Springtime on Kiawah means warm breezes, fresh blooms and of course weddings (hence wedding cakes). The Pastry Department of The Sanctuary handles most of the hotel’s weddings during the spring and summer. The process of getting the cake from the oven to the reception has many moving parts. Here I will take you through the journey from the couple’s vision to the cake cutting.
The first step is the tasting. Brides and grooms to be meet with our catering specialist to discuss their ideas about their cake. Next, a private tasting is held for the happy couple to sample flavors. During the tasting I ask the couple for any pictures or images of other cakes that may have peaked their interest. Some choose to replicate cakes they have seen before and others like to incorporate ideas into a unique design.
I like to have the cake tasting to have a casual, relaxed feel to it. I want the bride and groom to be comfortable discussing ideas and any plans they have in mind. It is during these talks that I can ask the necessary questions for me to create their vision. Here, the devil is in the details, I try to get all the information possible out of this meeting.
How many people will be attending the reception? Is the cake the only dessert or will there be an accompanying dish? Where is the cake going to be placed? Indoors? Outdoors? Will the top tier be saved for the first anniversary?
Now once I have an idea of what the couple has envisioned I will do a quick sketch. The sketch ensures that the bride, the groom and I are all on the same page. Once approved, the sketch then serves as a template I will use down the road when making the caking. These sketches and notes are extremely important as tastings are done months in advance of the actual wedding. As the wedding draws near I will speak with the couple once more to ensure no changes have occurred since our last meeting.
We recently did a cake for a young bride that I corresponded back and forth with for several months. I sent pictures of chocolate shells, miniature beach furniture and other elements that would help her envision her beach themed cake. In the end the extra communication resulted in the cake of her dreams.
Once the details have been finalized the real fun can begin. A banquet event order will be issued that has all of the details listed. This paper ensures that flavors, layers and designs are accurate with our notes. The order may also contain any additional details that may have been added. For example, many couples like to add accompanying cupcakes or chocolates that match the wedding cake.
As the wedding date draws close we will begin production and bake the cakes. After they are pulled from the oven and cooled they will be split and filled with the appropriate mousses or fillings.
During this point in the construction we will insert the support dowels. Usually wooden or plastic tubing, these post will act as support columns for the next layer of cake. Without them the cake would be crushed under its own weight.
The next step is the “dirty icing” or “crumb coating”. This thin layer of butter cream traps crumbs that would otherwise migrate to the finish coat while also sealing the moisture in the cake.
Once this layer is chilled, a perfectly smooth layer of butter cream is applied. We have special equipment in our bake shop that allows us to produce a very clean and smooth butter cream finish. We use a heavy, custom built, 22 inch diameter aluminum plate turn table that can large layers effortlessly. Having the right tools is half the battle with such large, precise projects. If the final look requires it, fondant will be rolled and smoothed over the layers at this point.
From here the cakes can be stacked onto the cake stand chosen by the couple. Normally we use square or round silver `stands but occasionally white ceramic or glass will be the look of choice. After stacking we will move the cake to a special room that is chilled and moisture controlled to protect it from Kiawah’s notorious humidity. Left in the open kitchen the finish on a rolled fondant cake will collect moisture within ten minutes.
In this finishing room we will pipe any designs in butter cream or royal icing, place flowers (either real or made by us) and add the topper. I normally will take a picture of the cake in its finished state and send it to the Sanctuary wedding specialist to make sure we’ve hit the mark before the couple sees it for the first time.
Now all that is left to do is wait for the bride and groom to cut into the cake at the reception, remove it to the kitchen and serve the slices to the wedding guest. If the couple is saving the top tier I will box it, freeze it for transport and label the cake box with the couple’s new name and the date of the ceremony.