Don’t Judge a Cake…

In the last of our anniversary celebration posts, I promised to recreate our wedding cake.

No, no. I don’t take credit for this one. This was our actual wedding cake, made by Jennifer of La Bella Torta.

It’s still talked about in hushed, reverent tones at friends’ weddings. I was pretty much a lone, dancing fool when the dances started after the cake cutting at our reception. The words to Whitney Houston’s “I wanna dance with somebody” were ringing a little too true as I twirled around the dance floor. Alone. I was initially fearful that I had invited a non-dancing crowd and that I would be the solo act for the evening, and that I would subsequently be shunned from society for hosting a ho-hum reception. (Did I ever mention that I sometimes entertain irrational fears in my mind?)

It was only later that I found out that no one else was dancing at the time because everyone wanted to actually eat the cake. It was that good. They were figuratively bound to their chairs, determined to finish every last bite, lest some cake-deranged wedding guest hovered a little too close with plans to scavenge any abandoned fork of frosting. Imagine that! It was so good that after our honeymoon, Alex and I ate all but one slice of our anniversary layer–a slice which I only reluctantly wrapped up and froze for the sake of tradition. I’ve been waiting a year to recreate that dance floor-abandoning cake.

So now, in a Cakewrecks worthy kind of reveal, here is the monster I recreated today:

Okay, okay. Let me explain.

I’ll wait for you to stop laughing first.

I…

…okay. Time to get a grip.

…Really, control yourself.

…Are you quite finished?

Okay. I know this looks nothing like our original, beautiful wedding cake. Here’s why*:

1. I made more batter than I needed. Not on purpose. I had enough to fill a 6″ round. And then I still had batter left over. And you can’t just let precious cake batter go to waste, right? So I made two more successively smaller layers in some ramekins I had standing around. The smallest layer might have been eaten for my lunch today.

2. I didn’t make enough buttercream. Especially since I had some extra layers to deal with. That is why, in the image above, you see what could have made a very good “crumb coating” to prep my cake for its luscious outer layer of frosting. And that’s it. This is my cake in its underwear. I was too tired to make more buttercream. We’ll call it less fattening rustic.

3. My cake display dish is too short. When I put the lid on it to stash in the fridge, the top layer got smooshed down against the top of the inside of the dome. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Actually what I thought was “oh good, maybe it will help even out the decidedly uneven layer on top.” What I failed to anticipate was that the buttercream would firm up in the fridge. Which meant that the top layer became virtually cemented to the top of the glass. I tried to reassemble it, but that’s why you see fissures the size of a pastry Grand Canyon snaking across the top layer.

*I included these disclaimers in attempt to redeem myself in your eyes as an actually competent cake baker. You see, I clearly have the wherewithal and self-reflective conscientiousness to recognize what went wrong, and the humbleness to admit that I was too busy with normal daily life to fix it. I promise if I were making your wedding cake, or even your birthday cake, the finished product would be photo-worthy. In a good way. 

Despite everything that is wrong about this cake, I definitely did a few things right (including using this Vanilla Buttermilk cake recipe and this version of Swiss buttercream). Because I’ll be darned if this didn’t taste almost exactly like the cake we fed each other one year ago.

The flavor of our wedding cake was strawberry-lemonade. To achieve this, I spread a thin base layer of buttercream on the chilled cake. Then I topped it with lemon curd (good quality from the store, but I’d have used homemade if I’d had it). I sliced up some strawberries and arranged them on top. I spread another thin layer of buttercream on the underside of the layer that would top it all off, just to help it stick together.

If you want to try to make this cake, here are some variations you could do:
– use mango or orange curd instead of lemon curd
– leave out the lemon curd layer but add the zest of one lemon to the cake batter. or to the buttercream
– replace strawberries with raspberries or blueberries
– no fresh berries? try jam instead
– slice each layer into 4 smaller layers and alternate your fillings for a beautiful cake cutaway

We’ll call it a rustic shortcake…

Would it be cliche to say that the moral of the story is… don’t judge a cake by its haphazard assembly? Alex and I fed each other the first bite of this anniversary cake (just like we did at our wedding – with forks! No cake smashed in the face for us, thank you very much). (I mean really, it would have been a nightmare to get all that frosting out of Alex’s lumberjack-wannabe beard. It was very generous of me to just feed him like a civilized person).

And as I lingered over the sweet taste of strawberries, puckered at the refreshing tartness of the lemon curd, let the buttercream dissolve over my tongue, and stared into my husband’s (my husband! yes, still makes me giddy) kind eyes, I realized that this deformed-looking cake might serve as a reflection of our lives together today–that no matter what it looks like on the outside, life is always sweeter when we’re together. Sure, I was a little disappointed that the cake didn’t look perfect for such a landmark celebration. But I dwelt on that disappoint for a moment. Because I took comfort in the fact that I also walked the dogs twice, folded 3 loads worth of laundry, worked for 4 hours, picked up groceries, and made dinner! I probably would have been more frustrated if I had spent all day working on the cake and then fretted over all the things that I wouldn’t have gotten done.

As I have increasingly come to learn, life isn’t perfect. Or maybe, life is perfect, but only thanks to its imperfections. There have been times that I know I am acting ugly to Alex and then feel guilty for it later but am too proud to apologize in the moment. (Tell me I’m not alone on this one). We both have quirks that irk the other. We may even have done the unthinkable–gone against the age-old newlywed advice and gone to bed angry a time or two in the past year. But we’ve also grown in the way that we love and respect the other for our talents, personality, and willingness to support each other–in discovering what it means to be a husband and a wife. Like the cake, we look past exteriors to shovel tasty cake into our mouths find solace in the genuine substance of love that resides in our hearts. I love you, Alex, and I’m honored to celebrate this anniversary with you!

I’ll check in later this week with some fall decor around the house (i.e., if you’ve had enough of the mushy stuff, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming).

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2 thoughts on “Don’t Judge a Cake…

  1. I love this – my favorite cake to make is Orange Crunch Cake (a recipe from the Bubble Room on Captiva Island) – but the last time I made it, despite my careful “flattening” of the top of the layers so that they would stack nicely, the top layer severed into three pieces and slid right off the top of the cake – in my friend’s refrigerator – mortifying, but it tasted delectable. Bake on!

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