I would’ve cried but there was no time for tears.
I didn’t realize I dented Natalie and John’s wedding cake until I arrived at the reception venue. I opened the car door and, to my horror, I discovered a deep dent in the cake — at the front of the cake! — the only real detail and focal point on the cake! The black fondant initials and the plaque it rested on were clearly and mercilessly pushed into the cake.
Well, this is awkward
“Oh. Noooooo!” I groaned, as the poor doorman stood by awkwardly, not knowing what to say.
“I. Dented. The. Cake!” I uttered.
There were a few moments of stunned silence. Devastated doesn’t begin to explain how I felt.
But I needed to get home, shower and head off to my dear friend Aileen’s birthday dinner. So I dropped off the damaged cake as it was and decided I’d figure something out later.
For the record, this is what the cake looked like before I dented it.
A heavy case of Toronto traffic was in my way but it gave me some time to think. There was a pit in my stomach, I felt defeated, and I didn’t know what to do.
I called Natalie to ask her for the event coordinator’s phone number so I could call her up and let her know about the little cake problem we had on our hands. No answer. The bride-to-be was enjoying a spa day and her phone was probably turned off.
Solution 1: Start from scratch
Somehow, my mind went into problem-solving mode. I could start from scratch and make a whole new wedding cake. I started doing calculations in my mind. There was no way I’d have enough time to buy more supplies, bake and cool three cakes, whip seven batches of buttercream, decorate, stack, transport and be at Nat’s place the next day, in time for picture-taking and walking down that aisle.
Oh yah, I didn’t tell you I was a bridesmaid. I didn’t have enough hours ahead of me. So, scratch that! Baking a whole new cake wasn’t an option. Don’t cry, think of something else.
Solution 2: Bake, dismantle and reassemble
Duh. I didn’t need to bake three more cakes when only one was damaged. I could bake one new cake to replace the dented one. When I got to the reception tomorrow, I’d remove the top tier and set it aside, I’d remove the middle tier and replace it with the new cake — trying carefully to not damage the bottom tier or the pearl borders — and then I’d put the top tier back in place. You follow?
But even if I baked just one new cake, I’d still be cutting it really close with time. And then I’d have to figure out a way to get the new cake to the reception without dinging it again. To top it off, I was anxious and exhausted so I wasn’t confident I could make a new cake that looked decent.
Solution 3: Turn it around. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!
Then it came to me. I’d turn the cake around and decorate the undamaged side. No one looks at the back of the cake anyway so no one needs to know it’s dented. It might not be the sleekest solution but given the time constraint I was under, this was my best option.
So that’s what I did. I rolled more fondant, made a new plaque, shaped a new set of initials, made and attached a bunch of new scrolls. And off I went to dinner.
I thought maybe the dent wasn’t that bad and perhaps I could try minimizing it with fondant smoothers. But deep down I knew it was unlikely fondant smoothers could fix this problem.
Uh oh. The bride knows
When I arrived home after Aileen’s birthday dinner, I got a phone call from Natalie. The event organizer had called her to let her know the cake arrived at the reception venue and there was some damage on it. Ugh. I really didn’t want to stress out the bride the day before her wedding.
I told Nat that, yep, I dented the cake when I was driving but it’s OK because I found a way to fix it. Natalie said something along the lines of: “Oh my God, seriously, please don’t worry about it!”
My calm voice makes an appearance
You see, Natalie knows me too well and she knew I’d be freaking out. I told her that now that I found a solution, I was calm and everything would be fine. And by now, this was mostly true. I was still bummed but the shock and horror of ruining my best friend’s wedding cake had lost its edge. I was doing everything I could to fix it.
Now I wonder if my “calm voice” secretly freaked Natalie out. I must’ve been convincing because she let me off the phone to finish my new and improved decoration — I liked the second one better than the first. Practice made the letters turn out nicer and this time, I positioned the scrolls more symmetrically and I thought it had a nicer effect.
Protect the plaque at all costs
I cushioned the new plaque, stuffed with paper towels, in a Tupperware container and packed it up with the cake topper. On the wedding day, it traveled with me in a little insulated cooler bag. The last thing I needed was for it to melt or get crushed in the limo so I stood watch and made sure it was safely stowed in the trunk.
It was a lovely wedding ceremony, followed by some fun picture-taking. I consciously remained in the moment, forgot about the cake fiasco for most of the day and celebrated my dear friend’s big day.
Hello, chef. I’m the girl who made and then dented the cake
When I arrived at the reception, I headed to the kitchen with bridesmaid Jocelyn in tow for moral support and I met the pastry chef who was very kind. If he had been laughing about, or unimpressed with, this dented cake that showed up in his kitchen, he had the courtesy to conceal his thoughts.
