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They did it! They tied the knot! Two of our favorite people, joined together in joyous, holy matrimony. It was one of the most beautiful, most fun weddings we’ve been to in a while (excluding our own, of course!), and very much a testament to the value of community that both Andy and Marcella have come to share.

A few highlights:

  • Marcella walked down the aisle with her father, who had suffered a stroke a few years ago, and made a difficult journey out to Connecticut from Phoenix.
  • Both Andy and his father gave endearing, thoughtful toasts to the guests (as is English tradition). Afterwards, Andy’s father beamed rays of fatherly pride at how well Andy has grown up.
  • The bridal party and friends fully rearranged international trips home, housing decor and guest space availability, and work schedules in order to pitch in and contribute to the finishing details of the wedding week.
  • Our friend GH officiated his very first wedding, and his delightful wife, JH, catered her very first wedding.
And we, as you may know, made our very first wedding cake. It was a vanilla cardamom cake, three tiers each with two layers, with a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. The tiers were 12″, 8″, and 6″, decorated with some miscellaneous flowers and eucalyptus branches pilfered from the Sharps’ dining room arrangement in a last-minute flurry the morning of the wedding. Despite it being slotted to feed 120 at least, it fed about 80. (What can we do when guests come back for seconds and thirds and fourths?)
This cake may be a game-changer. I’m now reconsidering my career trajectory. Goodbye, Columbia; hello, socialist bakery! (If you have seen Stranger Than Fiction, a certain baker lady in that movie has been providing some inspiration for these upcoming plans.) Seriously, this cake was such a success that I’m reevaluating my gifts and my interests and wondering whether a small local bakery with an emphasis on job skills training for underprivileged women may instead be a better alternative than my current track. The million muffin movement? Cookies for the community?

Onto the frosting… If you’ll remember, the first frosting attempt over Easter weekend turned into a curdled disaster. Since then we’ve experimented quite a bit and have been thrilled with the following recipe. This recipe yields the most spreadable frosting I’ve ever experimented with, and the egg whites add a lot of structure that would ordinarily be replaced with by extraneous sugar. It holds up remarkably well for 24 hours (not that we had it out for that long, but an earlier trial version did withstand that duration) without any discoloration or melting. Of course if you were attempting your own wedding cake, I highly recommend you give this a couple tries. It’s not the easiest frosting I’ve ever made, but once you’re familiar enough with how it works, it is worth the effort.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

4 egg whites, room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 sticks butter, room temperature

In a double boiler, whisk together egg whites and 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Whisk continually in order to keep egg whites from cooking, until egg whites are frothy and warm. (If you don’t have a double boiler, a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water is fine.) Warming the egg whites allows them to stiffen up more in the next step.

Remove egg white mixture from heat. In a stand mixer, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. This should take about two minutes on medium speed first, then another two or three minutes on high speed. Remove egg whites from stand mixer and set aside.

In stand mixer, beat butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar until fluffy. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the butter. Mix thoroughly by hand. Do not use a stand mixture for this portion — the egg whites are very delicate at this stage and can curdle if beaten too hard into the butter.

At this stage, the frosting can be spread onto the cake immediately or kept refrigerated for a few days. If refrigerated, the frosting will harden. To bring it back to a spreadable texture, microwave for 30 seconds or keep it at room temperature for a few hours.

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For all of my grumbling and complaining about the cold, wet rain of spring, take a look at what has sprung forth in our little neck of the woods! I headed out for a bit of a half-hearted run the other day to take my mind off my ever so stressful end of the semester duties and was so fully rejuvenated by the glory of spring, I sprinted home to grab the husband and a camera for an indulgent jaunt through the neighborhood. It’s going to be a beauty, this spring…

One of the highlights of this spring will be the M&A wedding through which the wedding cake project came into being. (For the curious, the frosting cry for help¬†was resolved with a bit more Internet research and the help of some very experienced consultants. Instead of whipping together the egg whites and adding the butter to it, reversing the process makes an unimaginable difference.) We had a big celebratory dinner party the other night to welcome one friend home from an extensive stint in Cambodia, to celebrate another friend’s medical school successes, and to bid an early farewell to a third friend leaving for Ecuador for a year.

Another highlight is that our very good friend Amy al-Zarqawi has just returned from an extended stay in Jordan. She came up to New Haven for the weekend and we stuffed her full of cheese and carbs in classic Amy fashion. Lots of mac and cheese, bucatini carbonara, pancakes for breakfast, and a deep rich chocolate cake.

A final highlight — I finished my first year of grad school this past Saturday! No more homework! No more books! No more teachers’ dirty looks! That is… until May 17th, when my summer semester begins again. Sigh. I am thoroughly excited for the respite for now, though, since I have people to see and wedding cakes to make!

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