I was lucky enough to spend a couple of years in San Francisco in the early 2000s after I finished up school. While I was there, I got to know Sean's family, a side of my extended family that I otherwise probably wouldn't know so well. Sean's branch of the family tree descends from my maternal grandmother's sister, and since Sean's mom and my mom are first cousins, I'm pretty sure that makes us second cousins, if Wikipedia is worth its salt.
Sean's parents have created the kind of family that makes you feel at home the second you set foot in the door. As proof of their warmth and love, they have welcomed in all sorts of riff-raff (like me) over the years, including seven or eight international exchange students, plus all the neighborhood kids at all hours of the day and night. And most of the folks in this tight-knit group gathered again for Sean and Megan's wedding. Perhaps my favorite quote from the whole weekend was from Sean's groomsman Jeff, who toasted the happy couple with this line: "Megan, you're not just marrying Sean. You're marrying all of us." (My other favorite quote from the weekend was toward the end of the rehearsal party, when the sister of one of the family's exchange students from Norway, suffering from jet lag and pet dander allergies, said, "I'm getting tired, and no one is speaking Norwegian, and all I hear is blah, blah, blah".)
But back to the cake. When I started talking with Sean and Megan about their cake, it became clear there were no bride- or groom-zillas here (and it would have surprised me if there had been, given how laid-back these two are). Megan sent me a couple of pictures off of Pinterest as inspiration, but they were very open regarding cake design, which was a relief for me. Baking and decorating away from familiar territory is not entirely foolproof, so I was happy to get to put I Am Baker's rose cake design to use again. While those of you who follow baking blogs have probably seen this design a lot lately, when you stand back to look at a wedding cake covered in white roses, it really is quite spectacular. And since Megan had sent me an inspiration picture similar to this, I decided to break up the roses with a middle tier covered with horizontal white buttercream stripes.
With our arrival to San Francisco on Wednesday and the wedding ceremony on Saturday, my plan of attack was as follows:
> Wednesday afternoon: Grocery shop for all ingredients
> Thursday morning: Bake all cake layers (three 12-inch rounds, three 9-inch rounds, three 6-inch rounds)
> Thursday afternoon: Sight-see in San Francisco, yay!
> Friday morning: Make lemon buttercream filling, tort and crumb-coat the three individual tiers
> Saturday morning: Make additional buttercream for decorating, ask Sean's parents to drive cake to wedding venue(!), and stack and decorate on-site.
As any baker knows, all ovens are different, and this was no exception. It took longer to bake the cake layers through than it does at home, resulting in ultra-moist cakes, and actually one that I had to re-bake on Friday morning because it was simply too under-baked to serve. (I naturally used my super-moist vanilla cake recipe, and even for me, that that one layer was too moist!)
Also, the cakes didn't rise quite like they do at home, so I ended up torting the top two tiers only, and leaving the bottom tier with three cake layers only. I was too nervous to try to mess with the already-slim 12-inch round layers. Here are some of the (not so beautiful) cake layers as they cooled:
Once I arrived at the wedding venue, my nerves calmed down. The Ranch at Little Hills was gorgeous, the weather was perfect, and the cake tiers had arrived none the worse for wear (thanks Cindy and John!) The reception was to be outdoors under a tent, so I set up camp at a temporary table and got to work. I had brought all my tools with me, so putting the cake together was a breeze, and I was done and cleaned up within an hour.
Here are the bottom tiers stacked together, with support dowels in place, with the top tier waiting on deck:
I piped the the middle tier with horizontal stripes first because I knew the roses would bump up against them, so they needed to be applied first:
As you might guess after my set-up about this family above, the wedding ceremony was beautiful, emotional, sweet, funny and tear-jerking, the reception was no less awesome. I felt so lucky to get to celebrate Sean and Megan's marriage with them and their family and friends, and so proud to have contributed my little part to send them off into their new life together.
Congratulations again, Sean and Megan! I wish you all the love and happiness in the world.
And Megan... thanks for Vanna White-ing the cake!