Ok, deep breath. Another long post on the Frangaipani Wedding Cake I made for Jo’s son and daughter-in-law. The wedding was the 21 February.
Initially I was just making a 10 and 8″ American Mud Cake, ganached and covered in fondant with Tiff (Jo’s DIL) wanting to make the flowers.
I set my timeline which started the Sunday before the wedding. I offered Kathy to make a cake for Greg’s birthday knowing that I had time to do both cakes. The wedding cake being picked up the Wednesday before.
The Wednesday before (1.5 weeks out) Jo caught up with me and asked if there was any way I could make the flowers for the cake as well. Tiff had now realised that she was spreading herself too thin and didn’t have the time she expected to be able to make the flowers herself. Our communication continued by email and phone conversations that day. I wasn’t at work, but instead at a course.
Obviously I needed to know what the flowers were. Up until this stage I was only focused on making the cake and hadn’t asked how the cake was going to be decorated. Jo let me know the main flower was Frangipani and there were other flowers that Tiff had begun to make. A few photos were sent and I got busy searching YouTube and Google for any tutorials on making Frangipani.
As Jo has suspected, a Frangipani was a more simple flower to make (compared to a rose). I took a look at a finished cake that Tiff had liked the look of, mainly it was to show how she liked the flowers to be draped down the side of the cake. I started to calculate how many flowers I might need to make.
Jo and I had another discussion the next day and I got to see first hand the flowers Tiff had made, and in turn I showed a sample I’d made the night before. I needed to test that the gumpaste I had was still suitable to use (it had been in the fridge for some weeks) and whether I had the right type of cutter to make the petals. My flower was much too thin, I wasn’t used to making a flower with thicker petals and I hadn’t twigged I was making it too thin until I had all the petals together. Anyway we decided I was on the right track and that we’d use all flowers I made. Now it was time to get busy, very busy, because come Sunday I was all about making both cakes and would have no time to spare for flowers. Though I still would have to dust the flowers, tape them and put them into an arrangement.
I started making flowers Thursday night, made more Friday, now making filler flowers as well, and still reviewing several photos of other cakes with Frangipanis so I could make a stab as to how many I would need to make. I was also timing how much time it took and pretty much figured I could make 8-10 an hour. I really wanted to make 40+ but I made 34 as well as the filler flowers and 6 Calla Lilies, another flower I’d never made before. In then end I thought I had enough, maybe even more than I needed.
Sunday morning I was spent attaching wires to the Frangipani flowers. I knew I needed some to sit out from the cake, I didn’t want them all to sit flat against the cake. I wanted to create a sense of movement and lightness. But do you think I could find anything that explained how you’d wire a Frangipani? No. So I had to come up with my own method. It worked, but I wouldn’t say it was the right way, or the tidiest way you could do it. But it did the trick and for the most part the “attachment” would be hidden amongst the other flowers.
During the afternoon on Sunday I baked both the 10 and 8″ cakes as well as got all the ingredients together for Greg’s cake. I was thankfully allowed to finish work on Monday at 3:30pm which meant I could bake Greg’s cake Monday (more of that in a separate post).
Sunday evening I ganached the 10″ cake. That wasn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped. One batch of ganache decided it wouldn’t soften evenly and I ended up with what looked to be a grainy lump. Thankfully I had plenty of ganache and I warmed up another batch which was perfect. In the end I heated the first batch enough that it melted completely and it was absolutely perfect for use the following day, which is when I ganached the 8″ cake. I used two 4mm cake boards instead of my usual acrylic rounds. The trouble I had trying to get a nice smooth finish is something I wont discuss, but needless to say I am not a fan of cake boards. They weren’t perfectly round, and they were just slightly different in size which also caused some grief, as well as having to do a lot more the following day to get everything smooth and even.
Tuesday I covered the 10″ cake in fondant. I was a bit worried because it was warm in the house. I had to believe the dam I had used in the layers to hold the Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream was sufficient to hold it all together and I should not have any problems with bulges. The horror of what happened with Jasmine and Sam’s cake still haunted me. The covering was mostly straight forward, though there were a significant number of air bubbles. I did have one air pocket giving me grief, then somehow I managed to get a bit of ganache on the fondant. Well that made the it pretty clear what would be the front where I could hide the little speck with a flower or two.
Wednesday was to be a really hot day, so when I woke earlier than I would have liked on Wednesday morning I decided I would get up and cover the 8″ cake. The house was cooler and I knew it would save me some potential difficulty that evening with the house being a lot warmer, and the ganache not as firm as I’d like. While the cakes didn’t cover as well as Jasmine and Sam’s, I was still happy enough, mostly because I knew I had a bit of leeway with flowers being added which I could place in such a way as to hide any small blemish. I guess you can hope that cakes will cover flawlessly but the reality is that it’s a pretty tall order. I guess I got really lucky with J & S’s cake, and given the other grief I had with their cake, I was owed some good luck somewhere.
As the days progressed my plans about what I’d do with each of the cakes changed. Not travelling on Thursday made a big difference, and while I would have managed had I not had the Thursday evening free, it did take a bit of pressure off.
