the best part

When you tell someone that you are planning on baking your own wedding cake there seems to be only one reaction. It doesn't matter if you tell a chef, your mother-in-law, or a stranger, the reaction is almost always, simply put, that you're crazy.

And so I guess that I am. Although, in my opinion I would have been crazy to outsource my love of baking to some bakery that is all about how fancy icing looks as opposed to how good it tastes. Plus, I wasn't planning on baking anything too complicated. I'm all for several layers and lots of fruit, but as soon as a cake needs cardboard to stand up straight I become less interested. I am also not too interested in just a basic vanilla sponge cake. I don't have a cake mixer and there is only so much hand beating and whisking that I can reasonably take on. My idea was to bake three simple cakes. 

If my friend Alice wasn't in town, I might have been crazy, but she was in Munich and is my cake baking partner in crime. We've baked cakes for two weddings before and as Alice said, if I wasn't getting married we probably would still spend our visit together baking cakes. Plus baking gave us a good excuse to drink cynar spritz, listen to Rodriguez, and catch up since we had last seen each other two years ago.
Sadly I have limited (in focus) visual evidence of the final cake table. Even on the longest day of the year, our dinner lasted longer than the daylight. By the time we got around to the best part, our bellies were nearly full and the sky was too. Luckily, homemade cakes and a steady hand do inspire bellies to make a little extra room and for the light to linger just slightly. But with words I can describe how much lavender and peach get along and how pretty a cake looks when it wears berries and flowers and mint instead of hard swirls of icing. 

Three Wedding Cakes

Peach Cake with Cream Cheese Icing 

This was both my first time eating and baking peach cake. I'm familiar with peach tarts and peach pies and the goodness that is hot sauteed peaches with cold vanilla ice cream, but peach cake was something new to me. 

We used this recipe, skipped the burnt sugar shards, halved the amount of cream cheese icing (as recommended in the comments), and decorated the cake with cooked yellow peaches, raw white and yellow peaches and a generous amount of lavender.

Winning Hearts and Minds Cake with Spiced Strawberries

Blame my idea of baking my own wedding cake on Molly Wizenberg. Molly baked twenty nearly flour-less chocolate cakes for her wedding. We only baked three (plus one more for snacking while baking). This cake might not look like much, but the piles of spiced strawberries that we dumped on top took care of that. Even without perfectly in season German strawberries (I think Germany has the best strawberries I've ever tried), this cake has a lot going for it. With only five ingredients, it is best described as an act of magic. You really don't need much to make a cake worthy enough of falling in love over or celebrating love. 

We doubled Sarah from My New Roots' recipe for Spiced Strawberries (skipping the honey/agave as they were already perfectly sweet and certainly opting for the optional peppercorn, or in our case, peppercorns) and it was hard work to not eat those 2 kilos of strawberries as they marinated overnight. We bought even more than we needed as German strawberries are irresistible at the end of June, which made the waiting slightly easier.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

You might remember this recipe from when my love and I were curing ourselves of the winter blues (and celebrating a Birthday by eating carrot cake). 

Alice and I doubled this recipe, baked three cakes, and skipped the maple glazed walnuts. If walnuts are fall and winter, then berries are obviously as summer as fruit gets. We decorated this cake garden style, with fresh mint, cherries, slivers of kumquats, blackberries, raspberries, peaches and flowers. This cake was a beauty. 

* * * * *  

When our family and friends started to arrive for the party, I was still in the kitchen cutting fruit and tasting icing. Alice and I, with a drink in hand, made each other laugh helplessly as we played in the industrial kitchen and admired the room-sized refrigerator. After a long, long dinner, the cakes came out and the accusations of being crazy came to a halt. As the cakes disappeared slice by slice, my sister-in-law told me that she now understood why I insisted on baking the cakes myself.

It feels good to feed the people you love. It isn't everyone's thing, but I find cooking to be the best medium for me personally to express my love. A cake is so much more than eggs and flour and a scary amount of icing sugar. It is a way of celebrating and sharing. It would have been crazy to have tried to make the whole meal myself, but the cakes felt like a reasonable culinary task to take on so that I, too, could be a part of feeding so many people that I love. And because I can't seem to pass up an opportunity to make granola as well, I made the biggest batch that my oven has ever seen so that people could take breakfast for the morning. Fifty plus cups of apricot-hazelnut granola, to be exact.

It is routine for a venue to charge a small plating fee for serving cake. When we picked up the bill at the end of the night, the staff told us that they had given us a discount on the plating fee because the cakes were so beautiful. That was a high-five moment to say the least. 

The top two photos are by Shirin.

Although our menu declared the dessert to be the best part, that isn't actually true. The best part, by far, was getting to marry the one person that I am willing to wax poetic about and declare to be sweeter than cake. I know that I had met my match when we started to plan this thing and instead of discussing childhood fantasies of weddings we talked for hours about how "I do" is the ultimate speech act, the social history and implications of marriage, the politics of weddings and, of course, cake. 

Love is crazy love is kind. Or so sings Marianne Faithfull and if love is crazy then it may make sense to meet it half way, be crazy too, and bake your own wedding cake. 

Thank you to everyone who made our day so sweet! Marriage may have a complicated history, but now I know that it is the best excuse there is to gather all of the people that you love in the same place at the same time and that is nothing short of magical. And to do it on the longest day of the year, Midsummer, makes it even the slightest bit more magical. 

Michelle  – (July 4, 2013 at 4:19 PM)  

This looks like such a lovely, thoughtful day. The politics of weddings and marriage are difficult but everyone can agree on a beautiful cake! Big congratulations x

Sasha  – (July 4, 2013 at 6:27 PM)  

Thanks Michelle! And thank goodness for cakes.

Anonymous –   – (July 4, 2013 at 10:05 PM)  

Ah, Sasha. Grattis, grattis! What a happy occasion and what happy cakes. Your English buddy in Winnipeg. xxx

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