life

Almost

14 June 2010

cake
[Note: this is not the actual wedding cake (!).]

In two weeks it will all be over, I tell myself. Not that I want to wish time away, just … for the past month my mind has whirled with thoughts of buttercream, traditional; buttercream, Swiss; chocolate ganache; butter, what kind; sugar, how much I will need. I have never loved math (sorry, Dad, but poor you knows it’s true) and parsing out various recipes to figure out how many pounds of flour, sticks of butter, cups of buttermilk, and lengths of ribbon needed to transform simple ingredients into a sort of magical confection (read: a beautiful wedding cake) has had my head spinning. And I am anxious a little bit to have it all behind me, to know that it went well.

I’ve got the pre-wedding jitters and I’m not even the one getting married. How’s that for a kick?

But the thing is, when your beloved younger brother and his equally beloved fiancee ask you to bake their wedding cake you do not hesitate, not for one second. You say Yes yes yes! with all the fervor you might bestow on your own phantom (one day?) fiance and get to the planning part later. In fact, there is never a moment when you think otherwise. You’re so high on the euphoria (or sugar rush from cake testing?) you barely think about the logistics of the thing — baking in a kitchen not your own, using pans larger than any you’ve previously encountered, how exactly one stacks all those tiers without them tumbling down in a crumbly heap, the time factor because, you see, you are not just the cake-baker but a bridesmaid as well — and anyway, there are months to go yet. There’s plenty of time to sort it all out.

Well, “months” is now “weeks” and actually it’s more like “days.”

I will confess I am a little nervous. Oh, I do not doubt my ability to turn out a delicious cake, because I bake a lot on a regular basis and really, isn’t this just a bunch of birthday cakes but on a larger scale? (Um.) It’s just that I’ve never done this before and so I think it’s natural to be a little nervous — more like nervous excitement (oh I am excited, never fear) and a feeling of Let me get to it already!

And it’s also that I want this cake to be even more than simply delicious. I want it to be special, perfect, something to be remembered long after the plates have been cleared away. I want it to be absolutely as good as I can make it. I want them to be glad they trusted me with such an important honor.

Mostly I just want it to taste of love.

rosepg
[Anniversary flowers, August 2009.]

Right, so what does love taste like? Well for starters it involves two, 3-tiered cakes, lots of buttercream, and lots of melted chocolate. This is what I am baking:

– Alice Waters’ , in 6-inch, 9-inch, and 12-inch rounds. Basically what I’ve found is that you look at each round as its own small (or large? 12-inches? Dear god!!) cake, so in this case I am filling each cake with a combination of homemade wild blueberry jam (in a nod to the Maine locale) and lemon curd. All will be frosted (at least, unless I change my mind. Again.) with a simple vanilla buttercream.

– Alice Waters’ , in 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch squares. Each cake tier will be filled with chocolate ganache and then covered with the same vanilla buttercream.

– They will be decorated [redacted, because the bride reads this].

The amount of recipe testing in which I’ve engaged during the past few months has been fairly substantial but not overwhelming; I knew pretty much right away I wanted to use that chocolate cake recipe because it is unfailingly delicious and always receives rave reviews. And in the interest of sturdiness and just plain old tasting good

, I decided to go with the 1-2-3-4 cake because it is reliable and doesn’t call for a ridiculous amount of fancy ingredients (these things are important when you have such a large batch to bake). Buttercream is the natural choice for me because I don’t much like fondant, and because I think it will compliment these two recipes perfectly.

In short: these cakes will be, I hope, unfussy — just like the bridal couple — but flat-out lovely and real — also just like the bridal couple — and lasting.

And so all those months (and weeks, and days) are rapidly drawing to a close and soon I will closet myself away for at least a day-and-a-half of baking and cooking. My recipes are printed out for easy reference and my copy of Dede Wilson’s “” is soon sure to be spattered with flour and bits of blueberry jam. My decorating ideas have finally taken firm shape in my mind and I actually think I have a decent shot of accomplishing what I’m envisioning. I have no doubt it will all go very well (hi, E! It will! I promise!).

Just — can it be time for the cake-cutting and champagne-drinking part?

ocean
[Saturday, Ocean Beach, June 2010.]

So this weekend I did what any reasonable person does to put those thoughts of how many cups of flour for a 12-inch cake round and what if I run out half-way through the baking what then WHAT THEN MQ(&()! ??

aside: I went to the beach. And it was glorious.

