Robin’s busy designing Amazing Wedding Cakes, so she told me (Brian) to tell you all a little bit about the “Clock Cake.” If you want to know specifics on how the cake was made, watch the show. You don’t want cake tips from me. Trust me.
“Why a cake that looks like a clock” you say? This couple was married on short order without their family and friends right before the groom was shipped overseas. The good news was he was getting to travel. The bad news was that he was going courtesy of the US Army. So planning a reception for family and friends would have to wait and wait and wait.
Back up a little bit. All of the couples that appear on the show have to send in little video clips so everybody at Gateaux, the production company and the network can sorta get a feel for who they are. I got to watch this one with Robin at home when she got video emailed to her. This dude’s video was shot (for real) on a helicopter somewhere in Afghanistan. Full on fatigues, jet noise in the background, really cool shades, looked like he just stepped off the set of “Top Gun” or something. If you don’t know “Top Gun”: “Looked like he just stepped off the set of….. just rent “Top Gun” you should see it.
So if “cool” is measured in cakes, this guy was like an 8 tier cake. Robin decided to pitch to WE to do a surprise cake for them in addition to the regular wedding cake. The network agreed with Robin that it would be a great way to say “thanks for your service” and approved the cake. So Robin and the sister of the groom started to plan a cake that would represent all of the time and important events between when they got officially married and when they could celebrate with their friends and family…get it? Oh and by the way…it was on New Year’s Eve too, so the clock could be used for everybody at the reception to countdown to midnight.
So Robin of course decides that the clock has to actually run.
Robin bought the clock element and leaving nothing to chance as usual, she put the clock in a fridge to make sure that it could survive the night in the fridge before the wedding without the battery running out. Once the clock is decorated into the cake there’s no changing the battery. The “test” battery lasted for days in the fridge, so that wasn’t going to be an issue.
Flash forward to decorating day. When they went to place the clock element in the top tier there was a wood separating plate frosted into the finished cake that was blocking the element from sitting deep enough into the cake. Robin’s first thought: Saw the wood separator plate and risk ruining the top tier. Second idea: Cut the plastic casing that hold the clock element together. USUALLY she would give me a call and I would say “you’re a moron, step back and see how you can fix it without power tools” we’d then argue for awhile and she’d figure it out and tell me I’m a genius (o.k., probably not the genius part). Anyway, in this case I’m at the bakery and thinking YOU ARE NOT going to start attacking this problem with power tools….But the producers are telling me I can’t enter into the episode because on T.V. I’m not supposed to be there. Fair enough, but usually she’d call me right? Well, that’s a whole other scene to set up with her calling me, etc. etc. So the producer tells me to stay out of it. I tell the producer fine, but I’m gonna have to roll you in the parking lot if she ruins this cake. Not really. The producer says it’s good T.V. I acquiesce and proceed to watch Robin go at the clock element like she’s doing a chainsaw carving on a tree trunk. Clock element: ruined. Wedding: tomorrow. Producer: Happy. Me: WTF. Watch the episode to see how she ended up fixing the problem….
What a great couple and props to the Groom. So when you’re sitting on the couch watching this episode, think of all the men and women all over the world protecting your right to watch people make cakes that look like something other than cake on WE!
P.S. No, I didn’t roll the producer in the parking lot, she’s too nice. I just keyed her car.
Nothing makes me happier than making a cake in the middle of a Minnesota winter that is NOT snow related. Don’t get me wrong, the snow is lovely, and winter weddings are cozy wonderful events. But…come mid-February…if I have to look at another frosting snowflake, while I’ve spent the last three months shoveling pounds of their real counterparts off of my sidewalk, and scraping their icy cousins off of my windshield every morning, I just about want to pack up everything and move south.
Enter Samantha and Anthony. A quick aside, here…Say their names together enough, and you can’t help but calling them Samanthony. That officially became their code name around the shop, after every time I had to reference the couple on camera, that’s how it came out. Watch the episode closely, I hesitate every time I say their names together. Anyway, back to the story. So, I get this call for a New Year’s Eve wedding reception, and I start hard-selling champagne theme, clock theme, confetti theme, anything but snowflakes. Then, they let me know that they were married on a beach in 2009 and they wanted the cake to help bring the beach to their families at their Minnesota reception. Amen, brothers and sisters! We have a beach-themed wedding cake in the middle of a land-locked state, in the middle of the winter!
