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Posts Tagged ‘Wedding’

Wisconsin — the land of cheese and cherries and not a whole lot else. We just returned from a weekend away in Sturgeon Bay, a beautiful little waterfront town with Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. Door County is the hometown of one A.M. who recently married a good friend of Greg’s, A.U.

One thing I learned about A.U. on this trip is that he is “no respecter of persons” — in that he has little to no concern for silly social cues and codes, willingly befriending those that may be deemed unlovable. We spent a good part of the trip learning about various disabilities like blindness, deafness, and degeneration, and realized how silly the world can be with our values on physical perfection.

A few miscellaneous highlights:

Renard’s Cheese
An adorable little cheese shop off the main highway in Door County, where we learned that the leftover whey from making cheese is re-sold to calf-food-producers and packing-peanut-manufacturers. Think twice next time you pack up a box — these little  styrofoam nuggets are not vegan products!

The Lodge at Leathem Smith
Their online presence claims to be a “historic website archive” not worth linking to, but this hotel and reception site was very cute, newly renovated, and right on the water. It has beautiful grounds, and compared to the tiny-ness of Manhattan, seemed extravagantly expansive.

Snow Globes
Apparently not allowed on planes departing LGA.

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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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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways… 10 1/2 sticks of butter, 21 eggs, 9 cups of sugar, and 11 1/4 cups of flour. Ten hours, countless dishes, and an emergency trip to Costco. M & A, you’d better be the happiest newlyweds in the world after this cake is done!

Having three full days off is a miraculous phenomenon in this household these days. With school from 9am-7pm on Saturdays and a full work week, it makes Sundays the only days of rest we have, and not nearly enough time to get things like laundry or spring cleaning, not to mention a wedding cake, done. Thankfully, the nonprofit I currently work at does acknowledge Good Friday, and the school I currently attend also recognizes Easter (weekend), thus granting me the luxury of rest, at last! (I’ve also just remembered I have the most marvelous husband who faithfully conquers the mountains of laundry every few weeks, tackles the grime in the kitchen I leave behind, and also baked a third of this cake!)

This wedding cake is quite the undertaking, let me tell you. Not that I thought making a wedding cake would be a simple task, but the sheer level of manpower, time, and ingredients has been fairly daunting. Seriously, ten sticks of butter had been difficult to fathom until this weekend, and now I’m envisioning dozens of sticks of butter softening to room temperature scattered in various locations all over the house come May. (By the way, I’ve discovered that defrosting frozen butter in the microwave for about two minutes on the defrost setting can be a useful trick in a pinch, but the preferred method is still to leave it sitting out overnight.)

Vanilla Cardamom Cake
(adapted from http://www.smittenkitchen.com)

This version produces 9 cups of batter, which makes the following combinations: one 12″ round and one 6″ round; two 8″ rounds and one 6″ round; one 12″ round and one 8″ round. (If you notice a small discrepancy here, I’ll have you know that the first batch produced a very tall 6″ round.) I suspect this could also successfully make three 8″ rounds, but I’ll leave that to your experimentation.

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2  teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter; pour 3 cups batter into each pan.

Bake for 50 minutes for the 8″ rounds, 42 minutes for the 6″ rounds, and 60 minutes for the 12″ rounds, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in the pans. When the cakes are cooled completely, turn the layers out by running a rubber spatula around the edge of the cake, covering the cake pan with a flat plate, and flipping gently. If the cake does not come out immediately, moisten a paper towel with warm water, wipe the sides and bottom of the pan and shake gently.

If the cake is not to be served immediately (or within a few hours), cover the cake pan tightly with plastic wrap, with twice the amount of plastic wrap as the size of the cake. Flip gently, then wrap the cake in plastic wrap and a freezer bag. The cake will store well like this for a number of days.

More to come on buttercream frosting, Swiss meringue frosting, cake boards and more! In the meantime, if you have any experience with Swiss meringue buttercream frosting or any tips on frosting at all, please respond to this cry for help. (You’ll see in the pictures above, the frosting is not quite ready for its close-up.)

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