Shimi’s Wedding Cake~*

by janet on August 11th, 2008

This is it. The big one. The one I had been working towards for a year. The one that I took sooo many lessons for. The one that I had tirelessly practiced for, every single month, since last July.

Of course I’m totally kidding. I think I practiced two whole times for Shimi’s wedding cake. Hey, Shimi, if you’re reading this, all’s well that ends well, right?
But what a fucking journey it was. Last July, on a hellish drive from Seattle over the border to Vancouver, the crazy idea was hatched for me to make her cake. Being a wedding cake decorator has always secretly been the thing I wanted to be when I growed up, so I was really excited.
But then the week of her wedding came around, smack in the middle of one of the busiest summers I’ve ever had professionally (three deadlines the Friday before her wedding), and I started to hyperventilate. I barely slept the Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday preceding her wedding, not because I was working on her cake, but because I was freaking out about it. My friends said, “What the fuck were you thinking?” and I would respond, “WAAAAAAAAAH!”
When Asians get stressed, they get organized. But there was too much to think about! I had to remember to buy wire cutters to cut the dowels to insert into the cake! Did I really need to spend more than $20 only on BUTTER? And what the fuck kind of CAKE was I going to make?

Well, the abomination above is test recipe #1 (I started testing recipes on Tuesday). Let’s see. It did not rise at all. It was burnt on the edges. Oh, and it tasted like grainy feces. I definitely cried a little bit when this came out.

But as Liz/QJ/Tinx would say, I am persistent as a mosquito/heat-seeking-missile/Michael Phelps. I picked myself back up and went back to the drawing board.

And then promptly dropped a fucking egg on the ground. As I was dumb and only bought exactly enough eggs as the recipe required, this was tragic indeed, and incited a barrage of “shits” and “fucks” and “cunty cunts!” and a couple more tears.

These are the pans that I lined with parchment paper. I didn’t realize that just lining the pans takes a million years, and requires tons of measuring, precise cutting (don’t look at the top one), and many, many diagonal cuts that are to be spaced 1 cm away from one another. Once lined, they look very profesh and cute at the same time.

The winning recipe. That Martha Stewart. She is the goddess of all things, including wedding cake recipes.

Totally Kidding Part II! It’s totally cake mix (Hey, Shimi – all’s well that ends tastily, right?). In my darkest moments of despair, I asked myself WWTCS1CD? (What would Top Chef Season 1 Contestants Do?). They, of course, got into major shit with Collichio for using cake mix for the wedding cake in the wedding challenge! I remember one of them saying, “You just can’t beat cake mix – it’s so consistent and the texture and taste are always perfect.” So, the perfection above is industrial-sized yellow cake mix from Smart & Final.

I mean, LOOK AT IT! Moist, yet perfectly dense enough to withstand the weight of the tier above it. The same rise everywhere, crisp edges – perfect for stacking. And completely delicious. Simon and I dragged the trimmed-off pieces through the tub of icing and at a shitload of it.

I have a schmancy icing spatula, but the bottom tier was styrofoam (which cost, in total, $12. TWELVE DOLLARS for fucking STYROFOAM!?!? Shoulda just made it out of cake!) so I just got down ‘n dirty with my hands. It’s better than expensive hand cream – my hands were sooo soft.

Oh, by the way, having the bottom tier be styrofoam was bride-approved, so there.

The middle tier, post-icing. It is soo cute and fluffy looking, even though it was ten pounds of icing and cake. I wanted to hug it and squeeze it.

So this is fondant in the raw. I needed Simon’s strong hands to knead it for me, but otherwise he was totally unhelpful. During the MOST DIFFICULT moments he was like, “Oh, I’m no good at this part. You do it.” Mofo.

Anyway, you add the height of your cake plus the diameter, add two inches, and then roll out the fondant to the appropriate size on the mat. There are many details here that I won’t go in to (like how you have to Crisco AND powdered-sugar the rolling mat, but the sugar has to be applied using a special powdered sugar bag thing, but they don’t tell you that you can’t touch the Crisco with the special bag or else it will clog the holes and no sugar will come out, etc.)

Using a combination of voodoo and blind luck, your cake will look like this after the fondant has been applied. It’s tricky, because you’re putting a flat circle onto a cylinder so there’s tons of extra fondant that hangs down like a skirt. It takes special hands (WINK) to get the fondant smooth. Oh, and the Wilton brand fondant smoother (such a thing exists).

