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Cake for a rainbow wedding

Hello!  It’s been a very long time, hasn’t it?  There were several reasons for this – I got interested in fiction writing, which meant that I had less time to spare for food writing; my wrist kept getting worse, which made baking and typing both painful; I discovered Indian cooking, which meant that I was using recipe books a lot, and not creating many new recipes.  Also… I’ve had kind of a bad patch in the last year or so where I haven’t felt like doing anything creative at all, but this seems to be getting better.

Anyway.  None of this is important compared to the much more exciting fact that I got to make my first ever cake for a same-sex wedding yesterday!

(I’ve been calling it my first Big Gay Wedding Cake, but since I do not, in point of fact, know what the cake’s personal preferences are, I should probably stop calling it that.)

Much has been made in the media (ooh, alliteration!) of gay weddings and Christian bakers and how it’s terrible, awful, so bad, that we might be forced to bake wedding cakes for gay weddings.

But I have to say, I was so incredibly thrilled when the sister of one of my dearest friends was finally able to get engaged to her long-time partner, and immediately asked my friend to relay the message that I’d love to bake their wedding cake, please, pretty please…

I mean, those of you who have met me in the flesh know how I feel about bright colours.  I have rainbow glasses.  I have rainbow ear-rings.  I have rainbow tops and rainbow skirts.  My wedding dress had rainbow chiffon on it.  Let’s just say that when I went to a marriage equality rally last year, I really had no difficulty whatsoever in finding something appropriate to wear, and indeed, at the rally I looked around me and thought, now, THIS is my aesthetic.  I want to go to more rallies like this one.

Anyway, to my great delight, they said yes, and that they would love a cupcake tower, with a cuttable cake on top.

At which point I got super nervous because what if the cake wasn’t PERFECT enough for this very special wedding, and warned them that while I could guarantee cakes that were pretty and delicious and catering to all allergies, I couldn’t promise something that looked, you know, like a perfectly smooth, white, professional wedding cake.

But that was OK, because they wanted rainbows too.  In fact, I was specifically told to make the cakes as bright and colourful as possible.  OK, then. I could do that.

The saturation adjuster on photoshop (or, as I like to think of it, the oversaturation button) was made for occasions like this one…

(And I have to note in passing that while I’m sure there are Christian bakers out there who don’t want to do gay wedding cakes, I suspect that they are in the minority.  Every single cake decorating place I spoke to, without exception, was as excited at the idea of gay wedding cakes as I was.  A couple of people told me that they absolutely couldn’t wait to do their first gay wedding cake – all those colours!  So I think that even if you wanted a proper, professional looking cake, you wouldn’t have trouble finding one.)

One of the brides can’t eat gluten, and we had the usual array of vegan guests and guests with egg allergies, nut allergies, etc.  But that’s what cake towers are for – you can have a different flavour on each layer, and make each one cater to a different set of dietary requirements!

(When I first asked one of the brides what flavours they had in mind, she seemed taken aback and said… “Vanilla…?”  To which my response was equally taken aback.  “Well, I could do that, of course.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever done a plain vanilla cake…”  I then brainstormed a list of flavours.  Needless to say, we did not go with vanilla…)

With at least six colours in the rainbow and only four layers in the tower, some doubling up was required.  I decided on red and pink for the bottom layer, orange and yellow for the next, green and blue for the next, and purple for the layer below the cuttable cake.

Ready to start baking…

This necessitated a remarkable amount of sourcing of cupcake holders – anywhere that stocked orange did not stock purple, and if they had purple, they didn’t have green.  It was bizarre.  I also spent way too much time at Spotlight looking for the right coloured ribbons with which to decorate the cake boards, and then half an afternoon carefully glueing the ribbons to each other to get a two-coloured effect, and then to the board.

I wanted to make sure that at least half of the cakes were gluten free, so the bottom layer was raspberry, pistachio and rose cupcakes.

I made roses out of marbled red, pink and white fondant in fondant molds, and a pale green lemon icing to hold them in place.