God, I love my job! Once I found out about Samanthony’s unusual marital situation, the fact that they had to have their wedding in a quick ceremony before he was deployed to Afghanistan, and that none of their family could make it to the actual wedding due to the quick timing, I was thrilled to be able to create a cake that would bring the beach to Minnesota. But how does one pack up a frosting beach for transport? Seems to me that a frosting crate would be the perfect solution. They agreed, and we quickly determined that the bottom tier would be a crate post marked with their wedding date and location, as well as some post marks of other places significant to them. My favorite was the “return to sender” stamp from Afghanistan, the bride loved it!
Now onto the baby! As it turns out, Samanthony were expecting their first baby…and knew what the gender of the child was. Samantha thought it would be fun to put a little sign on the cake that said “It’s a ___” (I’m not going to blow the surprise…this time) so that the guests would find out what the baby was when they looked at the cake. I had heard of baby shower cakes being dyed either pink or blue so that when the cake was cut, it revealed the baby’s gender. I suggested it immediately, and they loved the idea.
I began testing various shades of pink and blue cakes. Too pale, and none of the guests would be able to tell the color when the cake was cut from across the room, too dark, and no one would want to eat it. We settled on a pretty vibrant, unmistakable color. But what they don’t show you on the show, is that in an email with Anthony’s sister (who was helping to plan the reception) I blew the surprise. I was careful to reference “pink or blue” cake when discussing the several flavors that we were doing for the cake in three different areas of the email. In the fourth reference…I blew it. I typed the actual color, rather than the “pink or blue” bluff. Lucky for me, the couple was incredibly gracious about it, and more importantly, Anthony’s sister can keep secrets better than the cake lady!
Hello! My name is Jenna and I’m a cake decorator at Gateaux, Inc. I got started making cakes about four years ago and I’ve learned almost everything I know from Robin. I did go to culinary school, but I got the job at Gateaux before I graduated. My friend’s mom works with the invitation side of Gateaux and suggested I call Robin. It was perfect timing because one of her employees was leaving. I got the job three and a half years ago and I absolutely love it! It is a ton of work and we have some long hours, but it is so rewarding to see our clients faces when we deliver the cakes!
Today we worked on dress cakes for a bridal shower. I was really excited and nervous about these cakes because they are GIANT and we have never done anything like them before. There are four cakes: two of them are full dresses on dress maker’s dummies and then one of them is coming out of a shopping bag and the last one is coming out of a dress box. The theme of the party is “Always a bridesmaid now she’s the bride!” So we took the bride’s old bridesmaid’s dresses and turned them into cake!
Robin, Julia, and I all worked on these cakes and Julia and I are the ones that delivered them to Redwood Falls, MN. Since there are so many different cakes we did each on a different flavor. My favorite is the banana chocolate chip cake! My favorite part about making this cake was trying to figure out how to make a mold for the bodices. We bought an old My Size Barbie and cut it apart! It took some power tools, but we managed to get her torso separated from the rest of her body. Then we used the torso to make a mold so we could mold chocolate paste into the shape of a bodice. During filming we had a lot of fun with the leftover Barbie body parts. Crew members would tap you on the shoulder with the Barbie hand sticking out of their sleeve. One camera guy even pretended her leg was his! I was a little nervous about being on camera and I was worried about the crew, but they all turned out to be great. Everyone got along and it seemed like everyone had a great time!
Things are bound to go wrong when you have four different cakes as big as these are for one event. It took us two days to decorate them and they were looooong days! We had a few issues while covering the two dress dummies in fondant because it was such an odd shape and we were trying to make the fondant do what the fabric on the dresses did. It took a little bit of planning and moving fast on the blue cake, but we got it done! The weather called for snow, but thankfully most of it came on Friday night and the roads were clear on Saturday. We had a two and a half hour drive to the party and it was pretty uneventful. I sat in the back so I could keep an eye on the cakes. Overall I’m thrilled with the way the dress cakes turned out and it was great to see how excited the bride was!
I moved to Minneapolis in 1989 to go to the U of MN. My family is from the east coast, and moved to Wisconsin when I was three year’s old. My mom loves to tell the story that leading up to our move, everyone kept telling me that I was moving to a place that got a lot of snow, so when we got off the plane in mid July to move into our new house, my first words were “Where’s all the snow?”
Well, thirty-seven years later, I finally have the answer. It’s in Minneapolis.
And we love it…the Goo once timed a half our news cast during a run of the mill snowstorm, and they spent eighteen minutes covering the weather. Subtract commercials, and that left about six minutes for news and sports. And when a potential storm is on its way…the hype rivals that of the Superbowl lead up.
That’s why I typically don’t concern myself with weather forecasts. They hype it up to the level of “we’re all gonna die” and sometimes, the storm misses us completely.