I attached the new plaque and the heirloom cake topper borrowed from John’s family, and I was relieved. For better or for worse, my mission was complete.
The big reveal
When they finally rolled out the cake for presentation, I cringed. I assumed the cake would be displayed in a corner somewhere, with a wall blocking the dent from view but instead, it was wheeled out and everyone had a 360-degree view.
Most people were on the cake’s “good side” but there was a crowd and some folks came around to the back to take photos. I watched their expressions and they didn’t seem to notice the dent.
By now I just smiled and went along with things. Lots of guests were snapping pictures of the cake and, more importantly, the gorgeous newlyweds.
You want to see that dent, don’t you? Check it out.
See what all the fuss is about?
Dented cake: How it happened
Moments after leaving home, while driving, I turned a corner. The cake, which was placed on a stack of books on the passenger seat, didn’t move and I was relieved. Two seconds later, I gently braked and when I looked to my right, the cake had moved a few inches away from me. I didn’t see — or hear — it slide.
I pulled over immediately, pulled the cake back towards me, peered around one side and the other and was happy to find it unscathed — or so I thought. I knew the cake moved but I thought it didn’t slide far enough to cause any damage.
Door grips dent cakes
The cake must’ve hit the passenger side door grip and I couldn’t see the dent from my vantage point.
The trouble-making dent-maker! The culprit. The door grip. Boo! Hiss. Photo by Jennifer Melo
The cake was really heavy so I didn’t expect it to move much but, in hindsight, I should’ve used a non-slip silicone mat under the cake boards. The books, which I used to keep things level, provided a slippery surface for the heavy cake to slide on.
Today, I can laugh at this situation. I’ll always regret that I dented my best friend’s wedding cake but I know it doesn’t really matter.
What’s a little dented cake between BFFs anyway? Natalie never asked me for a perfect cake. It’s true that I wanted to give her the prettiest cake I could make but life laughed at that plan.
Sometimes trying to fix the dent is all you can really do. And with solid friendships, that’s often more than enough.
Strawberry season in Ontario starts in mid June and lasts until the end of August. So now’s the time to get those flavourful fruits from your local farmer’s market, neighbours. Strawberries and vanilla are a classic combination that pleases many palates.
Easy vanilla and strawberry cupcakes
Sometimes simplicity is best when it comes to baking and it doesn’t get easier than vanilla cupcakes and fresh strawberries. For my brother’s birthday in late August, I topped vanilla cupcakes with strawberry vanilla buttercream icing and a fresh strawberry.
Strawberry juice = natural food colouring
I used Wilton’s buttercream icing recipe and then tinted and flavoured it naturally by using strawberry juice. Using mashed, overripe strawberries, I strained the solids in order to keep seeds and pulpy bits out of the mix and mixed in the juice until I was happy with the colour and consistency.
Pipe a swirl
Then I fitted a piping bag with a medium-sized star tip and filled it with strawberry buttercream. I piped the buttercream in a circular motion, starting from the outer edges to the center and ended up with a swirl.
Fresh strawberries for cupcake toppers
To finish it off, I washed and sliced fresh strawberries in half lengthwise and topped each cupcake with a strawberry slice.
The finishing touch
Simple, delicious, requires no fuss. A little paper doily fancies things up a bit. How do you think it looks?
When my dear friend Natalie asked me to make her wedding cake, I reluctantly agreed.
Natalie’s one of my best friends in the whole wide world and she’s very supportive of me and my cake decorating. She easily has more confidence in my cake-decorating skills than I do. I had never attempted a wedding cake before, my fondant cakes were far from perfect, and I really didn’t want to screw up Natalie’s wedding cake.
She’s no Bridezilla
I warned her that I’m no professional cake decorator but if she was prepared to have a seriously flawed wedding cake, I’d be happy to accept the challenge.
Nat was far from a Bridezilla. She wasn’t finicky about having a perfect cake — it was more meaningful for her to have a cake made by moi and she calmed me by saying all she really wanted was a little something to cut into with her husband-to-be, John, at the reception. She didn’t care if the cake was flawed. And so I set out to make the best cake I could make.
Invitation-inspired wedding cake design
It would be a three-tiered white buttermilk cake, plus an extra square cake that wouldn’t be on display but would provide enough servings for all 200+ guests.
Natalie helped take the pressure off this project by making my standby buttercream icing recipe herself — all six or so batches — so I could focus on cake baking and decorating.
The style of the cake was inspired by the neutral color scheme of her wedding invitation: white and champagne-coloured damask, with black lettering.