The second layer was lemon meringue cupcakes, which I made gluten-free with my standard gluten-free flour mix.  I have made these cupcakes many, many times before, so while I was a little concerned about their structural integrity with the gluten-free flour, I was pretty confident that the rest would be easy.

Ha. The day started well – I successfully separated twelve eggs in a row, which is practically a miracle, and the lemon curd and cupcakes came out beautifully.  And then the meringue failed.  Repeatedly.  It took me an hour and five bowls to successfully make my meringues, and I ended up with meringue all over the walls and myself.

But they were done, so that was good.  I thought.

Then the weather changed overnight and when I got up on the morning of the wedding, all my meringues were weeping.  I had been planning to decorate them with little rainbows, with the meringues representing clouds.  I momentarily considered pretending that the weeping meringue represented entirely intentional raindrops, but I couldn’t do it.  I scraped all the meringues off and started again.

There aren’t a lot of photos of these cakes. This is because they were very naughty cakes and did not deserve to be photographed.

Suffice it to say, this made my nice, relaxed cake baking plan for the morning of the wedding a little bit less relaxed – in the end, by the time I’d got everything done or re-done, got to the venue, assembled everything on the table, and hidden away the rest of the cupcakes, I was just squeezing out from behind the table when the first guests walked in.  (And this is why I always add two hours of contingency time into my planning for events like this – I needed every second of them!)

See that box on the side of the table? Yeah. I basically heard the guests coming and chucked it off the table right after taking this photo. This was really, really down to the wire. Never trust a meringue, that’s my advice.

Layer three was my vegan sachertorte recipe, which I’ll share on this blog next week.  This, thankfully, is a tried-and-true, nearly failproof recipe, and it worked just fine.

I topped these cakes with vegan chocolate ganache, and little buttons that I’d made out of bright blue and green gum paste.

The gum paste was a bit of a surprise – I hadn’t used it before, and when it arrived in the post, I realised that it contained egg-white, which wasn’t going to be great for my vegans and egg allergies.

So, since I had four people who couldn’t eat eggs and 48 cupcakes, I decided to keep the green and blue buttons for 36 cakes, and make twelve lots of buttons out of pure white fondant, which I painted with gold lustre dust.  That way the vegans would have something that was clearly identifiable, but in a way that looked extra special rather than sad…

When I’d been throwing out ideas for flavours, one of the brides had been very interested in the lavender and blackberry cupcake idea.  I was initially planning to just make lavender butterfly cakes with blackberry jam and whipped cream, but when I was at the Ruby Chocolate demonstration at Savour a couple of weeks ago, one recipe that was demonstrated was a whipped ganache – a whipped cream enriched by white chocolate, which made it a little heavier and more stable.

So I decided to see if I could make a blackberry and lavender-infused whipped ganache for these cakes, and it worked really beautifully.  (Recipe here!)

For the cuttable cake, I was a bit anxious on several counts.  For one thing, I have done precisely one white wedding cake in my life, and it was the first wedding cake I did, and frankly, it wasn’t very good.  I had a lot of trouble rolling out the icing, and it showed.  But I really did want a proper wedding-cake looking cake if I could manage it.  Fortunately, while I haven’t rolled out icing in the last eighteen years, I’ve somehow improved in the interim – just more cooking experience generally, I suppose, plus the magic of YouTube videos, and it covered the cake beautifully.

I also wanted to make figurines out of fondant, something else I hadn’t done before.  Alas, my first attempt was not auspicious.  The brides started off tall and elegant, but sank, slowly and inevitably, into themselves, and then began tilting drunkenly to the side and backwards.  And their lips protruded like fish lips.  And their arms kept falling off.  It wasn’t a good look.

(Nope, you’re not getting photos of those ones.)

I decided that I could get away with a perfect white cake with rainbow ribbon, and would have another crack at the figurines on Friday and see how that went.  My second try at the brides was informed by the first attempt – I made each batch of colour before I started, and made the bodies short and sturdy, like pawns from a chess set.  I then refrigerated them after each step, to make them get more solid.  The faces still weren’t quite right, and I accidentally switched the heads so that the wrong bride had the wrong dress, but the arms stayed on almost entirely – I had to re-attach one at the venue, and then reattach it again after we removed the brides from the cake for cutting.

