I don’t do wedding cakes because the first cake I ever made was a wedding cake.
That’s enough to put you off of them for life.
When a coworker asked me to make her wedding cake, my baking experience extended to truffles that I made as office presents. Even with my grand lack of skills, her cake design was simple enough so I said sure, that I would do it as a gift.
What I didn’t know then is that nothing is simple with cakes.
They are the trolls of the baking world. They’re finicky because they’re assholes. They can and do go wrong at every step, sometimes just to watch you cry.
Making my coworker’s cake took months of practice. It was ridiculous and I cried a lot.
I think I’m happy that Pinterest didn’t exist in 2006. Photos of perfect cakes may have caused me to abandon the project. Instead, I raged at pock-marked frosting in my kitchen but carried on, oblivious to others’ perfection.
The final product was fine. When I brought it to the venue I was relieved that I was done and happy it was gone.
While writing this post, I thought to myself that I was happy I had lost the only photo I had of it, but a little digging and NOPE, FOUND IT (and its sweet, sweet photo editing job).
And look, I even tinted that frosting to match the petals. I guess the result wasn’t as bad as I remembered. STILL, the process was exhausting.
Once I finished her cake, I left the whole dessert course alone for a while. I had developed pretty hostile feelings toward cakes and thought I would never touch another one again.
Yet, after a little while, the hostility I harbored birthed a desire to wrestle cakes to the fucking ground.
I started making cakes just to get better at it and began enjoying the process of showing them who’s boss.
Every time a cake turned out well I essentially did this in the kitchen.
Then, somehow, people started hiring me for cakes and I would respond YES I WILL MAKE THAT BABY SHOWER CAKE FOR YOU AND I WILL REIGN SUPREME OVER IT IN THE END DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY ALLERGIES.
Wedding cakes, however, I turned down. I swore them off because the pressure was too high. If anyone asked about wedding cakes, I told/screamed in horror “I DON’T DO WEDDING CAKES” and stuck to it.
I did that for six years until one of my sisters got engaged and asked me to make her wedding cake.
She sent me a photo of what she wanted. It was simple, not fussy, and used techniques I already knew.
“You won’t cry this time. You know this stuff. Plus, it’s your sister,” I told myself. I told her I would make her simple cake and felt surprisingly ok about it.
Then her wedding date changed and suddenly what she now wanted was very different and my armpits were sweating and I felt that horror scream coming on of I DON’T DO WEDDING CAKES.
Instead, I issued a battle cry and started practicing.
The cake she wanted had a lot of gum paste flowers on it, something I had never done (lolololololol of course).
I was happy Pinterest existed at this point. Now perfect cakes were something to aspire to, not something to feel defeated by. I found inspiration and tutorials on how to make exactly what I wanted.
I started with peonies. I used a tutorial from Cake Journal.
I didn’t think I’d be writing about my sister’s cake since I was more worried about abject failure. These are mostly iPhone/Instagram shots as I went along.
Peonies require a lot of petals and I had a lot of peonies to make.
I was so proud of the start of my first ones. Then my neighbor (an actual, legitimate, professional cake baker) came over to visit. At my request she showed me what I was doing wrong with my petal edges.
You can see the difference most dramatically in the top two flowers. One is pretty uptight and the other is like I AM FLOATING FREE IN THIS WIND CAN’T YOU FEEL IT?
Still working things out.
Close-up early on.
More petals, veining, rolling, ruffling.
She also wanted a lot of roses:
so, I started to make roses (not sperm, as someone inquired)
and more roses
AND MORE ROSES
AND THERE’S NO TIME TO FIX NAIL POLISH BECAUSE I’M STRANGLING THE ROSES
I made some roses of a different color.
I started feeling a little more confident at this point (but not too confident because that’s when things start to go wrong)
and I guess the confidence helped because my components started smiling at me.
I think I made thirty-something blush-pink roses and the same number of coral ones.
I made some balls (to go along with the sperm) for some filler. It was late and this was the photo that happened. I feel like I’m in a tupperware at the back of the refrigerator.
Of everything, the leaves were the most difficult part.
This was not the color I wanted for the dark pink peonies at all and I was a little panicky about it.
It is the color they got because I am still learning how to get deep, dark colors in frosting/gum paste/fondant.
My Cake Baker Neighbor even came over to try to help me get the color I wanted but it was still a no-go.
To understand the problem, imagine you’re trying to get fondant a deep, bright, red for a fire-engine cake. Think about adding drops of red food dye to a POUND of white dough. You’re going to get pink. In fact, you’re going to get pink for a long, long, long, time. You may use up your entire bottle of red food dye in your handful of white dough. You now have a beautiful shade of deep pink. Look at that Pepto-Bismol fire-engine go!
I made progress with colors when I switched to Americolor dye but I still have a lot to learn about color mixing and doing it for cakes.
Even without getting the dark pink I wanted, when I strangled everything together the colors worked nicely. I wanted them arranged similarly on the cake as they were here.
(We’re not going to talk about the coloring on the balls because it was a nightmare.)
I finished the last gum paste object the day before we were supposed to leave for my sister’s wedding.
To fly across the country.
With innumerable, delicate, wired gum paste decorations.
And two children in tow.
And I hadn’t even started the actual cake.
Part II, with the hard part, is here.