That was certainly not the case on the day of Stephanie and Peter’s wedding.
Like I said, I’ve lived in Minneapolis for over twenty years. I’m used to driving in the snow. I had planned to make the St. Paul wedding cake deliveries myself, with Julia following me in her car. But, on my way to the shop, I called the Goo, and asked him to come drive for me. I’ve never done this before, in fifteen years of business…never. And I’ve delivered through some pretty nasty storms. Being the prince that he is, he met me at the shop, and it was definitely the right decision.
For those of you who haven’t driven in a blizzard, here’s the trick. No matter how high you have your windshield defrost set, the windshield wipers ice up. And they don’t do such a great job when they’re basically two sno-pops dragging across the windshield. The only way to fix this is to roll down your window, grab the wiper, pull it away from the windshield, and let it snap back against the glass to break the ice off. Well, if you’re 5’3” and have arms to match, this is impossible to do while driving. But with the Goo at the wheel, we were golden. The camera crew, in the car behind us…not so much. While they did have the wing span to do it, their technique wasn’t quite up to par (LA doesn’t get too much snow) and about 2 miles away from the reception, they ripped off the driver’s side wiper.
The call came over the Walkie-Talkie that they needed to pull over. But we had a wedding cake to deliver, and it really isn’t the best idea to pull over on the highway during a blizzard. So we talked them into continuing for the last two miles with… wait for it…the driver hanging his head out the window. Ahh, dedication!
Well, the rest is on the show…Stephanie and Pete got their wedding cake, and were the most gracious of couples. The wedding was a success despite all of the obstacles that the weather put in their way.
Julia’s car spent the night at the reception site, it was hopelessly stuck after the time spent setting up the cake. We drove to the nearest auto parts store, where the crew got a new wiper, and headed back home via the backstreets (they had pulled the plows off the major highways). The snow was over waist deep at my house, but Great Wall Chinese Restaurant in my neighborhood, as usual, was open. Apparently, they don’t listen to weather forecasts either.
On this episode, we got a chance to give a fun, modern twist to the traditional tiered wedding cake.
When we originally heard that Reid and Rebecca wanted koalas on their cake we weren’t exactly enthused. We really didn’t want to make a kitschy cake with a boy koala and a girl koala on the top of a wedding cake, and we didn’t know where the koala idea was coming from. To be honest, Chris would do anything to avoid having to make a tuxedoed and veiled set of animals. Once we learned the story behind the koalas, we understood the importance of the symbolism to the couple and wanted to find a way to make it work for them.
Chris came up with the idea of making a little sugar forest for the koalas, and since koalas eat eucalyptus, we set out to make a lot of eucalyptus leaves. The task fell to Kristen, our resident plant scientist, who gladly accepted the challenge. We knew we needed a lot of leaves, but you never know how many you really have until you start wiring them together. Everyone, even the producer, kept asking if she had enough leaves, but it all worked out and in the end we even had some extra branches.
In order to have room for the mini forest, Chris designed the cake to be kidney shaped. This made it harder to ice and harder to cover because we had to make up the shapes and carve the cakes. This wouldn’t be so difficult, except that all the tiers had to be the right size relative to the others in order to be stacked, without getting too narrow or too bulky. Marjie was cursing Chris for making the tiers so oddly shaped, but we had to agree that it left the perfect space for the eucalyptus.
We had a little competition going between Chris and Kristen over who could sculpt the cutest koala. The producer interviewed everyone to try to get a vote, but ended up annoyed with us because no one would choose one koala over the other! We all have a competitive side, but we also have great respect for each other.
It sounds so cliché to say that we are a family, but we are very close in reality and we stick together. We always remind our viewers that what they see on the show is only a snapshot of what is really going on behind the scenes. Hours and hours of our work are filmed, but only about 14 minutes of that makes it on the show. We’ll just say that even if a temper is tested just once in 40 hours of film, it’s sure to make the cut!
This season, we’re tackling a lot of really fun and non-traditional wedding cakes. It’s a really good representation of our range of work, from the more traditional tiered cakes to some really crazy shapes and ideas. It’s been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work!
For anyone who’s ever stopped by our bakery during a filming week, they have an idea of exactly how crazy it gets here. Behind the scenes, we aren’t just filming one cake, but three episodes over the span of five or six days. As if that weren’t enough, we also have to squeeze in time to make all of our non-filming cakes amidst all the extra crew, lights, and filming equipment. Meanwhile, off camera, the phone is ringing off the hook, customers are ordering lattes and scones, and we have our regular appointments and consultations! As you can imagine, all this makes for very long days and whirlwind weeks.
