In a move designed not so much for its socio-political significance, or for its gender-defying "screw you!" to the man, but more out of thanks to her for having kept the groom alive for many years, [lemontart] was the Best Man. She also baked the yummy cake.
Someone quite special to me got married recently. The above words come from the liner notes of His and Her's wedding favour CD's. Those words sum up a special relationship my friend and I share- one created over years of support, hard times, good time and many laughs, often accompanied by Buffy and Muppets. The Groom and I have been friends for 21 years. And without getting mushy, since this is a food blog afterall, I couldn't be happier for this union. Like tomato and basil or peaches and cream, they are perfect together. Except that the Groom doesn't like tomatoes, so perhaps its not the best analogy. But heck, its my blog and I think there's fewer better pairings than tomato and basil, so I'm going with it. If anyone was to convince him to eat tomatoes(I've tried) its the Bride. When I met the Bride I knew she and I would be friends and a worthy partner of the Groom. Each time we share a table together there are no murmurs of "no I couldn't", "I'm on a diet", or "none for me". She enthusiastically eats whatever I've prepared with complete enjoyment and lack of guilt.That is one of the many things I love about her.
The fact that I was perhaps the only Best Man in a silk, Mediterranean blue wrap dress this side of San Francisco makes me giggle with pride. After all, these labels are just that, labels, originating from another time when men and women weren't allowed to have friendships of the meaningful kind. Thankfully times have changed and the bride doesn't give me the evil eye anymore, unless I ask the groom when he's bringing his entire collection of Bat Man figurines out of storage. I was happy to wear the Best Man label with pride. The fact that my compatriot, the Maid of Honour, was a witty lawyer named Mark just added to the charm of this truly original affair. He didn't wear the traditional sea foam green taffeta dress suggested but I'm sure the colour would have been lovely on him.
Perhaps the most traditional part of the wedding was this cake you see in the photo above. Being a proud Daring Baker, and always looking for a baking challenge, I knew as I watched this union move towards the inevitable nuptials this would be my chance to make a wedding cake and lucky for me they didn't have any other crazy baker friends. Initial conversations about the cake were a dream for me- complete artistic control was given. When prompted a little I discovered an icing preference- tasty was the word used. Once prompted a little more I was delighted to hear that a cake that tasted delicious was imperative. Fon don't became the word for the cake. There would be no bland fondant on this cake. Butter was more important than perfectly smooth corners. You can see why I approve of this gal.
And now, a day in the life of The Fon Don't Cake, if you will:
Ready. Set. Cake! That fancy French word, Mise en Place, is essential for such a big job. It just means everything in its place. I was going to have to make 2 separate batches of batter, each with slightly different measurements, so being organized made things so much more enjoyable. Each ingredient is weighed/measured and set in its own bowl ready to go. Notice the amount of eggwhites in this cake, with another bunch used for the icing. I have a never ending supply of eggwhites cluttering up my freezer and a cake like this puts a dent in the egg white situation indeed. I'm clean out now which hasn't happened in about 4 years.
Cake recipes from the classic tome The Cake Bible by cake genius, Rose Levy Beranbaum, helped make this all go smoothly. Recipes and modifications for every cake size or combination imaginable, as well as icing amount charts and many more references are laid out in this amazing book now in print over 20 years.
3 tiers are fairly common for a wedding cake, but for a wedding of only 50 people it had to be reasonable in size. I choose a 12, 9 and 6 inch combination.
Slicing the domes off the cakes make for even cakes, which is essential when layers are involved. It also makes for a much easier job of icing the cakes.
Drizzling a syrup on the sliced layers allows for added flavour to be added to the cake. A lemon simple syrup moistens the cake which is necessary for cakes made a few days before consumption, while adding a nice texture to a classic white cake.
A layer of Meyer Lemon Vanilla Marmalade is spread over the soaked layers. I make this each year and happened to have some spare jars around. Using your own homemade preserves in cakes is a great technique. It saves time that you would spend making another filling and adds great flavour. This could have easily been raspberry jam, but since I knew at this point what my garnish would be, the chunks of peel from the marmalade was the perfect touch.
Raspberry Buttercream was the main component for the filling of this cake, providing a beautiful surprise pink cross section. The bride requested this buttercream ahead of the cake. In fact I believe the words "just a bowl of icing" were mentioned. This buttercream is a Swiss Meringue which contains only eggwhites. Not having added richness from egg yolks makes it carry other flavours nicely. In this case a concentrated lightly sweetened raspberry puree (made at the height of raspberry season and frozen) was added to a lemon flavoured Swiss meringue. The colour is purely from the raspberry puree.
The cake bases are a white velvet cake made without yolks but with plenty of eggwhites. This produces a cake with a velvety crumb and a lighter taste than a yellow cake, which goes nicely with the rich, fruit flavoured frosting.
With the help of below freezing temperatures and a handy patio which acted as a freezer, the cake layers were constructed quickly. Refrigeration is crucial to the stability of the cake. The beauty of buttercream is that is hardens when cold. A layer of icing was applied and leveled. Once completely cold the top layer could be added safely.
A crumb coat is applied to each cake. This is simply a thin layer of buttercream applied as a base. It keeps the crumbs in place so that when the buttercream is applied they don't mar the final coat.
The final coat of buttercream is applied. This pure white frosting is actually flavoured with lemon juice and lemon oil. The acidity of the lemon juice cuts the richness of the buttercream making it difficult not to lick your fingers as you work.
Supports are inserted into the iced and chilled cakes. I used readily available, easy to insert, plastic drinking straws. The ends will disappear into the cake and be level with the frosting providing sufficient support for the weight of the cakes.
The cakes are stacked. Each cake is iced on foil boards. With a little buttercream to act as glue, the cakes are carefully slid onto the eachother. The freezing temperatures made for easy assembly. As you can see there are some imperfections in this cake. While I'm no professional cake decorator, what needs to be kept in mind is the nature of buttercream. A perfectly smooth buttercream cake is difficult to achieve. At some point you need to know when to stop smoothing, since perfection is almost impossible with this icing. Fondant is afterall the best covering if a flawless look is the goal. But we weren't having any of that. And since the cake is going to be served and viewed in a dim room, none of the flaws will be noticeable.
After a final smoothing and chilling, the fun starts. Simple piped decoration are applied using buttercream. Pearls around the base of each cake are a classic and easy decoration that anchors the cakes as well as covering the spaces between layers.
Candied Lemon Slices drying overnight after simmering in a sugar syrup for a few hours.
The perfect garnish for this lemon raspberry cake was candied lemon slices. Flowers seemed wrong for the style and season of the cake. A simple ring of lemons is stunning and easy, not to mention tasty.
The cake topper on this cake is entirely edible and like any good garnish, hints to what the cake is made of.
This Fon don't cake was called a Lemon Raspberry Cake. It was comprised of a classic white velvet cake simply flavoured with vanilla and a touch of lemon zest. The cake layers were flavoured with lemon simple syrup, spread with Meyer Lemon Vanilla marmalade and finished a bright raspberry buttercream. The cakes were covered with a tart lemon buttercream and then garnished with homemade candied lemon slices and fresh raspberries.
This baking project was a labour of love. And surprisingly it was a relatively calming cake to make, which I hope translated into the finished project.
Congratulations to J & T. It was an honour to be involved in their wedding day.