Seventeen short days until he's stuck with me forever. Foreverrrrrr aahahaha!
I cannot believe how time has flown. It's already been nearly 3 months since he proposed, and in just over two weeks we'll be married! I'm really glad we had a short engagement. We are so ready to be a family and to be together in one home.
Being engaged has been amazing, and has brought such a new and exciting dynamic to our relationship. It's also brought a tremendous sense of peace and contentment that I wasn't expecting. And it's been really fun sharing this experience with our loved ones - everyone has been so amazing and supportive through the whole thing! Naturally, people have had a lot of questions.
"So when is the big day?"
"OMGGGGG that's soooo fast!"
Well we have been together for 5 years, so we're definitely ready.
"So will you be moving into his house?"
No. we figured we'd just live separately. It keeps things interesting.
KIDDING. Yes we are moving into his house.
"So who's making your cake?"
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Here's the thing. I am in NO WAY trying to discourage people from hiring professional bakers - they have skills that I can only dream of. I'm also not going to pretend that my amateur @$$ is capable of making anything that will aesthetically match a 5-tier fondant laden wedding cake covered in sugar flowers and royal icing. But I can sure as hell make a small cake for John and myself that looks decent and tastes good, and I can easily make delicious cupcakes for everyone else. Especially since our wedding is small and pretty stinkin' casual.
We both envision the same thing for our big day: a cookout in his backyard with a wedding in the middle of it. What we don't want is a big, fancy, formal wedding. Its just not us. And its not just because we have a small budget or because we've both had big fancy weddings before - we truly want a small, casual, stress-free wedding at home. We want family and close friends around us, good food, and we want to drink mead out of a drinking horn. Because we're Swedish. Not Swedish enough to want Lutefisk, but definitely Swedish enough for mead and drinking horns.
The most important thing is that we want to be married to each other. Regardless of our venue, decorations or food, the fact that we'll officially be joined together as family will make the day incredible. Everything else is just... icing on the cake. (baahahaha)
That said, it was really never a question that I would just make the cake and cupcakes - all of our food will be homemade. It's a pretty casual day, and honestly we don't care about having a fancy cake - we just care that our stuff tastes great. And we aren't about to break our budget for a cake we don't need or desire.
I'm sure most engaged couples, especially the brides, want big fancy receptions with flawless cakes. I completely understand that. But I also know that there are a whole lot of people like us out there - people who, whether this is their first marriage or their fourth, just don't want all of the pomp and circumstance. Or even if they do want something a little fancier, a lot of people can't afford the huge price tags that come with wedding cakes. And there is absolutely no shame in that! Life is expensive, and not everyone can or wants to spend multiple hundreds or even thousands of dollars on dessert. The good news is: you don't have to. It's absolutely possible to do this yourself if you have the time and patience, if you're not having a huge number of people, and if you're like us and don't want something extravagant.
You can be a novice baker and still put something amazing together for you and your guests. The beauty of baking is that the most basic and simple of recipes are often the most delicious and beautiful. And the beauty of baking in 2017 is that simple farm-to-table style cakes and cupcakes are super trendy.
Case in point: the semi-naked cake.
These things are everywhere! And if you've spent more than 2 minutes on Pinterest I'm sure you've seen some. The basic premise is a stacked cake with healthy layers of frosting in between and a very thin coat of frosting on the outside. Its kind of like a thin crumb coat. It gives the cake a simple, rustic look. But I think the appeal goes beyond the style.
Most people I know don't like a lot of frosting on their cakes, and they end up eating around it and throwing a lot of it away. We've all seen that at parties and barbecues - plates with piles of frosting left for the trash. The semi-naked cake seems to have the perfect cake-to-frosting ratio.
Naked cakes are really similar - its basically the same thing, but without the thin layer of frosting coating the whole thing. They can look just as clean, but some opt to let the frosting layers seep out the side a bit for a little more intentionally messy look. I honestly prefer the semi-naked because I'm neurotic and they look a little bit more clean. I like clean. But mostly I like that the thin layer of frosting provides enough of a barrier to keep the cake from drying out quickly.
On whichever cake you choose, a simple arrangement of fresh or silk flowers on top and/or some colorful fruit can look surprisingly stunning.
These styles are easy enough for novice bakers to accomplish, especially when they're a manageable size. And with the popularity of cupcakes, its totally acceptable to make a 6 or 8-inch cake for the bride and groom to share and cupcakes for the guests. That's exactly what I'll be doing for our wedding.
Side note: I'm focusing on naked cakes and cupcakes because, in my opinion, these are the easiest to do. Trying to get smooth buttercream is not as easy as it looks in those sped up Instagram videos. Do not let that stop you from trying, though! There are a million cool things that people at all baking levels can do to make frosted cakes look gorgeous. If you find one you like, try it out! And I don't do fondant, so I'm not going there.
Even when making a simple cake, there are some things you'll need to know.
You need cake pans with straight sides! You do not want to be stuck trying to carve straight sides onto a cake, because its a royal pain in the @$$ and makes a total mess. Lots of regular cake pans are a bit wider on top than they are on the bottom. If you want a cake that looks great and doesn't fall over, use the right pans.
