A floral and pastry extravaganza. Twelve centrepieces, ninety-six cupcakes and one Naked Carrot Cake Wedding Topper.
It all started a year ago when my very close friend and former neighbour, Yvonne, asked me if I would do the flowers for her daughter’s wedding. Our children had grown up together; the bride had babysat my two girls. Yvonne had been a tower of strength through my divorce, and her husband John had come dashing over to help me put up the Christmas lights that same year as I quaked on the ladder. My answer, naturally, was that I would be delighted.
Sometime in the intervening year, I’d decided to sub-contract the bouquets. It’s one thing to do centrepieces out of which one can twitch a dropping bloom. A drooping bouquet is another matter altogether. I found a florist who was happy to collaborate, so on Thursday, I picked up ten dozen old-fashioned pink roses and sixty stems of blush branch roses from the florist. In the Mini, of course, as Glenn had driven off in our SUV that morning, blissfully unconscious of the implications of his vehicle choice. Surrounded by four buckets of flowers, I drove home in perfumed heaven. The florist had also provided me with some kind of magic potion to put in the water for the hydrangea which I harvested from our garden the following morning.
Early Friday morning, I lined up a dozen Richland Flare 6″ vases from Save on Crafts, applied floral tape in a cross pattern, filled the vases with the potion-water and got to work.
I completed one arrangement in its entirety to get a sense of how much plant material I’d need. My good friend Mary Plumstead, who was a floral designer in a past life, had advised getting twice as much as I thought I’d need. Sounded like the same rule of thumb as one applies to renovations. It turned out she was absolutely correct.
The five branch roses went first, one in each of the quartered sections and an extra in the middle. Then I added five of the large pink roses. The hydrangea, a combination of PeeGee, Endless Summer and Annabelle, filled in the spaces. Then the final five roses, placed wherever they seemed to be called for. Not very scientific, and I’m sure a professional would have a lot more to say about it (Hogarth lines and all that), but it seemed to work.
A bit of fluffing and fussing and the first arrangement was complete. It took about 20 minutes.
I worked in batches of three or four arrangements as a time and soon found my rhythm. Within a few hours, they were all done. I cranked up the air conditioning in the garage (my office is on the top floor, which is why we have an air-conditioned gargage) and prayed they would survive the night without drooping.
It was time to turn my attention to the dinner party we were holding that evening for friends. I’d booked this before I knew I was going to be involved in the cupcakes and topper. However, fate had intervened. Petite Thuet, the catering establishment where my daughter Lauren works, have recently moved into a much larger facility with an enormous rotary oven to deal with the volume of croissants, buns, loaves of bread and other goodies they produce for many of the major Toronto hotels. Lauren was delighted to decorate the cupcakes and cake topper for Dallas, but trying to squeeze the baking of a paltry 100 cupcakes and one carrot cake into Petit Thuet’s production was akin to beating three egg whites in a cement mixer.
So earlier in the week, I had baked four dozen each of chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, plus a two-layer carrot cake. I also ordered sleeves for the cupcakes and some boxes to transport them. My main worry, strangely enough, was transporting all this stuff, not producing it (though that was giving me a few nightmares, too).
Lauren and I had decided to do a raspberry filling (recipe to follow) for half the chocolate cupcakes and a lemon curd filling for half the vanilla and decorate accordingly. I had whipped up batches of lemon curd and raspberry filling on Thursday afternoon and left them to chill in the fridge.
Lauren arrived on Friday night and got to work on the carrot cake first. I wish I’d got pictures of that, but we were entertaining guests at the time, and there was too much going on. She sliced each carrot cake layer in two, using a cutting board placed beside the layer as a guide to keep the height consistent.
Once she had the four layers prepared, she piped cream cheese frosting on each of the layers and assembled the four layer cake, leaving the sides exposed. Then it went into the fridge to firm up overnight. Here it is in its final decorated state, complete with flowers and a dusting of icing sugar. We added the flowers at the very last minute, clipping the stems short and inserting them into pieces of a plastic straw, cut on an angle to make shoving them into the cake easier.
