The Wedding Cake

The wedding cake

A few weeks ago, my mom and I had the exciting job of making my sister’s wedding cake.  My mom was a chef/baker/caterer for her first career, so she has made many wedding cakes before.  I watched her make one a few months ago for a friend, and this time I decided to get more involved.

This is not the first wedding cake my sister has had.  As a toddler, when my mom made wedding cakes for customers, my sister would ask for a piece, but of course she couldn’t have one.  So for her third birthday, she requested a wedding cake.  My mom delivered:

My sister's third birthday

That’s my sister about to blow out the three candles on her “wedding cake”.  On the top are a pair of little wedding bears that my mom had found at a dollar store.  My sister has kept those bears ever since, and we decided to reuse them (this time with no candles).

Wedding bears

The cake is Alice Medrich’s Hot Milk Sponge.  Each tier has six layers of cake (three rounds each cut in half).  My mom did the actually baking of the cake while I was away for a few days during the critical wedding-preparation week.  I believe she did three batches of the sponge recipe (each batch making one large, one medium, and one small round).  We soaked each layer in a simple syrup with limoncello and lemon juice.  We then layered them alternately with the lemon mousse recipe from Maida Heatter’s Lemon Chiffon Icebox Cake and with white chocolate buttercream (loosely following Sweetapolita‘s swiss meringue buttercream recipe).  When adding the lemon mousse layers, I first piped a ring of buttercream around the edge to act as a dam.  All three of these recipes are delicious and versatile, and my mom and I have both used them for many different desserts.

I didn’t take any photos of the process, but each tier was assembled on a cardboard cake circle.  After doing a crumb coat and final coat of white chocolate buttercream on each tier, I set the bottom tier on a tinfoil-covered piece of plywood.  I then stacked each tier by inserting four dowel pieces into the layer below (there’s an illustration of this here).  My trusty assistant helped me cut the dowels to be exactly flush with the top of the cake tier once inserted (we stuck the dowel in first to mark the right length with a pencil).  I stuck a blob of icing in the center of the four dowels to help glue the next tier on.  Once we stacked all the tiers like this, I did the piping where they joined in order to cover up the crack (and because I thought it would look pretty).  We then carried it very very carefully into the fridge.

Between the reception and dinner, a couple of hours before the cake was going to be served, I added the flowers.  The day before, I had gone to pick them out from our friend who did the bouquets.  I was a bit torn between doing a small cluster of flowers and a big cascade, but as you can see I went big – the flowers were so bright and pretty that I couldn’t resist.  I added dahlias (from a local farm), roses, and little green berries.  I didn’t have much method – I basically started with the biggest blossoms and added them near the bottom, and went from there, filling in all the gaps and making sure the colours were distributed evenly.  I used a skewer to poke a hole in the cake before inserting the flowers.

We also made two sheet cakes (not shown), since there were 160 people and we were worried about the tiered cake being enough.  In the end, we had way too much, and the tiered cake didn’t even get touched – we were giving it away for the next couple of days.

The cake cut beautifully and the servers added a strawberry to each piece.  The lemon mousse is similar in colour to the sponge cake, but you can see it if you look closely.

The wedding cake

The first slice

Photos taken by the awesome Richard So (see his flickr page here).

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Wedding Signs

K&G wedding sign

A few weeks before my sister’s wedding, she asked me to paint some signs directing people where to go.  I immediately searched “wedding signs” on Pinterest and found a huge number of “Happily ever after” type signs that didn’t suit her style at all.  She just wanted signs with information.  So, my dad cut some pieces of plywood, my sister and her fiancée painted them white, and when I got there a few days before the event, I added the text.

My sister had already used the Lakesight font for the drink tags she had made, so I wanted to use it for the signs as well.  I nearly gave up and chose a different font because I thought Lakesight would be too difficult to paint by hand, but it was actually easier than I expected.  I printed out the text for each sign using the “demo” function of the font page.  I then pencilled a rough guide for the letters onto the signs, and painted over it with a thick paintbrush and acrylic paint.  The thickness of the paintbrush suited the cursive font well because I could vary the thickness of the strokes just by applying different amounts of pressure.

