September 5, 2021
It was a beautiful Labor Day weekend on the coast of southern Maine and we had a cake to construct for my niece’s wedding!
At our family reunion in late June, Nikki had shared with me a few pictures and general ideas of what she wanted for her very special day. The designs reflected the young woman before me – casual but refined, down to earth but simultaneously elegant. The basic structure was a traditional three-tiered stack cake. The flavor of the cake itself would be blueberry lemon accented with fresh rosemary and covered with a vanilla buttercream frosting. The decorations would follow the theme of the wedding – rustic images, Maine forest colors, organic edibles.
I ended up making our Italian Wedding Cake recipe which is a marvelous, rich, traditional vanilla cake made moist with the addition of coconut. It can be a fussy cake – if you overfill the cake pan it will overflow and/or sink. It’s hyper-sensitive to temperature and can fall if you open the oven at the wrong time or let the oven door close hard. It is easy to over bake this cake too. But when it works – it is absolutely the tastiest and most enjoyable dessert. It has a marvelous crumb and holds well – getting richer and more flavorful a few days after baking. The addition of blueberries would increase the moisture content and the lemon/rosemary flavor would add a depth of interest that was sure to keep people guessing. Because the cake was a bit complex in flavor, I kept the icing super simple – butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and confectionary sugar. For decorations, I had fresh sprigs of rosemary, delicate white baby’s breath, white and yellow roses, and long curls of candied lemon peel. At the last minute I bought a bag of whole slices of dried Granny Smith apples, their brilliant green skins intact and their round smooth forms might add the wow factor I was looking for.
Two days before the wedding, the morning skies were clear and sunny, the temperature comfortable and cool. Driving over to the coast from Vermont, I was looking forward to seeing my family, many of whom live in Florida; I do not get to see them as often as I’d like. We traveled light, with personal belongings kept to a minimum, leaving lots of space in the car for the cakes, the icings, the decorations, and related paraphernalia to put it all together into its final form. The idea was to bring the individual components and build the cake on site. Our lodging came with a full kitchen and nice big counters. The night before the wedding, I turned out the large blueberry rosemary cakes. They looked beautiful and had a firm but very moist consistency. And the icing I knew was perfect. Yay! What a relief – it was at that point that I knew the cake would at least taste good! I plated the individual layers, laid on the icing, and piped on the decorative edges. Set out on the dining room hutch, they looked simple, elegant, and neat. The next morning, driving slowly, we started out for the Oceanside, backyard reception site. We drove slow, we took corners gently and……..got lost! I mean, we knew we were close, but we just could not find the driveway into the site. Time passed. More wrong turns. At the last minute, my sister had jumped into the car to help us, and now, with time disappearing as we searched here, searched there…..she was in danger of being late for the wedding at which she was to stand up and address the guests. Finally……. we found it. Phew! We unloaded, carefully stacked the cake and quickly, gently, added the decorations. It all came together. The apple slices – a last minute, spontaneous addition – just nailed the final vision. It looked beautiful!
Lots of love and congratulations to Nikki and Seamus!