Saturday morning we started with the vanilla cupcakes, cutting holes in half of them to accommodate the filling. Lauren showed me a really neat trick for the piping bag. Once the tip was inserted into the end of the bag, she shoved a portion of the bag into the inside of the tip to prevent the contents leaking while we attended to other things.
She folded the bag back over her hand to provide a firm surface against which to scrape the filling while filling the bag.
A firm twist to the end of the bag pushes the filling down to the bottom.
When she was ready to fill the cupcakes, she pulled the tucked portion of the bag free of the tip and squeezed the contents down into the tip.
And away we went!
All filled and ready to frost.
The frosting gave us some grief to begin with. I had naively thought we would use a butter and icing sugar frosting, but Chef Kain had other ideas. She was extremely diplomatic and ventured to suggest that French Buttercream might be easier to work with. We whipped up one batch of my intended frosting, and discarded it, both of us deeming it too chalky. We were now beginning to run a little tight on time, but Lauren assured me that French Buttercream would actually take less time than the mucking around we’d done so far, and adapted this recipe. I’ll write up the adapted version and post it later. She quickly separated eight eggs and tossed the yolks into the stand mixer to whip.
She boiled the sugar and water in a small pot on the stove until it reached 115°C.
With the mixer going, she gently poured a thin stream of the heated sugar syrup into the egg yolks to cook them while they whipped away until they were the correct consistency.
Then she added the softened butter, one small chunk at a time, The result was heavenly.
In no time at all, two dozen plain vanilla cupcakes were decorated. I added a few pale pink dragées to each one to make them more festive.
We added a curl of lemon rind to the lemon filled ones.
It took a batch and a half of the French Buttercream to do the 48 Vanilla and Lemon Curd Filled Cupcakes. We reserved half of the second batch for the raspberry filled chocolate. We cut holes in half the chocolate cupcakes. I had used Lotus Flower cupcake liners, but we decided the wings were too messy, so I clipped them all down to cupcake level with a pair of manicure scissors.
Lauren filled half the chocolate cupcakes.
We added about half a cup of the raspberry filling to the remaining half batch of buttercream to frost the filled cupcakes.
We used fresh raspberries to garnish that set of cupcakes. So now we were done three of the four batches.
I added the sleeves and boxed up what we’d completed so far. Applying the sleeves took a bit of working out to find the right technique. I ended up holding the cupcake in one hand, sliding the sleeve up from the bottom with the other hand, then switching hands in order to hold the cupcake aloft with three fingers while I eased the sleeve upward. A slight tap of the cupcake-filled sleeve on the table positioned the cupcake at a secure height in the sleeve. Then they went into the boxes quite easily.
Lauren decorated the last lot with a chocolate ganache frosting. I didn’t get a chance to see all that she’d done to prepare that, but it involved glucose, finely chopped chocolate and whipping cream. The ganache was a bit firmer than we liked, but she persevered. It’s also extremely rich, so she confined the dollop to the centre of the cupcakes and we added the same dragees we’d used on the vanilla.
Into the car, everything went. For the centrepieces, I used fruit boxes from Costco, two arrangements to a box, with stuffed paper and bubble wrap holding them relatively stable.
Cupcakes in boxes on the floor behind the front seats, carrot cake held in my lap, off we went, driving VERY cautiously.
At the venue, we arranged about half of the cupcakes on two wired stands and reserved the rest for later service.
The centrepieces went onto the tables beside the lanterns awaiting their flameless candles.
It was a beautiful day, and the golf-course venue sparkled. The wedding went off without a hitch. The bride glowed, the father, John, gave a heartfelt and elegant speech, and Yvonne looked utterly sensational. It was fabulous.
What an adventure! I learned a ton, Lauren and I enjoyed a marvellous mother-daughter time together, the bride’s mother was delighted with the result, so all ended well.
And the next time someone says, “Would you mind doing the flowers for my daughter’s wedding?” my answer will be…”Let me think about that…Yes, I would be delighted”.
I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.