I bought ivory fondant to cover the cakes, there’d be white fondant accents and a simple monogram with black letters.
Cake design inspiration
With a scan of Natalie and John’s wedding invitation and help from myfonts.com, I found lettering that resembled the font (Bickham Script) on her wedding invitation so I used my word processing software to make a parchment paper template.
Next, I traced the lettering onto parchment paper and placed it on a fondant oval I cut with a cookie cutter. Then I gently traced over the lettering with a modelling tool, removing the parchment paper when I was done and leaving a lettered impression in the fondant oval.
I rolled and hand-shaped the initials with black fondant, I lightly moistened the lettering inscribed in the plaque with water, and I pressed the fondant letters into place, pinching the ends for sharp, elegant edges.
I used Wilton’s baroque fondant and gum paste mold ($10) to make the scrolls and pearl borders. And then I painted the pearls with an edible pearl shimmer.
By the time I finished decorating, I was quite proud of myself. There were no rips or major cracks in the fondant and the sides looked quite smooth. Overall, I’d say it was my best fondant cake to date. Not too bad for an amateur, I thought.
Time to move that cake
With the cake decorating done, it was time to transport it and deliver it to the reception venue. I knew this would be a challenge because typically, I travel with smaller cakes to familiar homes where I can stack the cakes onsite and once stacked, the cakes don’t have to travel very far.
This would be my first time transporting a large, heavy, stacked cake but I’d manage it somehow, or so I thought.
That was until I dented my best friend’s wedding cake…
Go Portugal! cake. Photo by Jennifer Melo
I made this cake on a whim for Father’s Day last year. I baked it, cooled it, filled it, stacked it, frosted it and decorated it in a few hours. And I was only just a little late for a family gathering. But no one minds if you’re late when you show up with cake. No one who wants to enjoy that cake, anyway. 🙂
It’s a triple-layered white butter cake with vanilla buttercream icing. I topped it with a fondant Portugal flag in honour of Father’s Day 2012, when my family got together and watched a Portugal vs. Holland soccer match. It must’ve done the trick because Portugal won that game. Better yet, Papa Melo was very impressed with the cake.
Here, I’ll reveal how I created that fondant flag. You didn’t think I winged it, did you? I can’t draw worth Jack.
How to make a fondant flag
1. Google “Portugal flag”. Find a graphic one that’s about the right size for your cake. Tip: Use your web browser’s zoom function to quickly find the best sizing for your cake (check the View or Window menus).
2. Place parchment paper on your screen. Trace the flag elements onto the parchment paper using a pencil. You could print the page you’ll use for a template but personally, I like how the glow of the monitor clearly illuminates outlines for tracing — plus, this method saves paper and ink.
3. Work in layers. For example, the outline of the flag is layer 1, the round emblem is layer 2, the shield is layer 3, the smaller shield is layer 4 and so on. I freehanded the smallest shapes because, really, this cake was for a casual affair — let’s not get crazy with the tracing, people.
Parchment paper templates for a Portugal flag. Photo by Jennifer Melo
4. Tint your fondant using food colouring. I didn’t have food-safe gloves so to keep from staining my hands, I kneaded the fondant and food colouring in a plastic food-safe bag (ahem, Zip-loc!).
I wanted rich, vibrant colour so I used just about all of my red food colouring to get the red colour you see in the photo. The colour would’ve deepened more if I left it to sit overnight but whims and preparation don’t get along. I like to improvise every now and then.
5. Roll out your fondant, place the templates over top and cut your shapes per the templates. Round cookie cutters will help you to cut neat round shapes and a knife helps to cut irregular shapes, with the guidance of your parchment paper templates. Use a light touch when holding your parchment paper in place to avoid denting the smooth fondant’s surface.
6. Piece, stack and stick your fondant shapes together with water and before you know, you have a decent-looking flag.
Go Portugal, go!
Learning how to pipe a leaf is quite simple but if you’re a novice cake decorator or just out of practice, here’s what you need to know.
- A piping bag
- A leaf tip. Like a chick’s open beak, the leaf tip is pointy at both ends and looks like a small triangle was cut out of the middle. It looks like this…
Leaf tip. Photo by Jennifer Melo
How to pipe a leaf
1. With pointed ends of your leaf tip positioned up and down, squeeze the piping bag until you see enough icing to form the wide end of your leaf.
2. Release pressure as you pull the tip towards you, aiming for a triangle shape. Stop squeezing.
3. Gently pull the tip up and away to leave a tapered end.
Got it? No? Watch this and practise your piped leaves.
To make the earthy green colour you see here, I mixed a bit of violet, yellow and leaf green gel food colouring.