Also, you need to use a cake recipe that has some strength to it. IF you try to used a boxed cake mix for a stacked cake, your bottom layer will slowly be crushed by the weight of the upper layers. I use this:
And you really should check out her YouTube channel. She's phenomenally talented and adorable and amazing and she makes me laugh.
Clarification: Dowels (or bubble tea straws) can be used to help strengthen a cake, and MUST be used when stacking. For cakes like the one I did, where it's one size but 3-4 layers, I prefer to use a stronger cake recipe rather than dowels.
If you're going to use fresh flowers please double check that they are food safe. So many common flowers are toxic and can make people really sick if the stems or petals touch the food. A simple google search will tell you if a flower is safe to have on or near food. Also, use organic flowers if at all possible - you probably don't want to be eating pesticide. If that's your thing, just grab a bottle of Fireball and go to town.
Regardless of whether or not the flowers are organic, you'll want to take precautions before putting them on your cake. Never stick flower stems straight into a cake all willy nilly! Not even if they're organic. There are plenty of websites and YouTube videos that give detailed instructions on how to safely insert flowers into a cake. A little bit of research can make things a whole lot easier, and can save you and your guests from a lot of unpleasantness.
If you don't want to deal with real flowers, fake flowers are a great option. Places like Michael's and Hobby Lobby have absolutely gorgeous silk flowers that look incredibly real. Silk flowers have come a really long way from the dollar store looking stuff of the 80's. It's an inexpensive and easy option, and I know this from experience.
A couple of years ago I was able to make cupcakes for my dad and stepmom when they got married. The cupcakes were a simple but soooo delicious pineapple cupcake with cream cheese frosting. I used my favorite simple dark brown cupcake iiners, and the only decorations I used were coconut on half of them and some silk flowers from Hobby Lobby. My stepmom is from Hawaii and wanted something that had a little bit of a tropical feel. What really made them look great was the wooden cupcake stand they got off of Etsy. Presentation does not have to be complicated to make a statement.
If flowers aren't your thing, don't be afraid to use other stuff. Use fresh fruit - leave it plain for vibrant colors, or dust with some powdered sugar for a more muted look. I even saw a guy on YouTube dust blackberries in gold cake glitter and they looked incredible! Throw some greenery in with it and you'll have a gorgeous and unique cake. Our cake will have a little model B-17 bomber on it. If you didn't read my previous post about our engagement, that will sound incredibly weird.
Oh! Speaking of cake glitter... I recently discovered that stuff and I'm in love! I got some in a dusty rose color and tried it out on some cupcakes and wowwww! It's an easy and inexpensive way to really dress up ordinary frosting.
You can also fancy them up with paper cupcake wrappers like these that I found on Amazon. They're inexpensive and just so beautiful! They come in all kinds of colors and designs.
Piping these types of roses on cupcakes is a quick and simple way to make a lot of cupcakes look really good. Once you get the hang of it, it does not take a lot of time to pipe a plethora of cupcakes. My ultimate favorite is the Wilton 1B tip, which ran me about $2. As a matter of fact I used that tip for a little project today.
You may or may not end up seeing it, but I'm on Mornings on Fox 11 tomorrow at 7:45am with the incredible Melissa Carlson! She posed a question: can someone make their own cake or cupcakes for their own wedding? Is it possible? I told her that, coincidentally, that's exactly what I would be doing,
For the cupcake display, I used my favorite brown cupcake liners AGAIN, and ended up using the same cupcake stand from my dad and stepmom's wedding. I used some light pink frosting with my fabulous 1B piping tip to do roses on them all. Even with them all being the same thing, it's easy to make the display a little more interesting. On some I used the pretty white cupcake wrappers. On others, I stuck in some small silk flowers. On the rest, I dusted a little bit of the cake glitter to make them all sparkly. The glitter is hard to see in these pictures because of the crappy lighting, but in person they're super pretty!
One batch of frosting in one color with one decorating tip. But with a few tweaks and a pretty cupcake stand, I ended up with something kinda lovely and totally appropriate for a wedding.
Same day, same tip, different style. I made a semi-naked cake and put a fresh hydrangea on top, then put a few blueberries along the base of the cake. I saw something similar on Pinterest once and just loved the simplicity of it. To make some complimentary cupcakes, I did a little frosting trick.
Purple frosting on some plastic wrap, then some yellow and white on top. Wrap it up, cut off the tip of your new plastic tube and stick the cut side down in the pastry bag. Just like that, you get multicolored frosting!
The same decorating tip used slightly differently gives you a hydrangea,
All of these things are absolutely feasible for a novice baker, and all would be gorgeous for a simple wedding. Especially with the semi-naked cake, since part of the charm of farm-to-table baking is the little imperfections you see. You don't want it to be perfect! How great is that for those of us who haven't been to culinary school?!
Bottom line: it's your wedding. If you want a fancy bakery cake, by all means go for it! There are breathtakingly beautiful cakes out there and you should get what you want for your big day. But if you're like us and want things a little more casual and affordable, then don't be afraid to try it yourself. Grab some simple ingredients and do some practice runs and see how you feel about it.
Whichever path you choose, just remember that your day is not about your cake or your dress or venue. It's about joining together and becoming a family... and that will make the day phenomenal.
* * * * UPDATE * * * *
Several people have asked what cupcake recipe I used that makes such a large quantity. I used the WASC recipe, which I've adapted for high altitude.