The cake on this first episode, the NASA cake, was monstrously large. The bottom tier was a huge octagonal cake, which by itself probably weighed about forty pounds. Because this particular tier was an octagon, it had a lot of straight lines and it was kind of a pain to panel each of the sides of the cake with fondant! When working with non-conventionally shaped tiers, it always adds extra time to fill, ice, and cover the cakes. We were also working with black fondant, which is always a challenge because once you add that much paste color to the fondant, it becomes very soft and hard to work with.
Our favorite part of the cake was the top, where Marjie’s silhouette couple was dancing under the crescent moon. She started with a flat sugar plaque and added fondant on it to make the image in relief. It was perfect for this cake and added to the “fly me to the moon” feeling. Chris especially loved the effect of the pastillage clouds and the 3-D moon. It made the cake feel very celestial and gave it a touch of the ethereal.
One of the challenges in designing this cake was doing something of the space and NASA theme without getting too literal. Marlon and Christie didn’t want the cake to be whimsical, but wanted to incorporate a dancing couple and some sort of “fly me to the moon” theme. We had to find a balance so that the cake would still be fitting for a wedding, while also incorporating the themes in a cohesive way.
One of the standout moments in this episode had nothing to do with the making of the cake, but instead with the delivery. The venue was on the second story, with no elevator, and the stairs were a straight shot of uneven wooden steps. When carrying cakes, it’s always easier when the two people are of the same height. For us, let’s just say that one of the chefs was about a foot shorter than the other. It was not the smoothest delivery and probably even ranks with the most stressful deliveries, but it turned out great in the end.
And Marlon and Christie loved the cake!
Groom’s cakes are a fun addition to any wedding, as well as to our work week! Even though weddings are about the couple, a lot of time the details are more about the bride and her special day. The groom’s cake is a chance for the guy to be spotlighted amidst all the flowers and taffeta and to have something fun at the wedding, even in the most formal of settings. Groom’s cakes are usually more fun and creative, and they really give us a chance to express ourselves in a more imaginative way.
For Brian and Sarah, we wanted to do something a little bit out there and make a rock climbing themed groom’s cake. One of the challenges right off the bat was how to make the cake look like a rock… and not like a pile of poop. To make the cake more rocklike, Marjie carved out jagged pieces of the cake and added texture to the fondant before she airbrushed it. We always try to steer our clients away from rock and mountain cakes because of their tendency to look unappetizing and drab, but this particular rock cake came out beautifully craggy.
Chris loves to sculpt, so he was excited to take on the challenge of sculpting a hand out of chocolate. Even though they seem so mundanely straight forward, hands are one of the most difficult things to sculpt. He had an especially fun time making the hand look bruised and scraped, which would be appropriate for a rock climber’s hand, grossing our bride Kristen. Structurally, the challenge with this cake was to make sure that the hand and rock climbing pick would be properly supported on the top of the cake. Not only did the hand have to look real, but it had to be strong enough to hold up the heavy chocolate pick.
Chris was happy with the way the pick came out, but something like this is never easy to make because of the straight lines and the need for very smooth pieces. There are always limitations with what can be done with each edible medium. The trick is to know your media well enough to be able to circumvent foreseeable problems and to make a game plan.
In the end, Brian and Sarah’s groom’s cake was fun and unique, placing the spotlight on Brian and his hobbies. This particular cake was a surprise, so it was rewarding to be able to see Brian’s reaction. He even recognized the brand of the rock pick from looking at it! When Chris shook hands with Brian, he noticed that his hands were actually scraped and bruised from a recent climb, which means that Chris wasn’t that far off the mark with his chocolate hand details!
Cute couple, Kate and Anthony, decided on a Winter Wonderland theme for their wedding taking place in December. Kate came to us and wanted a really awesome cake that incorporated silver, whites and lots of sparkle! She also made it very clear that she did not want a “gaudy” cake, so we had to make sure that the cake was kept very clean and elegant without being too over the top.
Lauren sketched out an idea that incorporated intricate piped snowflake designs on a 6 tier cake with a large separation in between the layers to look like ice crystals. That was difficult enough, and then she added these “dangling” snowflakes to the sketch that we had no idea how to make. I have to admit, I looked at her like “Really? Dangling snowflakes? You had to go and suggest dangling snowflakes????”
We looked at the sketch and started to come up with a plan of attack. It took us awhile to figure out how we would suspend these snowflakes, and how to stack the cake so that you didn’t see the fasteners we used to support the dangling snowflakes.
