BRIDES WHO BAKE
Do-it-yourself confections make the big day even sweeter
By Caroline Dipping
Creators News Service
Typically, in the days leading up to her march down the aisle, a bride is garter-deep in the final details of dress-fitting, hair and makeup issues.Getting ready for a wedding isn't always a piece of cake.
Yet some plucky brides actually add to their to-do list by taking on the most daunting task of all -- making the wedding cake. Throwing caution and their French manicures to the wind, these courageous souls often find themselves up to their elbows in batter and buttercream in the days (and sometimes hours and minutes) before their nuptials.
While the numbers of baker-brides seem relatively few, the reasons for tackling such a job are many: finances, creative control, a genuine love of the confectionery arts and -- the most cited reason of all -- wanting to put a personal imprint on the day.
"I really wanted to do everything myself," said Tanya Ditschun of her tropical-themed union to Aaron Wells in San Diego. "I tend to be crafty and creative by nature. We were having about 50 people at our wedding, so it was reasonable for me to make the cake."
Channeling her inner Martha Stewart, Ditschun did indeed create everything, from flowers to favors. But she called upon her groom for an important collaboration.
Three days before the wedding, Wells baked the multiple Galliano and vodka-spiked layers. He followed the family recipe he enjoyed for birthdays growing up in Canada.
Ditschun then swathed the layers in vanilla buttercream and decorated them in keeping with her tropical theme. She graced the top of the cake with a Hello Kitty figurine in a hula skirt surrounded by miniature palm trees.
She created a bamboo look by strategically lining frosted Japanese cookie sticks called Pocky around each tier. For a final cascading touch, Ditschun showered the cake with a riotous spray of handmade gum-paste flowers.
Transporting the tiers was not a hairy ordeal, Ditschun said, because they rode in boxes on the laps of people, making sure she got to her wedding on time. At the reception site, Ditschun -- in her wedding gown -- stacked the tiers and put the finishing touches on the cake.
When sampled, the confection was pronounced delicious.
A tight budget, no professional bakeries in the small town where her wedding was held and a wild whim prompted Kerri York of San Diego to make her own cake.
On a trip with a friend to Michaels crafts store, York spied the cake of her dreams in a Martha Stewart magazine. The three-tiered structure was coated with vanilla bean buttercream and studded with candied oranges.
"I took a cake-decorating class at Michaels with my friend, and we ended up making it," York said.
The Wednesday before her Saturday ceremony, York baked six rounds of cake for three tiers -- a 12-inch, an 8-inch and a 3-inch. She made what seemed like vats of buttercream and filled the tiers with the rich frosting rather than tangle with a more temperamental filling.
For decorations, she made a "bazillion candied oranges."
With her groom, Dan, York carefully packed up the cake tiers, the candied oranges, extra buttercream and decorating equipment in their Jeep Rubicon. But then because of a fire the couple had to take winding back roads to get to the cabins where they and their wedding party were staying. Then a freak snowstorm wreaked havoc with the texture of her butter_
"My frosting never got to the right temperature," she said. "I started assemblying the beast at noon on Friday, and my best friend arrived at 5 p.m. to help me attack it."
But the frosting still wouldn't come to a spreadable consistency. And York had forgotten to bring the tool needed to cut the support dowels that held the tiers together.
"I was shaving the dowels down with a cheese grater I found in the cabin," York recalled. "Then the dowels were not the right height, so we filled in the gaps with frosting at that point."
After so much manhandling, the frosting began to loosen up and separate from the cake. By mid_
night on the eve of her wedding, the cake wasn't the only thing cov_
ered in buttercream.
On her wedding day, with 10 minutes to spare before she needed to get her bridal hairdo done, York was putting the finishing touches on her project.
"I got tons of compliments," York said of her creation. "Honestly, when I saw the end product, it turned out way better than I thought. And not an inch of cake was left."
If, after reading the story of the baker-brides, you still want to make your own wedding cake, heed these tips from Amy Malone, who offers a variety of confectionery arts workshops, including wedding cakes, at the Amy Malone School of Cake Decorating in San Diego.
-- Allow enough time. Bake the cake at least a few days before the ceremony. Cakes made with oil rather than butter freeze well and could be baked even farther ahead, Malone said. Everything else -- the frosting/buttercream, the flowers and other decorations -- should be made far in advance. Although it's nice to have an ultra-fresh cake, a baker bride, in particular, needs to give herself a cushion of time, Malone said.
-- You gotta have backup. Backup ingredients, that is, such as extra icing in case someone bumps into the cake or it decides to slide around in the back of the car during transport.
-- Consider the season and the site. If you are getting married outdoors in the middle of August, it's not a good idea to have a custard-filled cake or one that is frosted in buttercream that will wilt right off the cake.
-- Make sure you get someone who knows how to cut the cake. This should not be you, the bride.
-- Make sure you make enough cake. If you have a tiered cake, don't count the top tier in your calculations of slices to be served. That level is saved for the first anniversary.
-- Transportation is crucial. Outfit the vehicle transporting the cake with nonskid liners. Put each tier in its own box and put the boxes on a level surface (not the bumpy back seat).
-- Designate a knowledgeable friend to assemble the cake. Malone does not recommend the bride assemble her own cake. At halls and restaurants receptions are often back to back, and there is precious little time to set up the cake properly. The bride most likely has gone into hair and makeup by the time the cake can be jockeyed into position.
"You just want to be conscientious and diligent about monitoring the steps, as opposed to leaving things to chance," Malone said.
(c) Creators News Service