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