Matt and I began to fondant all of the layers on the cake, and it took us a good 4-5 hours since the layers were so large. Lauren started working on the snowflakes, and the snowflake topper. We decided to use fishing wire inserted into the snowflakes so that it would be clear, and almost invisible to give the illusion that the snowflakes were falling down the cake. We realized that the dangling snowflakes would have to be decorated on both sides since when they hung, they flipped back and forth, so this added to the time needed to be spent detailing the cake.
This cake began to become a big challenge, not only with the time involved to stack and fondant the cake, but to create these intricate snowflakes that would hang from the layers. The week that we were decorating this cake, the news kept reporting that a major snowstorm was headed our way. This caused us some concern since this delivery was going to take about an hour, and our van wasn’t that good in the snow. Our general manager Karyn confronted Matt about putting the snow tires on the van, but he had no extra time since this cake required so much attention. So on top of all the stress of just completing this cake on time, we had the stress of a potential blizzard to travel through on the delivery!
We did get out some frustration when we used a hammer to pound the rock candy to create the ice layer on the cake. We wanted to create the illusion of one of the layers of the cake completely encrusted in ice, so we thought clear rock candy would do the trick. We used royal icing to adhere the crushed rock candy to the cake, and it was a little tricky and messy, but it worked!
Lauren and I piped the snowflakes with royal icing on the layers, in kind of an asymmetrical pattern down the front and back. Once the royal dried, we painted with edible luster dust to add the shine that Kate wanted, but made sure we kept the design simple and clean to prevent any “gaudiness”. It took us FOREVER, but once we were finished, the cake looked spectacular. It was really pretty, and perfect for her winter wonderland theme.
On the day of delivery, the weather cleared, and it finally stopped snowing. Knowing that we wouldn’t have any real issues with horrible road conditions helped with the stress level somewhat. Delivering wedding cakes is one of the most anxiety producing things to do, and we were grateful the roads were clear. I sat in the back of the van with the cake, just to prevent any issues if Lauren had to slam on the breaks, or swerve or anything like that. It took us awhile since we had to drive so carefully and slowly, but we finally arrived at the venue. It was a beautiful country club, and the cake fit perfectly with the decor of the room. We set it up, put the snowflakes in, and oh how they dangled! I felt bad for giving Lauren such a hard time since the cake turned out so stunning.
When you leave a cake at a venue, getting back in the van with no cake in it feels so good! You can hit the gas and go and not worry about a cake toppling over in the back. Lauren was so excited we were done, she peeled out on the way out of the country club!
Today, we created a cake for Marissa and Robb. Our LA, New York couple who had to move back to Minneapolis to meet each other.
They instantly took to the idea that their wedding cake should be a “Tale of Three Cites”. My original thought was to have Landmark New York buildings silhouetted on the top two tiers, the Hollywood sign and palm trees on the bottom two tiers, and Minneapolis represented on the middle tier. It was Robb’s idea to switch the bottom tier from palm trees to Hollywood search lights (great call). We would top the cake with a well known Minneapolis sculpture of a cherry balancing on top of a spoon.
It wasn’t until I went over the design with Jenna and Julia, my trusty sidekicks, that the idea of making the searchlights actually light up was hatched. After all, I had opened my big yapper about making the cherry on the top of the cake light up when meeting with the bride and groom, and they loved the idea, so why not light up the searchlights too?
This was the first cake we’d ever made with a camera crew in our kitchen. Honestly, the idea of being filmed while working on wedding cakes wasn’t high on my list of things that sounded “fun” so it was an extra stressful day around Gateaux. We arrived to eight crew members in our tiny shop. I think I had convinced myself that this would be a smaller production than it actually is. For my own sanity, for weeks, I was happily picturing some lone camera man hiding out in the corner of the kitchen as the extent of “the crew”. Trying to act like this is all completely “normal”, we got microphones attached to us, and started making buttercream. Somehow, the ritual of the morning prep work was managing to calm me down, until everything went dark.
No, I didn’t pass out from sheer terror, power to the building was out. Off to a great start.
After our little field trip to a neighboring Mexican Restaurant to plug in our prep mixer, we finally had filling for the cakes. With the cake gods on our sides, the power came on within a half hour of our return to the shop. The rest of the cake went as planned (with the exception of yours truly breaking a number of the frosting buildings, but that’s why we make extra everything). When the day was over, I was actually grateful to have our morning field trip on film. I think Marissa and Robb will get a kick out of seeing what went into the making of their wedding cake. We often see that the process of making someone’s cake reflects their personality. These two had to travel halfway across the country to find each other right where they both started. The least we could do was walk across the street.