Chocolate Red Velvet Passion

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It's been a whole year since Marie Wolf started her terrific blog Heavenly Cake Bake Along. What started as a preview of just a few cakes from Rose's Heavenly Cakes executed by Marie, a first rate bread baker who had already baked her way through The Bread Bible in under a year but who did not consider herself to be a "cake baker," turned into with a community of what is now 27 bakers (28 including Marie) who bake one cake a week from the book and post their commentaries and photos on their blogs. Marie also does a weekly summary of the final results. I've been longing for an opportunity to thank Marie for her incredible generosity, and her husband Jim for the wonderful and instructive photos of all the steps. Marie's blog has become the book within the book--a brilliant and always entertaining tutorial. The opportunity presented itself when their daughter Sarah announced her wedding would be in May in Minneapolis. Woody joyfully agreed that we would create a special cake for her in his MN kitchen. Photos of the wedding and the cake are on Marie's blog. Here is Woody's and my story with photos of how we pulled it all off!

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The planning for this cake took place months ahead when I asked my friend, the brilliantly talented wedding and special occasion cake artist, Ron Ben Israel, if he would be willing to contribute the flower adornments for the cake. Woody ordered the special heart-shaped pans from Wilton and we went over all the equipment and ingredients necessary to have on hand. We also performed over 15 tests for the recipe itself which will appear in the next book! Two days before departure from NY I picked up the flowers from Ron's studio which is only a few blocks from where I live. He carefully packed them in two boxes that would be easy to open for inspection as I was planning to carry them on the plane. As it turned out, security opened my bag and sent it through three times, not because of the flowers but because I was also bringing my aerolatte (milk foamer for cappuccino) as Woody had most graciously ordered a Le Cube Nespresso coffee maker so that I would feel at home during the wedding cake production!Woody made several components that could be made ahead, including one batch of white chocolate buttercream, one batch of chocolate lacquer glaze, and one batch of chocolate rolled fondant. He also acquired foil-covered foam core presentation boards, organic eggs, a quart-size container of red food coloring, and all other necessary ingredients. He also rearranged his entire living space to accommodate wedding cake production. I arrived Wednesday afternoon and we proceeded to organize and set-up to bake for the following day so that the cake would be as fresh as possible for the Friday wedding. Dinner was from my favorite MN pizza place--Punch, which we ate on the back porch surrounded by birds, trees, flowers, and even a toad that had made its way onto the porch--no doubt smelling the chocolate! First thing Thursday morning we started mixing and baking, seamlessly alternating between parts of the procedure (we've had lots of practice from doing demos together around the country). It's a great pity no one was video taping the whole process including our comments, worries, and laughter. The hardest part about doing a wedding cake is that there are so many painstaking components and one false move at any given point can destroy the entire effect. This is especially anxiety provoking as when one does this on such a small custom-made scale there are no backups! The heart-stopping moment was placing the 9-inch and 6-inch tiers as they can't be moved once set in place on the chocolate lacquer glaze, and are much harder to balance than round tiers. This was a tense joint effort. We breathed sighs of relief when this was over and then Woody suggested I leave the room (much as mother's are asked to leave the office when the dentist starts drilling their children's teeth) when he was about to hammer the brass stake through the hearts! But I stayed, holding my breath, and it was over swiftly, painlessly, and effectively. Now we were assured that the tiers would not slide when transported to the event location. (The stake went all the way into the foam core.) Special Note: It's always important to have some extra decorative elements, especially to hide inevitable imperfections. Ron Ben Israel supplied us with a container of gumpaste rose petals to strew on the layers for a lovely effect and I made sure to place them wherever the glaze was less than perfect. I also made chocolate fondant hearts to place on the sides where the glaze is never perfectly smooth. I thought we could get away with nothing around the borders of each tier but in some places the white buttercream showed through and we wanted the interior of the cake to be a complete surprise so I went into rapid fire chocolate fondant pearl production while Woody was completing other aspects of the cake including calling the catering manager to engineer the cake's arrival and placement. We soon realized that 100's of pearls would be required and that even with both of us weighing and rolling bits of the chocolate fondant we would have to miss the ceremony, in fact, we were beginning to wonder if we would have to arrive after the bride and groom at the reception as well. The trickiest part was placing the pearls on the 9 and 6-inch tiers because they needed to be right up against the edge and if they rolled they would mar the glaze. Also, we had to be sure that each pearl was the same size for a given tier, and we decided to use 0.9 gram pearls for the 12-inch tier, 0.7 gram pearls for the 9-inch tier, and 0.5 gram pearls for the 6-inch tier.

CAKE LAYERS READY TO APPLY WHITE CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM

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FROSTED CAKE TIERS FIRMING IN THE FRIG

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LACQUER-GLAZED 12-INCH TIER

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ROSE APPLYING THE CHOCOLATE FONDANT PEARL BORDER

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ROSE APPLYING THE CHOCOLATE FONDANT HEARTS

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WOODY HAMMERING THE CENTER STAKE INTO THE CAKE TIERS

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COMPLETED CAKE SET IN PLACE AT THE WEDDING RECEPTION

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CLOSE-UP OF RON BEN ISRAEL'S GUMPASTE ROSES & FLOWERS

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THE CAKE SLICE WITH ROSE PETAL GARNISH

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RELIEVED ROSE

We were delighted by the response to the appearance of the cake and were thrilled when so many people came up to our table to tell us how delicious they thought it tasted. Dinner, by the way, was tapas at Solera and the best food I've ever eaten at a wedding. Our cake was the dessert. After dancing a few dances we realized how thoroughly exhausted but happy we were and so retired for the evening. The following night, I rewarded Woody with a dinner at Restaurant Alma. Chef Alexander Roberts had recently won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Midwest. The dinner was absolutely fantastic (including the service and the dessert we chose to share, which was a rhubarb biscuit-type shortcake with malt vanilla ice cream) at an unbelievably low $45 a person. We congratulated chef Alexander on the well-deserved award and he turned out to be as delightful and charming as his cuisine. As a perfectly relaxing finale, we spent Sunday afternoon at my cousins' home on the St. Croix River, sitting on the dock, dipping our toes in the cool water, and enjoying each other's company over a lovely al fresco dinner.