But this was a rainbow wedding, and it had been a very long time coming, so I really wanted to make sure that when the brides cut the cake, they got something really special.

This was rather nervewracking, because as you can see, the rainbow is baked into the cake, and I had no way of knowing until they cut it whether it had actually worked.

But it had, and it was a great hit, both with the brides and with everybody under the age of five.  I made this cake pretty plain – and gluten-free – and flavoured with with orange flower water, since orange flowers are traditional for a wedding.

I have to say, I am very, very proud of this cake.  I do think it’s the most beautiful wedding cake I’ve done yet, and one of the tastiest, too.  And I am so extraordinarily happy to have been part of this wedding – I missed the ceremony due to the meringue disaster, but when they got us all lined up to form a living rainbow based on our outfits, and the brides came dancing in to the reception hall the strains of ‘I do, I do, I do, I do, I do’ with their son running ahead of them trailing a rainbow ribbon, I had tears in my eyes.  I have tears in my eyes again writing this.

I mean, this is a food blog, so this post has been all about the cake and how delighted I am with it.  But I am so very thrilled that my LGBTQIA friends can finally have the weddings they’ve been waiting for, that their relationships are recognised by the government (and even by the Uniting Church!), and that we can all come together and celebrate that.

It really was the most joyful gathering I’ve ever been a part of, and it was such a privilege to be there.  Congratulations, Kathryn and Rachel!  May your years together be many, and as full of joy as yesterday was.

P.S. – I don’t know if I’m going to be back here regularly at this stage.  A lot of the factors above still apply, in addition to the fact that dealing with photos on my computer is becoming increasingly time consuming and annoying – and you can’t really have a food blog without photos.  But there will definitely be recipes up for various bits of this wedding cake over the next few weeks, as well as some recipes for the things I did with the leftovers.  After that?  Who knows.  We’ll just wait and see what happens…

Wedding cake without a top layer, representing the uncertainty of the blogging existence…

 

Travel Post! Germany, with a Medieval Music Festival

Saturday was another slow start for us, followed by a long drive north and east to Freyburg for a festival.  We provisioned ourselves for the road with bread, fruit, tomatoes and some glorious capsicums that reminded me of tulips from Dutch paintings.

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And then my friend’s mother, M, who was sharing the driving, and who would get along very well with the Italian side of my family, brought even more provisions, apparently feeling that we might starve without her intervention.

My friend A has been wanting to get me to the Montalbane Festival for Medieval Music for years, and I’ve never been in Germany at the right time.  This time I was – but we had that book launch to attend on the Friday, and Freyburg is a long way from Dedesheim.

So rather than going with our original, more sensible plan, of driving up on the Friday and attending a modest selection of offerings on each day of the Festival, we had elected to drive up on the Saturday afternoon, and then attend EVERYTHING on the Sunday.

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So we drove, and drove, and drove, north and east, past lots of castles, including the Eisenach, which is where Martin Luther threw an inkpot at the Devil, and you can still see the stain on the wall (we did not stop to look at the stain).

And finally we reached Naumburg, where we would be staying.  We did this with a surprising lack of wrong turns – my friend A has been to Montalbane many times, but apparently never without getting lost or delayed on the road.

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Return to Bundoora Farmers’ Market!

It’s been a couple of months since we visited a weekend farmers market (we’ve been quite diligent about going to the ones at Melbourne Uni, since they are so convenient to where we work, but the range of produce is much narrower there, and one doesn’t really want to be carrying bags and bags of veggies home on the tram), and in that time, the season has changed from summer to winter.

