Thursday, 10 September 2009

1st wedding cake

As I had mentioned previously, the week at home after leaving Paris for les vacances was spent making a trial wedding cake. Well, the big day finally arrived which involved hauling my ass up to Edinburgh and spending a few days there beforehand making the actual cake. It was particularly special as this was the first wedding cake I have ever made and also for a close family member, my pressure, huh??  After the trial baking sesh chez Chan, I was fairly confident that the cake was going to taste pretty good but unsure about the decoration. I had started to think about the design months ago while I was still at Ferrandi and had come up with a design revolving around a dragon and phoenix - very traditional Chinese symbols for marriage. Having had a few go's at painting this, I finally gave up and decided that it wasn't going to work so had to ditch design no. 1. After much procrastinating, I then came up with design no. 2 (bizarrely, in the shower!) which was to paint a modified version of an Asian-looking print that my bro had used for the wedding invites. However, trialling this turned out to be yet another disaster. At this point, there was around 10 days left before the wedding and no design, cue more sleepless nights. Finally, I had a leaf through one of my cake decorating books and finally decided on a piped flower design instead - not exactly very Chinese-looking but I guess they do slightly resemble cherry blossoms which give it a quasi-Oriental feel. A quick visit to the shops to get piping tips, flower nail and another practice session gave me some comfort that I would be able to reproduce the design again once in haggis-land.

I was a little nervous about taking on this task as it would not be in the comfort of my own kitchen - luckily, my bro was driving up to Edinburgh the day before I arrived so I was able to ask him to take up some of my tools and also my trusty Kitchenaid (thank God, cos I had considered making everything by a hand mixer which would've been a complete nightmare!). I had managed to order marzipan, cake boards, etc to be delivered north of the border which was a blessing and also armed Jools with a list to buy all the ingredients so I could hit the kitchen as soon as I arrived, well, almost......

Day 1

Flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh amazingly landed on time at 1pm. Dropped off luggage and ingredients with bro's best man (was staying with him in town) before being invited out to lunch. As a result, didn't start work until 4pm, which meant not finishing until past 1am!!! Goal was to bake all cakes, there are 3 tiers ( 2 tiers chocolate, 1 tier lemon) each of which has 2 layers therefore needed to make 6 cakes in total. Ideally, would've made both fillings but only managed to make chocolate ganache. Have a pretty spacious kitchen which is a luxury and also the choice of 3 fridges!! The oven is a little dodge as the markings for the temperature have been half scrubbed off which means "guestimating" oven temperatures for cakes. 

Day 2:

Woke up early after a semi-sleepless night and headed into the kitchen early. Had been a little worried about the oven last night - couple of weird things happened. My chocolate cake had 80% crust and then 20% Aero-bar crust for no apparent reason?? Luckily, could trim the top off but still curious as to how it happened, especially when I took the effort to turn the cakes every so often? The lemon cake had an weirder outcome, not 1 but BOTH ended up with a crater in the middle!!! WTF??? This did NOT happen chez Chan! Luckily, there were trimmings so in the end, had to do a quick patch-up job, char! Filled and covered with ganache/buttercream ("merci" to chef for always getting us to practice our scraping skills at school!!) and covered with marzipan.

Day 3:

Covered all cakes and cake boards with fondant. Piped 300+ flowers from royal icing and spent an eternity trying to mix the right colour for the stamens of the flowers to match the ties of the groomsmen. After 2 attempts, still not exact but its gonna have to do.

Day 4:

Positioned iced cakes onto boards - the chocolate ones were a real pain in the bum with the threat of rogue ganache smearing my pristeen fondant. Not entirely perfect positioning with the largest cake as it was so bloody heavy!! Decorated cakes with flowers and ribbon and voila! C'est finit :)

So how did I feel about the whole experience? It was pretty exhausting work but I did enjoy it a lot which is encouraging now that I have decided to do this as a future career. I think in the future I need to stop being overly-critical of myself and be able to enjoy the moment once a cake is made - I did get lots of compliments for it when it was done but all I could see at that point were all the flaws that I had not managed to hide (air bubbles, lopsided sides, etc). I did give myself a little mental "pat on the back" at the wedding after people had tasted the cake and said that they really liked it :) 
Have also learnt that I will also need to be a little less ambitious also for future cake designs cos apart from taste, the other most important thing about a wedding cake is to be able to make it look as beautiful as another 3 months or so to think up another design for yet another wedding cake :)

Finally, a big "多謝" to Mr and Mrs Chan for giving me the opportunity to make your wedding cake and I really wish you every happiness in your life together :)

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