Often looking back on experiences of our past, we tend to cringe and wish that if we could go back, we would do it completely differently. We remember how inexperienced and nervous we were trying something new for the very first time. These shakey-hand moments are often the best and worst times of our lives and yet they give way to learning experiences. What make these experiences unique, is that everyone always remembers their first time. I do not refer to something saucy or risqué, unless of course that’s how you feel about buttercream, lol.... I’m talking about the first time I made a wedding cake.
There were many first cakes for me, some included throwing frosting out of frustration, ( as if somehow it would make the cake not lean to the side ) or some cakes just ended in tears. This cake in particular was made purely from drive and that it was a race against the clock, the elusive last minute wedding cake.
About 12 years ago, I was the pastry sous chef at The Spiced Pear in Newport, RI. I had a few years pastry experience in the field that I had mainly focused on baking, flavor, structure and texture. So you could say that I was a fledgling when it came to cake decorating.
I was promoted to pastry sous chef over the phone, which was unexpected since I wasn’t expecting my predecessor to quit.
My first task in my new job was to plan to make a 4 tier wedding cake... in 2 days. Of course I had made several cakes before this, but nothing stacked, nothing elevated, and certainly nothing worthy of a Newport wedding. However, it was never in my nature to quit before I started. So I made a cake sketch, a production schedule, and a very dry martini.
As nervous to make this as I was, it was exciting to take on this project. I never spoke with the bride and groom directly, but I received their notes for the wedding cake design... “ elegant, antique, lace, gold, pearls, 4 tiers, and vanilla.” I can’t believe I was satisfied at the time with that “grocery list”, now I want at least 2 pages of notes containing almost too many details about a wedding cake order. Side story- Another thing that I do differently.... back then I used to make and extra top cake tier stored for back up, decorated and everything. When I stacked the wedding cake, I was always so afraid that the top tier would slide off my spatula. I never needed the extra tiers, but the dishwashers were always grateful for the extra cake.
What is pictured above is what I came up with for the couple, of course I see so many flaws that I wish that I could take back. The bride and groom seemed to love it, when they walked into their beautifully decorated reception on the terrace.
I worked so many hours, trying to give them the best wedding cake that I could force out of myself at the time. The fact that I had succeeded in this cake was wonderful, but there was definetly another reason of why this path has taken me to where I am now.
I remember waiting to cut the cake, I was the only one in the restaurant who was trained to cut a wedding cake, so I waited. I watched the cake cutting ceremony, and I will never forget that moment between the bride and groom. They were feeding each other the cake, smiling and kissing, they looked so content and happy. Everyone one in the room was watching them with this cake.... this symbol of love. Shortly after, everyone was enjoying this symbol, eating cake and celebrating with the bride and groom. To be a part of these moments, even in just a small way with flour and sugar, is special and it really is the reason why I do what I do.
Now I understand this is just cake we are talking about, but every piece to a wedding is important, and brings the love and celebration together.
“Sugar Bake Shoppe.....bringing couples together one cupcake at a time.” Wouldn’t that be so corny If that was our tag line?
What I have come to love even more about wedding cakes since my first one, is that they have the potential to be so special. They don’t have to be a cookie cutter design or even what is expected and the flavor can be completely crazy and unusual. The point is it doesn’t matter what you choose your wedding cake to be, it will be that symbol of celebration to all your loved ones. Enjoying a slice of wedding cake is almost like a rite of passage at a wedding, it’s a way for everyone at your reception to break bread with you.
So whatever you want your wedding cake to be, make it about what you want! Have fun and don’t put pressure on it, it already has a special message. The message is togetherness and love, everything else is just icing on the cake! ( come on you know that had to be said at some point! )
- Kate Repko co-owner Sugar Bake Shoppe
Hi everyone, Kate here.... we wanted to take this opportunity for our clients to get to know us better, as well as share decorating videos, and highlight special projects.
I’ll kick off our first blog with something about my self. I am a pastry chef who is ALLERGIC to FLOUR!!!!!
Years of exposure to anything can ignite an allergic reaction, mine started with an itchy throat and a tight chest whenever I worked with flour. Like any typical chef, I pushed through it and ignored my symptoms , told myself I was fine. One day, I refilled our restaurant’s flour, emptying a 50 lb bag of flour into an open plastic bin, just like I always did. An hour later, I had trouble breathing and had hives all over.
After a quick trip to the emergency room and epinephrine, I was told I had an anaphylactic reaction and needed allergy testing. Of all the things I could possibly dread, having just started a new Bakery Business, was to learn that I was in fact allergic to flour.
You might be thinking, “well that’s a shame, she can’t eat it, but at least she can still bake”...if only.
I actually have something called baker’s asthma which basically means that I have an allergic reaction to the flour in the air.
Upon asking an Allergy Specialist what my options were, I was told plainly .... to find a different career!
Now I don’t want to make anyone depressed with my journey down this road, because obviously this story has a positive outcome. So a long story short......
I was determined to continue my baking career and my 15 years of experience that I had put in. My clever husband came up with a great idea, allowing me to continue baking. You know those masks with the filters that construction workers use when they work with hazardous air particles? Well that’s what I rock with pride when I work with flour.
Its really not as bad as all that, once the flour is wet, all is safe and obviously decorating with buttercream is a non-issue. My business partner Phay is also very supportive of my situation.
I also have an opportunity to amuse myself with coworkers and speak like Darth Vader with a muffled deep voice and exaggerated breathing beneath my mask.
“Why is she sharing all of this” you ask yourself. I will tell you very simply.... I absolutely love what I do. I am committed to my work in a unique way, devoted to desserts and pastries 100% percent, and I won’t let anything get in the way of that. So when you are looking for someone to make your wedding cake, you want someone who is all in! And who looks fabulous in a respirator mask!
Until next time,
- Kate Repko
co-owner Sugar Bake Shoppe