Sunday, June 10, 2012

Wedding Cake Update

I bet you're wondering how the wedding cake turned out. In a word: AWESOME.

Maybe people were lying to me, and maybe I was in a haze of joy with it being my wedding day and all, but that cake was amazing. Here's how it all came together...

2 weeks before the wedding: I took a Saturday and spent the entire day baking the cakes. It took 3 rounds, and approximately 10 hours. Add in a cranky oven that doesn't heat evenly or properly, and I had to babysit those cakes while they baked. But it all turned out okay. I put each layer on a cardboard cake round, wrapped it in lots and lots of Saran wrap, and carefully put it all in the freezer. Amount of butter used: 2.25 lbs.

1 week before the wedding: I made the fillings. We decided on one filling of chocolate and one filling of mocha. Seeing as I had bad results with the filling in my practice run when I used the microwave, I rigged up a double boiler and felt very satisfied with the results, even as I was pouring the filling mixture into containers for storage. This was the fastest stage of cake-making. Amount of butter used: none. However, 4 1/2 cups of heavy cream were used, as well as 24 oz. of chocolate.

4 days before the wedding: I made the buttercream. This didn't take as long as baking the cakes, but the whipping portion of the recipe takes a very long time. You want nicely whipped, fluffy, smooth buttercream, which takes about 20 minutes for each batch. I probably spent close to an hour just staring at my KitchenAid. Also, I spent a lot of time thinking about my late grandmother, who gave me the mixer. I think she would be pleased with how it was being used. Amount of butter used: 3 lbs.

2 days before the wedding: This is where things got fun! I woke up that morning with a headache and feeling queasy. But my amazing friend, Heather, came to my rescue and spent most of the day with me, chatting, helping with other things, and calming me down. By that afternoon, my friend Elizabeth (who is an organizational wizard and is responsible for much of the smooth flow of our reception), had shown up and they watched as I assembled. In the morning, I took the cakes out of the freezer to defrost, letting them come to room temperature. 
To assemble the cakes, I did it by layer size. I had three 12 in. layers, three 9 in. layers, and three 6 in. layers. I unwrapped, and with the help of my trusty assistants, determined the best order for them to go in to create the tiers. I then whipped the chocolate filling and proceeded to create the first two layers of each tier, with the chocolate. Then I repeated, but with the mocha filling, adding the top layer of cake to each tier.
Then came the buttercream. Oh. my. goodness. Reheating and then re-whipping that frosting was like alchemy. It was beautiful. I frosted each tier, and then left them on cardboard cake rounds and stuck them in the fridge to "rest" overnight.

1 day before the wedding: That morning, each tier was lovingly nestled in a box cut to size with no-slip shelf liner on the bottom. The cake was then transported by car to the church, with one of the tiers riding on Greg's lap. (I insisted on driving, since I might have been a little overprotective.) Upon arrival at the church, I began to put the tiers together, following the instructions of America's Test Kitchen, and using the aid of my dear friend, Lenora. I had one final batch of buttercream to whip, but I couldn't seem to find a mixer in my church's kitchen, so Greg and I took turns hand whipping. It came out okay. The frosting was much easier to smooth once it was chilled. I was able to fix a few spots that were bare or uneven quite easily. I would dip my frosting spatula in hot water and run it over the surface to smooth. I was quite proud. I then loaded up my pastry bag and began to pipe our pearl border on. I wanted it to be simple for a few reasons, the main one being that I didn't want to overly stress about elaborate frosting decoration. After an hour or so, we tested it with the cake topper, declared it perfect looking, and carefully slid it into a fridge.

Wedding day! I got my hair done. I went to the church. I did a few things. I asked (the aforementioned) Heather and a bridesmaid, Julia, to assist me with the cake. I set up the cake stand I'd made (from plywood, spray paint, ribbon, and knob pulls) on the table, we carefully pulled the cake from the fridge, and wheeled it to the table. Where we discovered that in my worry about the door hitting the cake, I'd pushed it all the way back into the light for the fridge. Hahahaha! So, we turned that part to the back, put the cake topper on, and off I went to get married.

We cut the "light bulb" piece out first to feed each other, and Greg's first words after eating it were, "It's amazing!" Our friend, Dan, gave a toast to how good it was.

I'm incredibly proud of that cake. I would be happy to do it for other people, seeing as I definitely have a feel for the whole process, even more than when I did the practice cake. It was tons of fun for me, and I loved knowing that I did something that cool and memorable.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Work Discovery

The cool thing about my job is that I see hundreds of original artworks in a week. Sometimes I don't really pay attention to things because, well, I see hundreds of original artworks in a week (or day, depending on how the schedule goes). Then there are the times where I find myself slowing down and really focusing because I'm looking at a work by one of my favorite artists, and I'm blown away by the fact that I'm standing there, face to face with the same piece of work that the artist made. I usually feel like I'm having some sort of spiritual experience. (Not kidding, art viewing can be very church-like for me.)

And then there are the times when I discover something that I've never seen before by an artist I've never heard of. The most recent discovery is Rachael Robinson Elmer. She did a series of postcard prints that are amazing in their early nod to Modernism. She's so unknown, that a Wikipedia page doesn't even exist for her! She completed two full sets of postcards, after studying at the Art Students League under several well-known American artists, such as John Henry Twachtman. I don't know how many editions of these prints exist, but I am excited to have discovered some of them. She died at the age of 41, while serving with the Red Cross during World War I. However short her life may have been, I'm glad that she produced these works during that time.

Image from