I know that I just gave you a beautiful image of love and happiness and cool hair, but we’re here to talk about cake. And here’s the thing about cakes, guys; the thing is: wedding cakes are usually dumb. Half the time they’re from a catering company whose thing isn’t cakes and the other half they cost one million dollars. Most often they’re fakified in some way—slices are brought out from the back that clearly weren’t cut from the monstrosity those giddy newlyweds cut into minutes before. A lot of times they even taste bad. There; I said it.
People are getting wise to this. I’ve seen various dessert bars, special hometown candies, doughnuts, and other creative giant-wedding-cake-replacers in the past few years, and I dig it. My friends Gigi and Zach (aka: Zizi, seen above dancing in love) chose to have an assortment of normal-sized cakes at their recent wedding instead of one giant cake, all home-baked by the beautiful Kinfolk Fairy Queen Ellen and myself (though Ellen is actually a professional baker, which is kind of cheating). And guys, we did it. We baked cakes for two hundred people and they all looked good and tasted good and I still can’t believe it.
Ellen made lemon rosemary cake, browned butter coconut cake, and a berry white cake (get it?). I made chocolate ganache cake, red wine blackberry cake, and a carrot cake with spiced cream cheese icing. Something for everyone! People were just raving and I had another epiphany about how much I love baked-good affirmation. I shamelessly asked everyone what they thought of the cakes all night. News flash: they loved them. I already knew or I wouldn’t have asked.
The wedding was very DIY, with lots of friend help, which I have come to approach with a certain degree of anxiety. But, when the couple keeps things simple and their friends are all incredibly talented and super generous, the stress goes way down. The wedding was held in the courtyard of the cute old apartment complex Gigi and Zach lived in when they met. Friends and family decorated, organized, performed music, cooked, and generally made good things happen.
Everything was delicious, but I think MVP goes to the beer which was specially homebrewed by Ellen’s husband Tommy. I’d like to take a moment to appreciate that beer. If your experience of homebrew is bland, oddly carbonated grain water that all tastes the same regardless of kind, THINK AGAIN. Tommy is kind of a professional too though, so I guess that’s not fair either. The red was my favorite, expect that the pale ale was.
Old friends came back in town. New friends ran amuck. Children, puppies, and a goat were all in attendance. Dancing was magical. I’ll never not associate ruling the world with that group of girls. The cops even showed up for the last song, which was pretty funny and added a festive, strobe light vibe (for the record, we were not yet breaking any noise ordinances). The night ended with everyone snacking on Cheetos in their fancy clothes, lying in the grass. One of the best weddings on record.
Here are my pro wedding-cake-baking tips:
- Bake all the cakes ahead of time and freeze the layers individually in a double layer of plastic wrap—the weekend before is prime time. This is absolutely necessary, unless the wedding is teeny-tiny, or you have a time machine, or you are just a full-time baker (in which case, why are you reading this?).
- If you can ice the cakes the day before the wedding, do it! This depends on schedule, of course, but will also involve refrigerator real-estate considerations, and other practical things like that. I didn’t have time before the day of the wedding and ended up missing more bridesmaids together-time than I would have liked.
- Make lists and plan timelines and triple count ingredients. This way you’ll know if you in fact did not buy enough chocolate for the ganache icing before you start making it in your pajamas when you’re supposed to go have mimosas and eat breakfast tacos in like an hour…ahem.
- Which brings us to the most important tip: only take on this task for people you don’t fear. Cakes can be complicated enough without the added pressure of eternal wrath if you mess one up. Generally, this means that you should only high-stakes bake for friends who are close enough/low-maintenance/low-stress enough to be safe, or for people you don’t really know.
When I told people I was baking cakes for a wedding, most reacted with looks of fear and horror. I think they had visions of bridezillas and broken relationships as much as the actual logistics of baking. I had to explain every time that my friend Gigi is someone you can bake wedding cakes for without living in fear.
Gigi is up for anything and wants you to be too. I am generally in awe of the way she welcomes and cares for people (and animals) without hesitation or reserve. She’ll adopt a cat or get matching tattoos with friends she just met without skipping a beat. And her enthusiasm for and genuine interest in others don’t just maker her fun to be around, they’re strong enough to bring other people closer together. Gigi’s relentless inviting has made me more than one good friend. I am so thankful to know her, and was honored to be in her wedding. So, of course I’d make her cakes. #ziziforever.
Anyway, I guess To Each His Scone is catering now. Cake recipe posts to come!