With the cakes safely made and safely covered, I realized the CAKE boxes I bought were way too wimpy to hold the CAKE. The bottom tier, being styrofoam, was light. The middle tier weighed around 10 pounds, and the top tier weighed about 7. I had to go to a special box store (BoxBros, where the shop dude asked me if there was a Verizon store around there…what?), where I also bought fragile tape (not tape that is fragile, but actual tape that says FRAGILE! FRAGILE! FRAGILE! on it).

So, the cakes were done, save for some last-minute assembly. OH, but I forgot – I had to DRIVE SIX HOURS UP TO BERKELEY with these fuckers. I drove like a grandma the whole way, and left the car running even while filling up on gas to keep the A/C going. Fondant-covered cakes can last up to 5 days unrefrigerated, but still.

When we got to the hotel, we were in a suite so Cara and I took out the shelves in our fridge and stuck the cakes in. I was anxious – would the cakes dry out? Would the fondant warp or crack? I put the fridge on the lowest setting and tried to forget about it for two days.

The day of the wedding – EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I took my social support entourage (including a STRUCTURAL ENGINEER! SCORE!) to the reception site an hour early to assemble the cake. Cheez and Cara were most helpful, mostly because they were the two that stayed behind when I realized I forgot stuff in the suite and sent Emry and the engineer back to the hotel. They nearly missed the ceremony due to my stupidity and traffic, and for that I apologize.

The construction was surprisingly easy. A couple air bubbles had snuck in, so I just pricked and deflated them. I had never doweled or stacked before, so I was a wreck, but I had read about how to do it 20 times. Basically, the main concern is that the top tiers will sink into the tiers below. So you have to stab wooden or plastic dowels vertically into the cake, right under the cake board of the tier above. But of course each cake is a different height so you have to custom-cut your dowels (thus the wire cutters). Then we used my makeup pencil sharpener (which I had not because I was prepared but because I am vain and had my entire make-up kit with me) to sharpen the ends and poked them into the cake.

The ribbon wasn’t glued all the way around – it just rested at the base and I attached the ends with the daintiest dollop of piping icing. I left a little window on the top layer so that the bride and groom had a place to cut.

Then some lady came around with a huge, messy bouquet. “Flowers for the cake.” “Oh, REALLY?? Because I was told that I was getting a bag of just loose orchid blossoms. Can you find the florist and make sure?” “I AM the florist.” Oh.

Good thing I had NOT found wire cutters, and instead gotten stem-cutters from the garden shop. WOooOO! We snipped off the dahlias and a bunch of orchid blossoms, and then proceeded to do about three hundred permutations of flowers. Orchids on top, dahlias at base. Dahlias at top, orchids at base of every tier. Dahlias AND orchids on top, orchids all around the bottom. Just three bunches of orchids on the bottom, two dahlias and one orchid blossom on top. Only dahlias on top, orchids on bottom with a carpet of orchid blossoms covering the entire table. No orchid blossoms carpeting the table (took forever to clean), dahlias on top, bunches of orchids at the base.

PHEW. Anyway, behold the final product:

I was pretty fuckin’ proud of myself.

Shimi and her hubby cut exactly where they were supposed to (I warned them that fondant is pretty tough, so they would have to use muscles, and further, that fondant is not tasty [though my hamster LOVES it] so they should peel that off before they fed each other the cake). They fed each other and didn’t grimace (SCORE!) and did not keel over from food poisoning. In the end, the caterers cut the cake and served it to the masses (it was really only supposed to be for the bride and groom) and I was told by many that it was the best cake out of the three that were served. Thanks, Top Chef!

I owe so many thanks to my good friends who helped me along the way. And to Shimi, for taking a HUGE risk and letting some random punk make her cake. And, of course, I am thankful to my mother, who will never let my head get big and who would not acknowledge any sort of innate talent in me and said, “Wow, those lessons really paid off! You must have had a great teacher!” Thanks, Mom!

2 Responses to “Shimi’s Wedding Cake~*”

  1. […] Shimi’s Wedding Cake Because: This post wins Most Labor Intensive post of the year, both in actual execution of the food […]

  2. […] per each side of the pan.  But all we had was a huge bag of leftover cake mix from when I made Shimi’s wedding cake, so it was difficult to proportion it out correctly.  Also I think the substances in the sprinkles […]

Leave a Reply