I started this entry on the day I finished my wedding cake final on Tuesday, but was too flat tired to write. Now I am continuing the entry, hopefully I finished this so that it is not further backlogged.
11 November 2008
Feeling really happy … and flatly exhausted. Mentally it was a blur now, the brain just needed to a re-supply of oxygen.
We presented our wedding cake final today. From dreaming about it during the hurricane, to first draft, to the week before final to actual – things just evolved from ideal to realisation to realistic expectation and connection, but somehow I was happy things turned out … with its own flavour. I had first dreamt a wedding cake with Calla Lily and Lilies of the Valley bouquet – a simple white, green, yellow combination, the use of Lilies for a significant meaning due to its Chinese name 百合 (百 literally means hundreds, to mean lots, bountiful … 合 literally means reunion, togetherness…); Nearer the date I thought of Orchids – even though the national flower for Singapore is Vanda Miss Joaquim, a type of hybrid orchid, my feeling for orchid was not strong enough to create a decent looking piece to my expectation; Back to my own wedding – I decided to create a Bridal Bouquet with Rose as a focal flower… The actual creation was different from my bridal bouquet, but exuded an oriental flavour which was not planned or intended. Things somehow evolved.
I started researching way back in September, till it was disrupted by Ike as internet was down. I narrowed down to 2 key authors – Nicholas Lodge for all areas covering sugar craft on cakes , Alan Dunn on sugar flowers and his books on flowers were inspiring and awsome – I got his books on Sugar Roses, Sugar Orchids and Sugar Exotic Flowers, and got another book by Toba Garrett who is a Master Pastry-Chef Instructor in Cake Decorating with ICE. The ones with the most realistic and inspiring flowers and techniques definitely goes to Alan Dunn’s books. Nicholas Lodge and Toba Garrett covers a wider aspect in cake decoration.
The Tools and Miscellaneous
Jennie was a great help. She brought her whole tool box and cake decorating books for me without me asking, because she “already got them, and you can use them” … That was very generous, I really appreciate her thoughtfulness. Really, she was not expected to lend me her stuff and I didn’t even know she has the tools or the books. My sincerest heartfelt appreciation to Jennie. I spent some time dissecting her toolbox and books understanding what were available and their uses.
I decided to try petal dusts. Yes, I love to have plum colour as a theme but never found that colour. That was how my colour evolved. Weeks ago, I saw copper among wilton colours and wonder it could go into piping, it finally did and I like the copper tone on the cake. When I thought of something, I just had to get it and try it, I rented a car on Friday and enjoyed my wedding cake retail therapy at Make a Cake and Michael’s over the weekend. I found the former to be more complete in equipment and colours. It was my first attempt on Houston freeways and realised my sense of direction was not too bad afterall, no choice too, I guess.
Chef said we could make flowers at home if we want to. I was to spend a weekend reading Alan Dunn’s books before I even embarked on making the flowers late Sunday night. I learnt from listening, observing and reading (I needed the theory to execute, as I did in learning bowling, skiing and media campaign etc. I am a high C on DISC personality – a need to understand why.) Some observations became an obsession, I guess ~~~ that leaves of roses are compound leaves which comes in 3s, 5s or 7s with the bigger leaf on the outer edge and get smaller further down the branch ~~~ that a bridal bouquet has 1 focal flower, in my case, a single large rose, accompanied by few medium size roses, and more baby roses, with decreasing sizes as the flowers cascaded down the cake ~~~ that the calyces of the roses were in 5s and the hairs on the edges of the calyces are of a specific number (It even has an old country saying that goes, “two with two and two without, one with one and one without”, gosh). I would love to include magnolia or rose hips or rosette succulent as a secondary flower accompaniment but again all 3 I chose required plum colour – I just had this knick for the plum colour tone – exotic, cool elegance.
My rose colour. I like pale, but not white … like cheerful colours but not red … how the colour came about, I just added copper in small quantity and it became orange tone! For the medium and small roses, I cut stencils from the template from Alan Dunn’s book, for the focal rose, I rolled the gum paste using the spoon like how Chef taught us. On Monday itself in class, I decided on an evergreen succulent plant called strings of pearls from South-East Africa, but alas I left my green tape in my apartment, and decided to go ahead with brown tape for brown stems instead. Thus the colour yet again evolved, and things happened for a good reason – the brown complemented the copper tone nicely. End result was that my evergreen string of pearls started to take on the look of pussy willow – a cotton-like flowering plant we commonly have during Chinese New Year in spring. Slowly, I felt that my wedding cake took on an oriental look.
Piecing Them Together
On Tuesday, I knew I would have time to piece them together and complete by 3pm. In my heart and my mind, I told myself, there was only one way – it just gotta work! And things fell in place nicely. At one point, while trying out the arrangement on my practice cake styrofoam, the balance was disrupted when I removed my focal rose, my key bunch of cascading roses with the styrofoam tipped over and got caught by my apron … Sarah and Jill came over to my side to ensure none of my flowers crashed to the ground, I gave both of them a big hug after. My heart beat did not go faster, I believed my heart literally dropped … and I felt my heart beating fast only when I left to the break room to take a gulp of water. Thank God!
I was about done, and I was exhausted and dehydrated … and hyper. It was all mind over body. Chef gave us time to complete and continue the following day. No, it had to be completed that very day, not the next – it is all in my mind. And it was surely completed by 2.
Our Class Final Wedding Cakes:
Alas, all the cakes were completed and arranged alongside our pastillage show pieces in the lunch room. It was so amazing – each cake reflected a different ideal, personality and possibly age. Nice!
At the Beginning
Last Thursday, a day after Pastillage final (will enter into the journal later), we mixed our fondant and gum paste dough for use on Friday. Then Friday, we rolled down the fondant to cover 3 cakes and a cake board. For most of the class, it took a morning, for me it took me from past 8 till noon.
The fondant story. Lightly greased the styrofoam cake rounds with shortening. Knead the overnight rested fondant well and drape over. Chef again made it sound so easy, but it couldn’t be so difficult either, coz nearly everyone was almost done with dressing 3 styrofoam rounds to form a 3 tier cake plus the cake board. And me? Still fiddling with first one, the lowest tier. The fondant was so hard I could hardly pressed it roll it down. I tried 3 times over with 2/3 of my fondant … ie draped over styrofoam, … no good – mainly due to cracks on dough …the dough was too hard – undo and start over. The texture no longer felt right … Trash it and get from the container, Chef Philippe said to me … Gosh, I felt like I was cheating using rolled fondant from the container … anyway I got the bottom tier done with it. For next 2 tiers and cake board, I used the fondant I made, this time, I knew I could use the microwave to soften the fondant and really get it soft once and for all. So it was completed, yes, half a day on rolling fondant. And my shoulders were to ache for the whole weekend.
Things fell into place … nicely. I was amazed what we can do from these weeks of learning from Chef. I am not too sure though if I will ever do wedding cakes … seems too distant … except for the 3 I promised my friends when they get hitched.