Monday, April 13, 2009

Aren't you gonna open that bottle?

So, where were we in the adventures of Kim and Chris? Oh yes, the groom’s cake. Before Kim and I ever sat down to discuss her wedding cake, she stated that the groom’s cake, which was a surprise, MUST be a bottle of Opus One. Her fiancĂ©, Chris, is a wino, uh, I mean a wine enthusiast and Opus One is his absolute favorite wine. What can I say but the man has good taste – after all he is marrying my friend Kim, right? Incidentally, the only time I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying Opus One was at a company retreat at my first job out of college. My boss had decided to splurge on a few bottles for everyone at dinner one night, so I had a glass. I’m actually quite embarrassed to admit that that nice glass of red was completely wasted on me. You see, I was fresh out of college and my tastebuds were still recovering from the years of cheap tequila abuse, and was in no condition to appreciate all the delicate flavors that I’m sure was in that glass. Sad to say but that glass of Opus could’ve been a glass of Two-Buck Chuck and I wouldn’t have known the difference. Yeah, I know, I cringe for the younger me too.

But I digress…….I was given my marching orders for the groom’s cake and so began searching the web for a high res image of the wine label that I would need for my edible image. I couldn’t find any that were adequate for a good print so I went directly to the source and contacted the Opus One winery in Oakville, CA. Jennifer, their PR coordinator, had a high res jpeg in my inbox within the hour, talk about customer service, :-) !

Ok, enough chitchat, I know you guys want to see pictures so let’s start with the cake board. Below is a picture of it scored to resemble planks of wood.
The cakeboard after the color wash. TIP: When using color wahes on fondant, be sure to allow for ample drying time (4-8 hrs).
Next, the wine of bottle. Here is it iced with buttercream.
.....covered with fondant and airbrushed.
Then, the bottle label. So, the original plan was to simply print one out on edible paper and affix it to the wine bottle cake - hence the need for the high res image. Well, as luck would have it, my edible printer (which worked just dandy the week before) decided to throw a fit and only spew out unintelligibly garbled images. About twenty minutes and a few choice words later, I moved on to plan B: piping the label by hand. Talk about nerve-racking, not only did I need to reproduce the silhouettes of Robert Mondavi and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild, I had to reproduce their signatures at the bottom! After roughly an hour of the most painstaking piping I’ve done thus far, I ended up with darn good replica, if I do say so myself =D. I guess all that practice in grade school forging my parents’ signature on permission slips came in handy after all.
And finally, the groom's cake fully assembled in the wood crate with packing straw made of fondant. (I didn't bother with posting pictures of the wood crate cake assembly since it's basically just a rectangle.)
The side view
Closer up view
Me with my cheesy smile next to the cake
I've made a handful of novelty cakes that were a 1:1 scale but this one is by far the most realistic looking.....which proved to be quite interesting throughout evening. It began with the cake setup when several of the catering staff stopped by and asked if the bottle of wine needed to be refrigerated (nevermind that you shouldn't refrigerate reds); and continued during the wedding reception as I overheard a couple of folks wondering why the bride and groom were toasting with red wine instead of champagne; the best, though, was when Chris, the groom, admitted to me that he actually started to reach over to grab bottle before he was promptly told that it was his surprise groom's cake. And unbeknownst to me until recently, the merriment continued on 'til the next day, as evidenced by this excerpt from the bride:

“As for the Opus cake, the caterer didn't know it was a cake either so they didn't serve it. Thank goodness because we had a family get together the next day and Chris and I wanted to share your amazing talent with the rest of the family. They couldn't believe it was a real cake (funny how saying that encourages people to poke at it). It wasn't until we had to cut into the cake were they finally convinced. And even still my aunts kept breaking off the "straws" to prove to themselves that yes, it was edible.”
Yes, it really is funny how telling people "it's a cake" encourages all types of pokage.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Classic But Not Boring

First off, I have to apologize for being MIA as of late. Life has been crazy busy. There always seems to be something on the "to do" list that is waiting to be checked off and unfortunately, as much as I like to blog, I'm just not one those natural writers that have prose flowing from their fingertips; it's more like the words are squeezed out like stiff royal icing through a #1 tip (or like pulling teeth for those of you who didn't get that analogy). I've got a bunch of post topics swirling around in my head that needs to make it's way onto this little blog so bear with me as I gradually sort through them.

The first topic that I'm super-excited to write about is my girlfriend, Kim's wedding this past Saturday. Kim is quite possibly the sweetest person on earth; I literally do not think that she has a mean bone in her body. Although, who knows, maybe those mean bones will start growing after a couple years of married life, lol.......I'm just kidding.....maybe..... I've been looking forward to making her wedding cake for months now and am so excited to finally be able to share it with all of you.

When Kim and I first started talking about designs, she basically told me that she wanted 1) a tall cake, at least 5 tiers 2) a classic but not boring design and 3) she wanted their monogram featured on the cake. Keeping "classic but not boring" in mind, we began by taking inspiration from her invitations which featured gold flourishes and pearls and then later incorporated the shape and beading from her dress. Below is the sketch of the cake design in a shadow box which incidentally, was one of my bridal shower gifts to her; hopefully, she'll find time later to add additional wedding momentos to it.

The dress from David's Bridal that inspired the shape and piping

So that's the design that we started out with but it's not what we ended up with. Last-minute inspiration struck as I was staring at the above picture of the dress and in the space of two seconds, the decision was made to mimic the the curves of the mermaid bottom in the bottom two tiers. Without further ado, the final design.

At 30" tall, it easily satisfied Kim's criteria of a tall cake. Here's a view of the back.

Other shots from different anglesOnce I started assembling the cake, there wasn't a whole lot of downtime, so unfortunately, I didn't get a lot in-process photos. However, I did manage to grab one of the gumpaste flowers as they were drying.

TIP: If you're cheap like me and don't want to buy and store a ton of celformers, just use shaped aluminum to dry your gumpaste flowers, =D

....and a pic of the piped monogram before the edible gold paint was applied. The wedding was held at the Laguna Town Hall in Elk Grove and there was a lot of great decor elements at the reception but the most impressive element was definitely the hanging flower arrangements. Strung from impossibly tall ceiling beams, it was an impressive sight as you walked in.Here's a shot of one of these hanging arrangements from my view as a seated guest.
On a side note: It's always interesting being a guest at a event where my handiwork is on display. On the one hand, it's great to see and hear everyone's reaction to the cake(s) and on the other hand, it's also excrutiating anticipating everyone's reaction to the cake(s). As much as I try to enjoy the event as a guest, I would be lying if I said that a good portion of my brain isn't trained on eavesdropping into people's conversations to hear comments (good or bad) about the cake(s). As I literally am my own worst critic, my eyes automatically zero in on all the little flaws and am continually amazed that others just don't see them. Yeah, as you may have guessed by now, I'm a bit of a perfectionist, lol.

With the abundance of good food, good company, and good wine (wine, like butter, makes everything better), it was difficult not to join in the couple's obvious happiness and have a jolly good time myself :-).

And as this post is already long, I'll leave you with a picture of me and the cake(s). Stay tuned as I blog about the groom's cake (a bottle of Opus One) next.
Lien Sanchez