Wedding cake - the sweetest part of a wedding meal. I knew from the very start that I wanted to bake my own wedding cake. It felt necessary somehow, and not so difficult - especially since we were dispensing with any kind of fancy decoration. And in spite of a power outage several days before the wedding, in the end, all was well. Simple chocolate and lemon cakes crowded the freezer, right next to homemade lemon ice cream.
And then... did I mention the real secret to making your own wedding cake without losing your mind?
Good friends to help and beautify. I couldn't have done this without them.
Here are all the cakes, defrosting the night before the wedding. I wrapped the lemon olive oil cakes in several layers of plastic wrap, and the chocolate cakes, which were in the freezer longer, in plastic wrap then foil.
Several very good friends were on hand to unwrap the chocolate cake tiers and stack them with cream cheese-enriched whipped cream between the layers. Another friend put out the sugared olive oil and lemon cakes on cake stands. These cakes were none the worse for wear after their short rest in the freezer; in fact, I think the freezer may have made them even deeper and moister.
I was slightly concerned that the chocolate cakes would look like a dark slump of sludge on the table; they certainly weren't a professional baker's masterpiece. They were homemade, and I was happy to have them look it.
I was still so delighted with how they looked all stacked up - adding cream cheese to the whipped cream helped prop them up a bit, and the flourless cakes were quite solid through the middle.
And then! Our own Sara Kate showed up with a bag of fresh seasonal fruit and made each cake even more beautiful. She draped the chocolate cake with figs, and the lemon cakes with Concord and red grapes, more figs, and luscious little prune plums.
I owe all my friends a debt for the wedding cake (cakes!) of my dreams. When I first saw the cake table it took my breath away. It was the best of both worlds: the homespun, homemade cakes that I had stayed up late to finish all by myself, and then the dramatic surprise of decoration done beautifully by other hands.
I don't have pictures of the cake cutting, unfortunately, but the it was a little less dramatic than usual. We decided not to do the usual smash and smear. We opted for something less traditional, but more satisfying for us and who we are.
We jumped up between sets of music... (our friends and family played music for us in lieu of dancing. There were still plenty of dancing children, as well as a teddy bear Elvis medley, a ten-year-old jazz savant, a mother's accordion, a grandfather's mandolin, "That's Amore" pie in your eye, a Patty Griffin soul tune, and more. It was pretty wild.)
...and we cut our own cake. We hacked into it and asked "lemon or chocolate?" to a stream of people coming down the line. We stood side by side and served cake to everyone who would take a piece, giving hugs and kisses and receiving so many warm wishes it made my head spin.
It was a precious few moments to connect with nearly everyone at the wedding and to hand them plates of something sweet I had baked myself. (Most opted for "a little of both.")
The chocolate was ridiculously rich - a dense solid mousse tempered only a little by the stiff whipped cream. We smacked slices of figs on the plates, alongside great globs of chocolate.
The lemon cake was lighter, airier, but very moist from its night in the freezer and defrosting. It tasted like lemon, sugar, eggs, and rich olive oil. Sara Kate's autumn bounty made them look utterly beautiful.
The ice cream made its way out too. It turned out well - I was happy with it. Creamy, tangy, full of lemon. Here's the recipe:
And that was the cake! Thank you for sitting through a little about my wedding; it's lovely to look at the photos and remember a very happy day. And perhaps (I dare to hope, humbly) it will inspire you or someone you know to bring just a little more home cooking into your next big event - a party, a graduation, a wedding even. Because the warmth you can bring by cooking things with your own hands is worth the stress and sleepless nights and small loss of pristine perfection; it was so worth it for me, at least. For us, this was the perfection we had hoped for.
Have a sweet night. I'm off to defrost the extra lemon cake we found lurking in a freezer last night, to my husband's great delight. He pronounced it his "favorite food ever." And there's really no higher compliment than that at the moment.
• DIY Wedding Inspiration: How To Make Your Own Wedding Cake (Without Losing Your Mind)
• Wedding Friday: What Kind Of Ice Cream Goes With Lemon and Chocolate Cakes?
• DIY Wedding Recipe: Creamy, Tangy Lemon Ice Cream
• DIY Wedding Cake: One Down, A Few More To Go
• Home Cooking: The Home Cooked Wedding
• Home Cooking: The Family Dessert Buffet
(All images: Friend Michelle, unofficial wedding photographer and paparazza extraordinaire, via Flickr)