Again I must reiterate how lucky I feel all the time that I can, if I so choose, take the bus to the ocean, about 20 minutes give or take a lot of traffic. I watched the soccer/football match and then packed up a cheese and avocado sandwich, the New Yorker fiction issue, Runners World, New York magazine, a book (yes, I like to have a lot of reading material. I need options.), a cookie, and a lot of water and set off. Ocean Beach was crowded but not too and full of dogs and kids and bikes and and and. After awhile I let myself plunge knee-deep in the cold Pacific and thought about summer and marathon training and seals and still August in the heat. Thankfully, buttercream was not even a glimmer on the horizon line.

This is the image I’ll keep in mind when I’m biting my tongue and carefully stacking up the tiers on top of each other while trying not to freak out — countless books, blogs, and darn Martha Stewart assure me they will not fall and indeed will look quite stunning — in the early morning hours of a June Saturday: the bright blue, the white, the hills of Marin County looming away to the right, the Cliff House glistening in the sun up the hill on the most perfect of perfect San Francisco days. I will let out a deep breath and not worry so much.

And then we’ll all eat cake, and cheer.

  • Melissa 28 June 2010 at 10:10 am

    The cakes were awesome. I use plural because I kept going us to get more and more to make sure I tried everything. It was so lovely to eat a cake that was baked with love and not about maximizing someones profit level.

    I think homemade wedding cakes should be the new trend.

  • Lisa 25 June 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Nicole, they both sound SO SO GOOD and I can’t wait to hear how it all went!! I’m sure you pulled it off with delicious aplomb. I can also say that the imperfect parts of our wedding are some of my favorite memories — how terribly we waltzed for our first dance, the fact that we actually missed our own cake cutting because I was having a momentary and much-needed meltdown outside (So much new was going on that spring with our business plus all the planning for the wedding plus the overwhelming joy of having all those people we love with us for the weekend plus the awesomeness of having just said HECK YES WE DO! equaled one long weepy exhale. During the cake cutting.), the fact that I totally screwed up the music and a friend stepped in at the last minute with about 11 different ipods and ROCKED THE HOUSE — seriously, best dance party ever. Everybody says so.

    Wow, what a long comment! Just wanted to say I hope it was all awesome. And I think I’m going to have to figure out a normal sized version of the 1-2-3-4 cake with blueberry jam and lemon curd. It sounds amazing.

  • laura 18 June 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I have no idea about wedding cakes, but these both sound fantastic — and lemon curd may be my favorite cake ingredient in the whole world. For many years in my childhood my birthday cake was a lemon cake with lemon curd between the layers and a glaze on top (because oddly, my sweet tooth has developed rather than diminished with time, and when I was a child, I did not like frosting). Best wishes to you, your brother, and his bride!

  • Jenna 16 June 2010 at 5:54 am

    The cake will be lovely, unique, and full of charm…much like the baker : )

  • EB 15 June 2010 at 11:31 am

    I have a feeling you could hand over a tower of frosting covered frisbees and they would adore you. Wasn’t the beach deeeelightful over the weekend!!?

  • denise (chez danisse) 15 June 2010 at 11:17 am

    I have the feeling it is going to be perfect.

  • Jessica 15 June 2010 at 7:02 am

    yum. yum. yum.

  • Jennifer 15 June 2010 at 5:52 am

    I’m sending fantastic baking vibes in your general westerly direction! They’re going to be fantastic. Enjoy the baking and the eating and the drinking (when they’re done).

  • Carol 15 June 2010 at 4:05 am

    WOW your brother and fiance are so luckey to have you making the cake. It will be delicious and beautiful! Best of luck! xxxxxxxxx

  • Ellen 14 June 2010 at 8:54 pm

    How exciting! Happy cake baking!

  • LesleyG 14 June 2010 at 7:11 pm

    You are going to create a fabulous cake! Meanwhile, please send all practice cakes my way. Thank you.

  • joshna 14 June 2010 at 6:18 pm

    yes, you’re totally right! wedding cakes are just a bunch of birthday cakes. this post is so lovely, and i think you have the perfect attitude towards this baking adventure.

    i’m pretty sure that cake is gonna be wonderful. good luck!

  • Janae 14 June 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Ooh, I’m excited for you — it’s every bakers dream! I’m sure it will be fabulous, and I can’t wait to see how it comes out! Good luck :)

  • John C Abell 14 June 2010 at 4:12 pm

    You really need to cheer up, you know.

  • Marlene 14 June 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I have unfailing faith in you. All my good thoughts are directed to propping you up and getting you through it. The cake will be beautiful, as will the bride, the bridesmaid, and the groom’s mother! I’m sure everyone else will be too, but these I have the most faith in.

    Can’t wait to see the pictures and hear all about it!