Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Secret Ingredient

"Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough" -Mark Twain

I've been decorating wedding cakes for 18 years.  I've seen trends in design and flavor come and go, some I wish would have stayed a little longer, others (like rosewater infused cakes, which give me a pounding headache when they're baking and in my opinion taste like you're eating some one's grandmother...just sayin') I'm glad have passed.

Every once in a while, completely independent of current trend, I have a string of cakes that have a uniting theme.  This is what happened this late summer and fall at Gateaux.

Let's start with Cassie and Andrew.

They had a beautiful wedding planned, and their invitation had one of the most beautiful Damask patterns I'd ever seen.  That invitation, coupled with their striking color scheme of white and charcoal with a punch of purple in the floral, made designing their cake a breeze.

Once the sketches were complete, I brought out my flavor list and handed it to them.  Typically, the groom is all over this part of the appointment.  He has done his duty of not squirming in his seat too much while the ladies in the room are discussing the finer points of Brocade fabrics, the difference between Charcoal and Gunmetal grey, their preference of Cymbidium over Cattaleya orchids, etc. and now he gets to talk in terms he can truly understand...dessert.

Andrew, however, handed the menu to Cassie and leaned back as though his part of the meeting was over.  I was puzzled.  After all, he was quite involved in the design of the cake.  This was his chance to, well, eat!!  I asked him why he wasn't as excited as he should be about choosing his cake flavor, and he answered those blasphemous four words that no cake decorator should ever hear... "I...don'" 

Once I regained consciousness, I investigated further.  I've seen this syndrome before.  Surely, he was a pie man.  I've had those before.  Actually, it was a guy who only liked Pumpkin Pie, who inspired our Pumpkin Walnut cake flavor, which is to this day my personal favorite of all of our cakes. 

Alas, Andrew was not a pie man.  He wasn't a sweets man at all.  "Surely, there must be something you like?" I asked.  And he replied, "Whiskey".

Game on Andrew, Game on.

I do samples once a month.  Since we never freeze a cake, we bake up all the flavors that my potential clients have requested, and everyone comes in on sample day to pick up a box of cake slices to take home and share with their family.  This gave me about three weeks to figure out how to put my cakey money where my mouth was, and create a "Whiskey Sour" wedding cake flavor.  I didn't stop there, I also promised a purple velvet cake to compliment the frosting orchids on the tiers.  Typical me.

We played around with a lot of options that next baking day.  And recalling my headaches during the "great rosewater trend of 2010" I refrained from putting whiskey in the batter.  Instead, we made a limoncello flavored batter with a kick of lemon zest, and filled it with a Mousse that was positively drunk with whiskey.  To my surprise, it was not only acceptable, but delicious!  As a matter of fact, Cassie and Andrew chose to split their wedding cake between the Whiskey Sour cake and the Purple Velvet cake filled with the Whiskey Mousse!

When we set up the cake, the bridal party was milling around between photos.  It was such fun to see the reaction of the bridesmaids when they saw the cake, and the reaction of the groomsmen when Andrew told them that this otherwise beautiful, elegant cake had one badass secret ingredient....besides love.

I love the photo of Cassie hesitating to cut her cake, and the photo of  "I don't like cake Andrew" (yep, that's your new code name around here) taking the matter into his own hands.

Now, we move forward a month to Erin.  Erin wanted to surprise her groom with a wedding cake.  Not a groom's cake, a wedding cake.  Her planner, the lovely Sarah at Lasting Impressions, called us in for the task, because this was no ordinary wedding cake.  Erin wanted it shaped like a giant bottle of Jameson Whiskey.

And we're off again...

When I met with Erin and her mom, I must admit, that I wasn't expecting a sweet little young thing to walk into my shop.  I guess I have a misconception of what a girl who wants a whiskey bottle wedding cake should look like.  I expected someone a little older, a lot tougher, and possibly covered with tattoos.  Again...just sayin'.

So I interrogated her.

Turns out, the couple had been studying abroad and travelled quite a lot together.  While in Australia, his parents paid them a visit, and brought with them bottles of Jameson Whiskey.  Now we're onto something.  The fact that the Whiskey reminding them of their travels together made a lot of sense.  I quickly changed the design to a whiskey barrel. 
We could create a life-size whiskey barrel with a life-size chocolate bottle of Jameson on top.  The barrel would be branded with postmarks of the places they had travelled together (almost as if it had tagged along for the ride).  Once we added this concept, the stories began.  From how he fell asleep on an anthill while camping in Australia, to the earthquake they had survived in New Zealand.  We added little touches to the cake to tell their story, and I was ready to talk flavors.

More ready than they knew....I had the Whiskey Sour cake up my sleeve!  They sampled the cakes, and chose three flavors.  The Almond cake, The Tuxedo cake with Fudge Filling, and my favorite, Pumpkin Walnut.  The lesson, you can't tell a cake/book by it's cover/frosting.

