Sunday, August 25, 2013

West (St. Paul) side story.

When you're a Jet,
You're a Jet all the way
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin' day. 

Or a Vulcan.

All love stories are grand.  But The Evil Cake Genius particularly enjoys those grand, "you and me against the world" love against all odds, love stories.  You know, the Romeo and Juliet, the Maria and Tony, the "...a place for us" kind of forbidden love.  Aaaaah...that's the stuff.

So imagine my joy, when I spoke to James for the first time.  James is a member of the Order of Fire and Brimstone.  No, he's not a Wizard, sorry.  He is, however, a former member of the Vulcan Krewe and therefore a loyal member of the Order for life!

Those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, certainly haven't had the pleasure of enduring a Minnesota winter in their lifetime, so I'll give you a little back story.

In 1885, a New York reporter wrote that Saint Paul was, "another Siberia, unfit for human habitation" in winter. Offended by this attack on their city, the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce decided to prove not only that Saint Paul was habitable but that its citizens were very much alive during winter, their most dominant season. Thus was born the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.  The Carnival wraps around the story of King Boreas, the King of the Winds, complete with his Royal court of guards, princes and princesses of the four directional winds, a brassy tart named Klondike Kate, and a whole host of other players that the Evil Cake Genius is pretty much unfamiliar with because she agrees with that New York reporter and has never actually attended the winter carnival (Sorry James).
Then there is the Vulcan Krewe.  An all male squad with the sole purpose of overthrowing King Boreas and taking control of the Carnival, therefore symbolically ending Winter.  Now, if these blokes could actually end winter in January in Minnesota, I'd marry one myself, but that is another story.

So, there you have them...the Royal Family and the Vulcan Krewe.  Sworn enemies...Hatfields and McCoys, Capulets and Montagues, Sharks and Jets.

So imagine the uproar, when James, in his red polar fleece suit, ski goggles and finned hat, saw Emily...a West Wind Princess...across a blustery, frostbitten crowd of faces...and fell in love.

Emily...Say it loud and there's music playing,
Say it soft and it's almost like praying.

Emily, I just met a girl named Emily
and suddenly that name 
will never be the same to me!

So I began grilling James over this.  "There had to have been a rumble at the Carnival, then?  Did you have a knife fight with the Prince of the West Wind?  Did King Boreas forbid her to see you, then you were secretly married, and... "

Sadly, no.  I get no drama, no knife fights, no forbidden love...actually, their Winter Carnival friends think that it's pretty neat that a Vulcan and a Princess would fall in love and get married.  Many of the guests at the wedding would be former Royalty and Vulcan Krewe, and they all get along just swimmingly.

Boooo.  Hissss.

Despite my disgust, I agreed to meet with them to design a cake.

The idea of the cake was to incorporate the theme of Fire and Ice.  The couple would be married in December at the Landmark Center in St. Paul.  Right on Rice Park, a key site in the Winter Carnival festivities.  Their colors, crimson red, gold and white.

This was easy.  Well, not easy....the concept would be easy to design from.  The execution...probably not so much.  We decided to create a winter wonderland of a cake with flickering fire-glowing separators.  Fire...Ice...
but to keep the Vulcans from feeling slighted and possibly causing a riot, we added a bold hand-painted red and metallic gold piece climbing up from the bottom tiers.  A cake that is worthy of the House of Boreus and Vulcanus.  But still, there would be no rumble. Pooh.

Of course, the combination of fire and ice would lead to icicles, so we hung them from the bottoms of the tiers.  And we topped it all with a swirling topper of West Wind fondant.

The wedding came and went and I heard no reports of a violent brawl in St. Paul that night.  Ho hum.
Emily and James were even kind enough to share some of their wedding photos with us.  And then I got it.  I got my moment of romance...of undying love....of, of....

Make of our lives one life,
Day after day, one life.
Now it begins, now we start
One hand, one heart,
Even death won't part us now.

 Just take one look at the pictures of Tony (sorry, James) seeing his Maria (sorry, Emily) for the first time and you'll realize that it doesn't take drama, gang rivalries, or even my favorite...knife make a grand romance.  It just takes two people who love the living bejeesus out of each other.  And a really good cake.

Thanks to Jodi Ann Photography for these beautiful photos!

Decorator's Notes:

James and Emily's cake had a lot of fun elements to create.

The snowflakes were all hand cut out of Mexican Paste (a combination of Fondant and Gum Paste) and coated with edible glitter so that they sparkled in the candlelight.  We use a number of different snowflake cutters, and then cut out the lacy patterns with all sorts of Micro-cutters to make each one unique.

The West Wind scrolls were hand molded in a chocolate filigree mold out of fondant, and then painted with Super Pearl.  The same filigree mold was used to make the Metallic gold scrolls surrounding the red painting on the bottom two tiers.  We hand-painted the red to give it a patina, rather than it be a solid red mass.

The separators are acrylic, lined with vellum, and we used battery operated "candles" inside the separators so that the light flickered like candlelight.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Their Story

There are a lot of advantages to limiting the quantity of cakes we do per weekend at Gateaux Inc.  Let's start with the obvious...we never have to freeze a cake.  We only take as many orders as we can bake fresh and frost in a four day period, making our cakes the most fresh-moist-delicious-cakes you'll ever have the pleasure of eating.  Add in the fact that we couldn't possibly design and execute such intricate cake designs if we had a docket of  orders backing up on us.  We take one full decorating day for each cake that we make...multiply that by 3 cake decorators on staff, that's on average 39 woman-hours of decorating going into one Gateaux Cake.  Knowing this, allows me, The Evil Cake Genius, to design absolutely absurdly labor intensive cakes for my clients.  People often ask me if I worked for another bakery before starting Gateaux Inc.  The answer is simple.  Any profitable bakery would have fired my ass after one week.  I'm slow, completely type A, and will not compromise the quality of my cakes in either look or taste for anyone or anything, especially for an accountant.  But my favorite part of limiting our orders is the fact that I still get to meet with every client myself.  Call it selfish, but I want to be able to sit down with each client and get the full idea of the event  they're planning.  This gives me the unique opportunity to design a cake that is completely, utterly unique to them.  So I rarely, if ever have to make the same cake twice!!

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% 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 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 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 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.

Decorator's Notes:

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 Mesh Stenciling fondant with royal icing.  I created custom mesh stencils for each book title.  You can see other Mesh Stencils on our Evil Cake Genius site 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. 
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!