After I had painted on the words, my sister applied glue and sparkles to make them shimmer a bit (really, she just wanted to use her sparkles).

Reception and ceremony signs

Wedding signs

Butterfly Cookies

 

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I made these cookies as a dessert for my sister’s wedding.  On the weekend before the wedding, I baked a large batch of sugar cookies using two different butterfly cutters I had gotten in a kitchen store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.  One was a fairly standard butterfly shape and the other was more moth-like.  Once the cookies were out, I made a batch of royal icing, mixed up nine different bowls of icing with gel food colouring, filled up nine different disposable piping bags, and went at it.

I used what is usually called twenty second icing – royal icing thinned with water to the point where it will flow a bit, but not run off the edge of the cookie.  I did a test batch of butterflies a couple weeks beforehand and found that, since I wanted to do so many colours, having both piping and flooding consistency icings was too much of a hassle.  I was able to make neat patterns with this icing just by piping the different colours against or onto each other while still wet, so that they flowed together.  Although I couldn’t get the shapes as precise without outlining, I kind of like the more natural shapes that happened, and I dragged a toothpick through some designs for pointed effects.  I didn’t use any piping tips simply because I didn’t have enough plain round ones… they might have helped a bit and prevented some mistakes, but I managed all right just by cutting off the ends of the bags.

My inspiration for the designs came from this artwork:

I used it to decide on the colours, and for some cookies (like the one below), I actually tried to recreate the design.

 

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One problem I faced was with the red icing.  As you might be able to see in the photo above, it had a different texture than the other colours and went crumbly when it dried.  From what I’ve read on other blogs, it seems that this is probably caused by the large amount of food colouring that was required to get the deep red, either directly, or because of the amount of mixing I did while trying to add a little food colouring at a time.  I’ll try red again at some point and see if I can get better results.  Anyway, I dealt with these ones just by touching them as little as possible before they were served.

The cookies were a hit on the dessert table beside the cake and eaten up before I got to grab one.  Good thing there were a few failures to snack on during the process!

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butterfly_mosaic_edited   Photo credits: Georgia Russell

A Wedding Blanket

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Hello world!  Welcome to the first blog post I have ever written.  I’ve just started this website as a place to record some of my favourite artsy and foodsy projects.  Maybe a little computer science will sneak in here too, we’ll see.  The first few posts will have a clear theme to them – I’ll be putting up a few things I did in preparation for my sister’s wedding!

My lovely sister and her new husband had their big celebration yesterday.  When I found out about their engagement a few months ago, I decided that a knitted blanket would make a great wedding gift.  I have never knitted a blanket before, and it seemed like an appropriate occasion for a big project that they would both be able to use.  A while back, I had bookmarked the Umaro pattern by Jared Flood on Ravelry.  I chose it for this project because the 10mm needles and extra bulky yarn made the idea of a 4×5′ project less intimidating.  The recommended yarn turned out to be the nicest and most reasonably priced option I found at the yarn store.  I stuck with the cream colour in the hope that it won’t go out of style too quickly.

After making a reasonable start on the project in the spring, I brought the remains of my 13-skein sack of yarn to Seattle in May.  Over the following twelve weeks I knit about three rows.  But that’s okay, I still had a month of vacation!  Plenty of time!  With my job in Seattle done, I returned to Canada and I knit up a storm over the next couple of weeks – first on Savary Island, and then on the farm in Saskatchewan where these photos were taken.

I gave the blanket to my sister and her (now) husband last weekend, by arranging it as part of the bridal suite my parents had set up for them.  The weather yesterday was a little chillier and wetter than we had hoped for the wedding, but the party was hopping anyway.  And my sister wrapped the blanket around her for warmth during her wedding dinner.

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Photo credits: Emma Sheppard