Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gold Gilded Gateaux

When I first spoke to Josephine back in March, she mentioned her love for the simple yet impactful designs of April Reed. And as an April Reed fan myself, I was super excited to sit down with Josephine and her fiance Jimmy to design their wedding cake. They wanted something classic and elegant with three-tiers that incorporated their colors: ivory and antique gold. Below is the sketch of the design we decided on.

Ideally, we would have wanted to display the cake on a cake pedestal similar to the one in the sketch, however Chinese tradition (and the bride's mother) stipulated that the cake be either three or six tiers total to be considered lucky. The height of the pedestal would have counted as an additional tier so to achieve a larger presence, we later decided to increase the middle tier from 8" to 10" tall.

Speaking of the middle tier, I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive about achieving a smooth fondant finish on it. Any cake decorator that works with fondant will tell you that tall narrow cakes are notoriously tricky to cover - the larger the ratio of height to width, the higher the risk of the fondant bunching and tearing in the process. I had a back-up plan to cover the middle tier in two separate pieces of fondant in case things went horribly wrong but luckily, I was able to achieve a fairly smooth covering on the first try. :-)

The 10" middle tier before fondant
and after
Now for the assembly starting with the bottom tier.
With tier 2 added. The post-it note was to mark where the front of the cake should be.All 3 tiers - a total of 21" tall
The bow's loop and the gardenia were left off and added on at the site to prevent damage
Josephine and Jimmy's wedding cake full assembled. The uplighting on the wall adds a nice dramatic touch, dontcha think?
Some artsy-fartsy shots....
Close-ups of the gardenia:
Just speaking to Josephine, I knew that her wedding would be beautiful with lots of personal touches but I was truly impressed by how amazing everything looked. First of all, both the wedding ceremony and reception was held at Casa Real at the Ruby Hill Winery (a brand-spankin' new winery in Pleasanton) and I gotta tell you this place is gorgeous inside and out!! Below is a pic of the ceremony site.

The reception was in the ballroom adjacent to the ceremony. Each table alternately featured tall and low flower centerpieces.
The low centerpieces with gold framed table numbers.

Dinner menu with gold tissue poms
Last but not least, the escort cards on a bed of wine corks.

I'm sure there were plenty of gorgeous elements that were set up after I had left but I was glad to have seen some of the decor and to know that their wedding cake fit in just perfectly :-)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Masked Ball on the Blvd

I had the distinct pleasure last week to participate in a great charity event for a fabulous organization, namely the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra. Now I'd be the first to admit that I'm no great musician - I played the flute in high school but by no stretch of imaginaion would I consider myself a flautist. I do, however, have a great appreciation for music (greatly fostered by my stint with the flute) and recognize the importance of exposing children to music at an early age, a cause that the SPO wholeheartedly supports through their various musical outreach programs **. So it was with a happy heart that I agreed to donate my sweet-toothed services for the Masked Ball on the Boulevard.

As you may have guessed by the name, this charity ball had a masquerade/Mardi Gras flair so the thought had crossed my mind to design a colorful wacky cake that would fatten up any Tuesday, however keeping in mind it's association with the SPO, I decided to go with a decidedly more refined design: A bust of a lady on a pedestal.

Now I'd have to live under a rock to not have heard about the Nigerian bride who commissioned a cake in her own image and the backlash of responses to it, and since my mama didn't raise no rock-dwellers, I gave it some serious consideration before committing to making this edible human likeness. I figured that as long as it was done tastefully (read: not made of red velvet cake) and as long as we don't actually cut into the head, it would be safe.

OK, let's start with some in-process photos:

That, my friend, is 9 layers of my CA State Fair award-winning lemon zest pound cake sandwiched with yummy lemon buttercream. The round tin was a placeholder for where the neck would be positioned.
Carving in process.....
Mixing the right skin tone was by far one of the most difficult tasks in this project. A bit too much pink made her look sunburnt while a smidge too much yellow made her look sickly. After multiple trials, I finally settled on a mixture that I was happy with.

Then there was a few hours where I completely forgot to take pictures. I know, bad blogger! *slaps hand*

The mostly completed bust before I applied a color wash to her hair.
After all said and done, I seriously debated whether or not to actually put the mask on her. I know this is for a "masked" ball so it would only make sense that she wears the mask but you have to understand - In the 15+ years that I've been using makeup, I've NEVER been able to get MY eyebrows shaped that perfectly so it was truly a difficult task for me to completely cover up those brows with the mask, lol. In the end, I did what needed to be done. Well, at least I have these photographs to look back on.

I love how the subtle gold brocade pattern of the dress catches the light.
To set the mood, votives and select pieces of sheet music taken from the actual 2008-2009 season were arranged around the cake. The sheet music was printed on edible paper and airbrushed on the edges for a romantic aged look.
After delivering the cake, my husband and I changed into our party clothes and joined the festivities. We had an absolute blast admiring all the costumes and masks, sampling delectible hors'devours and wines from three different restaurants, and watching performances by belly dancers, fire dancers, and of course members of the Philharmonic. We witnessed the lively charity auction where among other things, they auctioned off the opportunity to be conductor at a live SPO performance. I even had my fortune read by both a medium and a numerologist who told me good cakey things were coming my way :-).
Then came my favorite part of the evening: the beheading, uh....I mean the cake cutting. Amid Marie Antoinette-esque cheers of "Off with her head!" Tony from Enotria (who makes the most delicious butternut squash pumpkin vanilla bean soup, evah) removed her head and served her up.
And yes, we did hear a few requests for "breast meat".... ah, boys will be boys. *shakes head*

**Oh, if you've got young ones at home, I highly encourage you to check out the SPO's Target family concerts where admission is free for children 12 and under and only $10 for the general public.