to work but must tell you that I love your work and hope to learn so much from your new "Decorator's Notes" addition. Thank you for sharing!

Rachel of Frosted Bliss in Raymore, MO

Bellenza Wedding Bistro said...

Every time I stop by your blog, there's something fascinatingly creative waiting to wow us all(with an equally engaging behind-the-scenes account)! Not all couples may choose a King Kong topper, but the cake is pure Art Deco elegance!