We were setting up a S'mores buffet in another room when Erin and Mike entered their cocktail hour and she surprised him with the cake.  I have never heard such a reaction.  The guests roared and cheered like someone just hit a home run.  I had no idea what was going on in that room until the photographer came into our staging area to let me know that that raucous cheering was during the cake reveal and cutting.  And boy, did she ever capture it on film!

So there you have it...a tale of two Whiskey cakes.  I don't think we'll be seeing an upswing in the trend, but do very much enjoy the two that I had the pleasure of working with this past year.  So here's to you Cassie and Andrew, Erin and Mike

"May the winds of fortune sail you,
May you sail a gentle sea.
May it always be the other guy
who says this drink's on me."

Decorator's Notes

Cassie and Andrew's cake was one of my favorite, and at the same time most challenging Damask Cakes.  Her invitations were quite intricate, and I didn't want to compromise on the cake.  So, I brought in a graphic artist to help me sort through and turn the damask pattern into something that would stencil well.  Fortunately for anyone who wants to reproduce this look, I have added the three stencils that we created for this cake to our Evil Cake Genius shopping site.

The separators for this cake were custom cut Styrofoam dummies, covered in Swarovski Crystals.  While we refuse to do dummy cakes (what fun is it when people say "that isn't a cake" and you can't reply "you bet your sweet xxx it is!" we do use styro for separators when they are going to be covered entirely in crystal.  Best not to tempt any busy caterer to serve a slice of Austrian Crystal to some unsuspecting guest.

The solid grey tier was imprinted with a quatrefoil pattern.  I couldn't find the imprinter I was looking for anywhere, so I resorted to making my own cookie cutter and used it as an imprinter for that tier.  You can buy sets to make your own cookie cutters here
The chocolate Jameson Bottle was hand-molded, and the label was screen printed fondant.  The barrel cake weighed 140 pounds, and is responsible for my first-ever Cake Injury!  We were not prepared for quite how heavy it would be and needed to move it in and out of refrigeration to decorate it.  Before the fondant was even placed on the cake, it took three of us to maneuver the beast in and out of the fridge.  By the time the cake was covered in fondant, we had pulled down a rolling table from storage, and built ramps to wheel the table up to the refrigerator shelf height and then back down to the table height.  Unfortunately, it was too late for the Evil Cake Genius.  I pulled a Pectoral muscle somewhere in the pre-ramp stage of decorating.  If you've ever pulled that particular muscle, you can attest to the fact that it is the slowest of all injuries to heal, and there's nothing to do but wait...and make up a better, more heroic story to tell everyone who asks why you're wincing every time you turn your head more than ten degrees.  I prefer the "lifting a car off of a small child, or fought off a half dozen Ninjas story.
Many thanks to my friend Lindsay at "A Wish and a Whisk" cakes in California for helping me figure out how to structure the beast without it imploding under its own weight into a cakey black hole.  Next time, you're coming to help me move the thing around Lindsay!


Unknown said...

Both of these are A M A Z I N G!!! and I really like your blog. You explain the stories and at the end the how you did it.

What did you use to make the pattern on the first grey tier? I have been looking for that.

Katherine D.

Evil Cake Genius said...

Thanks for the kind words, Katherine. I had a hard time finding that particular imprinter as well, so I created one using a make your own cookie cutter set. I'll add the link shortly.

Bellenza Wedding Bistro said...

Your posts always make me respect wedding cake creators more and more... Or at least the ones who are as incredibly creative and dedicated to perfection as you are! Love the back stories of these 2 cakes!

Unknown said...

All the cakes are amazing,Each and every cakes are entirely different from one another.Your cakes are mind blowing.
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Unknown said...

Only one word..... TRUELY AMAZING.......

Anonymous said...

Hi There! Amazing cake! How did you get the Jameson font and what did you use to write it on the barrel?

Evil Cake Genius said...

Hi there! We used one of our custom Mesh Stencils for the "Jameson". Head over to to check out our Mesh Stencils and get info for custom orders!

Shelly said...

First I love all you do!! These cakes on this particular post are amazing. I found it because I'm doing a large whiskey barrel for this weekend. Along with 2 cowboy boots😳 I haven't done a barrel before and I usually learn everything the hard way. Any tips on the construction of that beast besides the usual dowel/board method. I was thinking of doing 2 possibly 4 rods that go all the way up. I was planning on using ganache for the outside of the cake just to make sure it stays set. Any tips?

On another note I cried I laughed so hard on your striped stencil advertisement. I read it out loud to my husband and he almost cried too because of how true your little speech about "let's make a Horizontle striped cake!!" Yeah that'll be easy😳 Haha so awesome.

Jenna said...

Hi Shelly,

Thank you for the nice note! The barrel cake was made up of 9 layers of cake (3-3 layer cakes). Each cake was separated with a board and 4 dowels. We did one PVC pipe that went up through the middle all the way through. I hope this helps! Send pictures!!


Anjaneyulu said...

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ankita said...

wow, it's really awesome great work. wish I can also order online cake delivery in Pune like this.its look so yummy.

IFM said...

Nice idea for wedding cake

Hema said...

Nice Post.
Thank you for sharing.

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