From the kitchen, we ingredients can hear movement. The caker is awake! She pads into the kitchen, barefoot and bleary, for her first coffee. Sitting in the dark in the pantry, we start to get excited. The caker swings open the pantry door. She checks her favourite recipe and starts to gather us up – sugar, flour, salt, eggs and, of course me, the star of any recipe, vanilla bean paste! She puts us all on the counter, together with mixing bowls, spatulas and the scales. Hooray, today is the day! Today we become a wedding cake!!
STAGE ONE: PREPARATION
The caker turns the oven on and prepares the tins: 6″, 8″ and 10″. Today we’re going to become a wedding cake to serve 120 people as beautiful little coffee size portions! Interestingly, the same size cake could serve 60 people dessert size portions, but this couple are having lots of guests and extra desserts. The caker carefully measures out us ingredients. She uses some whole eggs and some separated out so just the yolks are used. Pffft, the eggs think they’re so special getting this extra treatment. Nothing goes to waste in our caker’s kitchen though, and the egg whites are carefully put aside for the Swiss meringue buttercream (yum!!).
We have now been transformed into delicious vanilla bean cake batter and we are going on a hot summer holiday to the oven! Once we’re all baked, we are brought out of the oven to cool down and have a little rest so our delicious flavours can develop. Once cool, we’re wrapped and popped into the fridge to chill thoroughly.
STAGE TWO: DECORATION
The next step for our caker is flowers! The caker jumps into her car, cranks some tunes, and heads to the beautiful flower markets to choose the fresh blooms that will be used to decorate the cake. Roses, lisianthus and trailing jasmine are chosen and taken back to our caker’s preparation area where she spends some time carefully washing each flower, removing guard petals, cutting stems and popping blooms into water in the cool-room. Another option for decoration is to have handcrafted sugar flowers that couples can keep as a lovely memento of their day. Sugar flowers are very time and labour intensive, so our caker would’ve needed to start on those weeks ago.
Image: Sandie Bertrand Photography
STAGE THREE: THE ICING ON THE CAKE
A delicious, creamy, satin-smooth Swiss meringue buttercream is the next element. Our caker carefully measures out sugar and egg whites into a bowl, pops in a thermometer and starts to slowly whisk the mixture together over a pot of simmering water. Once the correct temperature is reached (our caker is a stickler for making sure everything is done correctly!), the mixture is transferred to one of the caker’s trusty Kitchenaid’s to be whisked up into a gorgeously glossy meringue! The butter is added and then once again it’s my time to shine! Vanilla bean paste is added to give that delicious vanilla flavour and the beautiful teensy vanilla bean specks show through the buttercream. Golly gosh, I’m just gorgeous!
STAGE FOUR: THE DELICATE ASSEMBLY
Our caker starts to prepare the chilled cakes by levelling where needed and cutting each layer so that there are four equal layers of cake to make up each tier. A dollop of buttercream goes on the cakeboard and then the first layer of cake is popped on and brushed with a simple syrup to make sure it stays nice and moist. Next is a layer of buttercream, then the next layer of cake and so on until all four layers of cake are stacked up and ready to be covered in more delicious buttercream. Sometimes our caker makes other gorgeous fillings for cakes, things like flavoured buttercreams, toasted nuts, deluxe ganache, fruit curds or pastry cream, to name just a few! Once our caker has filled and frosted each tier, and carefully stacked them together with the proper internal supports, it’s into the fridge. A thoroughly chilled cake is definitely easier and safer to transport to the venue than a soft, room temperature one!
Image: Merge Photography
STAGE FIVE: FLOWER PREP AND ARRANGEMENT
The next step is preparing the beautiful flowers and arranging them on the cake. Our caker lays out the tools and equipment she will need for this process, such as florist wire and tape, secateurs and toothpicks. Brrrrrrr, we are nice and cold sitting in the fridge! Our caker brings us out and gently sets us on her turntable while she decides where each flower should go. It’s then back into the fridge for us until it’s time for delivery!
STAGE SIX: TRANSPORTATION
Our caker has specially designed insulated cake boxes to transport us in so we stay nice and cold all the way to the venue. It can sometimes take a little while for us to get there as she drives so carefully with us on board. Once we arrive at the venue, she takes out her special cake trolley and puts us, inside our special transportation box, on the trolley together with her emergency cake kit, extra flowers and any other elements she needs to take into the venue. For example, sometimes couples like to keep the top tier of us, their cake, to freeze until their first anniversary, so when that happens, our caker packs an extra box and freezing instructions to leave at the venue so the top tier can be packaged up beautifully for the couple to take home.
Another element that can subtly change the way we look is a cake stand. Sometimes couples want us to sit directly on a wine barrel or on a gorgeous plinth. Other times, couples want to add a little height and extra drama to our look, so then we might sit on a pedestal cake stand, or even a plateau if we need to look super fancy!
Once she has set us in place and taken some photographs of us for her portfolio, she then says a fond farewell and packs up all of her gear ready to leave. As she gets to the entrance of the reception room, she turns and has one last look at us, sitting beautifully in place and making her proud! And then? Oh yes, we wait for everyone to arrive and then we party!
STAGE SEVEN: PREPARE FOR DEMOLITION….
Image: Tessa Kit Zawadzki