So here I was Wednesday morning and the cakes were all but done. I just had to do the cake board, which proved to be a pain in the butt. It was my fault for not rolling the fondant thin enough which made it a bit of a mission, and not as tidy as I’d have liked. Then somehow I managed to cut my finger, which I hand’t noticed until I had the ribbon around the edge of the cake board. And you guessed it, I had somehow managed to get some blood on the ribbon. So off that came, and on went a plaster before I put new ribbon around the board.
I’d been chipping away at dusting the flowers each evening as I had time, then steaming them. Thursday morning (I woke early again!) I began to tape each individual flower and in the evening I started to make little bunches of 3 flowers. I created 4 arrangements and was mostly happy, except the top one. Friday morning I woke early and re-wired the top. I realised when you looked straight down on the arrangement that all the flowers faced frontwards. So I suspected I’d be re-wiring again.
While each arrangement looked fine, I had to think about how they would work together. I dragged the cakes out (they’d been up in the 3rd bedroom, the coolest room in the house) and started to play with how the flowers would fit together, mindful I didn’t want to mark the cakes. It was a tricky job and in the end I was no further ahead in what I was thinking.
Friday night I started to pull together all the things I’d need to be able to set up the cake at the venue. I wasn’t looking forward to dowelling the bottom tier. It makes me nervous. The cakes always settle a bit and what starts out as a perfectly level cake tends to dip a little in the middle. So the poly dowels have to sit a bit proud so that all up the top tier will sit level.
You can’t stop the days from rolling over and Saturday arrived and I was busy dowelling the cake. I had to do it several times because one or other of the dowels wasn’t at the same height and when I lay the ruler across the cake the ruler wouldn’t come into contact with one of the dowels. Talk about tricky!
Jo had said the venue would be available from 10am. I knew the reception was at 4pm and guessed we’d leave home at 10am. Mr Fussy gets the job of driving (extremely carefully) while I sit in the passenger seat fretting about everything that could go wrong.
We left at 11am. And just like J & S’s wedding, we almost got collected by a car. And we hadn’t even left our own cul de sac.
It turned out to be a really lovely warm day. Earlier in the week the forecast was for cloudy weather with temperatures in the low 20’s. While I noticed how lovely and warm it was outside the venue, it never registered as being warm when we were inside.
I set about putting the cake together. I dithered about with the flowers. I had thought I’d start by placing the flowers on the bottom tier and working my way up. But I just couldn’t quite figure out how to get the flowers in the cake so that they sat against the cake at the right angle/place without adding weight and risking them pulling away from the cake, or ripping through the cake.
I really was having a hard job trying to work it all out. In the end I got the top arrangement and the spray that fell over the side of the top tier sorted. And yet I still couldn’t work out where and how I would place the bottom arrangement. In the end I fiddled with the placement/angle of the wires and went to stick the flowers the side, but there was too much weight in the flowers and they more or less plopped out onto the cake board.
Having a hole int he side of the cake and still not knowing where the arrangement was going was creating a stressful situation for me. I knew I could “plug” the hole with one of the unwired left over Frangipanis, so I wasn’t getting myself too worked up, but I was still at a loss as to how to place the bottom arrangement. In the end I just held my breath and poked the wires into the top of the bottom tier right next to the middle arrangement. Then I just fussed about moving the individual flowers so that they faced different ways and weren’t too bunched up.
Each of the extra individual Frangipanis were used. I really didn’t think I would need them, but they helped to “shape” the direction of the arrangement.
In the end I was happy with how the cake looked with the flowers. I had taken a lot longer than I expected with the setup, and I was there doing a lot of thinking and not a lot of doing, but after all the time that had been taken to make the flowers I didn’t want to muck it all up by having them falling off/away or ripping through the cake due to their weight.
When I was finally sure that all the extra flowers I had attached (with Royal Icing) were now set on the cake we packed up and left.
Last time I made something for Jo (the Pirate and Princess cookies) she let me know as soon as she got home and looked at them how pleased she was. Not hearing from Jo about the cake made me start to fret that something had gone wrong. I had all sorts of visions that the flowers had fallen off or ripped through the cake. Or maybe the warmth led the ganache to soften and the fondant had slopped down, or ganache was running out from under the fondant. I kept looking at photos I’d taken from the venue and trying to determine just how close the cake was to the window, and just where the sun would have been by 4pm. Was it possible the sun had melted the ganache? It was awful wondering. I knew that Jo would have been very busy and in all likelihood nothing was wrong, but I couldn’t help the thoughts. I guess that if you did this regularly you’d have more of an idea of what risk there was in things turning bad.
I was extremely relieved when on Monday I received a text from Jo who was thrilled with the cake.
Wedding cakes, so much time and emotion are invested. It’s such an important cake, such a significant part of a wedding. I wonder if proper cake decorators ever get comfortable with setting up the cake and walking away and not worrying about how the cake is received. I doubt I’ll ever feel that way about any cake I make for someone other than myself.
If someone had told me I’d have made and decorated two wedding cakes within months of each other I would have scoffed at the idea. But here we are, and they both turned out just fine. I did however find a grey hair the other day. I don’t think it’s a coincidence!