If you’ve been following me on Twitter, Facebook, or even just through this blog, you might have seen that my dad had a wedding recently.
In case you are quite behind the times with me, my mom passed away a few years ago (it was 5 in August–wow!). My dad began hanging out with an old friend (one who was also friends with my mom), and soon became my dad’s companion. (Girlfriend sounds a bit weird when you’re over a certain age–hehe.) At first I was anxious, but she has been very sweet the entire time. She is a great listener and a great partner for my dad. I guess it’s always a bit funny when a parent gets married, but I am happy that my dad has someone to take care of him for the rest of his life, and to keep him content. The annoying part is that there is not a good word to represent the occasion. If I say my dad is getting married, it sounds like my parents were never married. If I say he is getting remarried, it could imply a divorce or some bitterness. Why isn’t there a word for “my mom died, my dad met someone nice to marry, and I am cool with this”? Oh well. The nice part is that I now have a title for her other than my dad’s girlfriend: stepmother. It makes it much easier for introductions!
To help them celebrate, I decided to make them a cake. They had said they weren’t planning on a wedding cake (but don’t be alarmed, they had plenty of desserts to choose from at the reception), so I offered to make a cake for just the two of them. They wanted a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, much like one of our favorites from this bakery near Baltimore. I made a few cakes and a few frostings on my way to making their wedding cake. The cake was intended for them to cut and enjoy, but they were generous and shared slices with immediate family members, too. Out of a wish to preserve privacy, I won’t share the pictures from the cake cutting, but I will say that the thumbs up from my stepmother with huge smiles from her and my dad were the perfect thank you.
I will admit readily that this is not the best cake that someone could make. I offered to bow out and have them order a cake from a bakery, but they said it meant a lot. So, they got a tasty cake that might not be the ultimate in design or decorating. A cake that only it’s mother could love. If you would like better ideas on making your food look pretty….well, that’s not my specialty but there are many people who are great with that. Feel free to check them out and pass on any tips!
I learned a few things as I made the cake. Even though I made the cake numerous times at home first, it was very different cooking in my dad’s kitchen. His oven was not a good match for this cake. I used cake strips to keep the layers flat and evenly cooked, but they could only do so much. Inside of two nice layers that I could split in half, I had to make the cake a second time, and salvage four layers from the two recipes. Normally I have had trouble making the buttercream, but that was the easiest part!
K came over to my dad’s while I was making the second cake (he brought me extra cake flour and moral support). I used K’s eyes to help level all of the layers, and the cake was the straightest, most symmetrical one I had ever made.
Originally I was going to make the cake one day, and the frosting the next day, but I was too worried that I would mess something else up. Instead, I made it all in one day. It worked out fine since normally I make cakes all in one day. The next tricky part was making the decoration for the top. My dad had requested a bridge (they both work in bridge design) for the top. I made a perfect one when I practiced at home, but it was a bit brittle.
I did a mixture of melted white chocolate with vanilla and vegetable oil, but the texture wasn’t quite right so I added some milk, flour, and extra oil until I reached a consistency like play doh.
I formed the bridge on wax paper using a design from their wedding invitation.
Then, I let it dry in the freezer to harden. Before chilling it, I used a spatula to make a break in the middle. This way, when I placed the pieces on the cake, I could hold the entire sections on my spatula. I simply sealed the cracks with some more of the mixture once I was done. The bridge was a surprise, so it was great seeing my stepmother’s reaction to it. My dad helped a bit with the bridge by cutting off two parts of the design that weren’t necessary. Unfortunately, he did this while it was on the cake, creating a few marks on the top. Luckily, we were inventive and created “water” under the bridge. The top seemed a bit empty, so I made a heart to go on top. I was never good with clay, but I started to feel okay with this concoction!
One of my biggest fears was transporting the cake. K drove, I held the cake, and his parents held my cake-decorating supplies and the cake stand. Of course I realized halfway there that I forgot my extra buttercream (in case I needed touch-ups), so I was going to have to do without it. We made it with only some tension around the turns and bumps. I went into the reception hall through the back and after finding the correct table, began setup. The day or so before, when I had to move the cake from the turntable to the cake carrier, I almost dropped the cake on its side because my lifting spatula got caught on foil I had underneath. This time, I did okay, but had to wipe off some extra chocolate frosting on the cake stand. This had the happy result of making me smell like chocolate buttercream for the rest of the day. I nervously left the cake alone until some hours later when it was time to cut it. All went well and I was pleased with my most level cake yet!