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Though, this being Melbourne, the red cabbage and Brussels sprouts at one stall were being blatantly upstaged by the eggplants, sweet corn and strawberries available at the stall across the way.  Apparently, these were grown in Wandin.  I was wondering if Wandin has a wormhole to the Northern hemisphere, but it’s probably just really good hydroponics and glasshouses…

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Return to the Farmers’ Markets (and, hopefully, to blogging)

Well, that was a longer break than I expected it to be.  I’d like to thank the NHMRC’s insane grants schedule, Easter, and the cyst on my wrist for providing the synergy of silly working hours, non-existent weekends, pain, and general exhaustion that led to the blogging hiatus… hopefully, things will start to calm down soon, and you will see more of me here.

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To be honest, I haven’t even been doing much new cooking – these busy months are when I revisit old favourites and am quietly thankful for a fairly good repertoire of simple recipes in my head, and a large array of take-away options in my suburb.

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To read my blog this year, you might think that I’ve abandoned the Farmers’ Markets.  This is truer than I might wish (those aforementioned missing weekends have rather curbed my enthusiasm for marketing early on Saturday mornings), but fortunately not entirely true.  The good news in my marketing life has been that the Victorian Farmers Market Association recently began running a lunchtime market at Melbourne University on a Wednesday.  This is conveniently close to where I work, and also conveniently not early in the morning, and Andrew (who is also currently working in the vicinity) and I have become regulars at its stalls.  While the variety of fresh produce is not as impressive as at the weekend markets (they are still building their stable of stallholders), it has been a fine way to get *some* proper, farmer-friendly vegetables into our weekly shop, and it’s also a highly enjoyable way to spend a lunchbreak… and it’s always fun playing ‘spot the WEHI person’ as I wander around the market…

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Still, between my Wednesday indulgences and my weekend madness, it has been over a month since I last visited one of the weekend markets.  I was therefore pretty determined to get to the Flemington Farmers’ Market today, even though choir meant that my visit would be relatively brief… Continue reading

Flemington Farmers’ Market – Berries, vegetable mandalas, and a little present for you!

Hooray!  The new year has started and it’s back to the farmers’ markets for us, just in time for all those lovely tomatoes and long peppers and the last of the season’s apricots (already?  How did this happen?).

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Saturday was too hot for anything, and I wasn’t able to figure out whether any farmers’ markets were even on (not all of them start directly after New Years), but Flemington sent me an email promising berries and stone fruit, and that was good enough for me.

A symbolic representation of Saturday's weather.

A symbolic representation of Saturday’s weather.

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Coburg Farmers’ Market – Last Asparagus for 2014, and bonus Christmas Vegetables

(I have spent *way* too much of this afternoon arranging my vegetables into Christmas card configurations and then shooting them with my newly-discovered soft focus camera setting. Hallmark would be appalled. Or possibly proud. I am just giggling like a crazy woman…)

Advent candle wreath, in asparagus, radishes, assorted berries, and spherical zucchini

Advent candle wreath, in asparagus, radishes, assorted berries, and spherical zucchini

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Bundoora Farmers’ Market – Return to the Farmers’ Markets, hooray!

Hooray!  Saturday was the Bundoora Farmers’ Market, and I got to go to it!  Better still, I got to go with a license to buy lots of goodies, since the fridge and freezer were significantly emptier than when I was last there.  And best of all… after several years of having to make do with slightly less celestial farmers’ market pies, we finally managed to reconnect with Gum Tree Pies, who now come down to Bundoora (from their home base, somewhere near Canberra, if I recall correctly) once a month.

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Coburg Farmers’ Market with Summer Fruit in late Autumn

Seriously, we are a week out from the official start of winter, and I can buy raspberries at the market?  And zucchini flowers?  Melbourne, don’t get me wrong, I’m loving this last hurrah of warm weather, but you’re making me a little nervous here.  I just know you will find a way to make up for it sooner or later.  Something tells me that you are plotting snow for this winter…

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The Statutory Eurovision and Blog Birthday Post

Tonight, my friends, is a very special night!  Not only is it the Eurovision Grand Final (at least as far as Australian Broadcasting is concerned), it is also my third Blogiversary!  Happy blog birthday to me!

If I were a truly industrious blogger, I’d be writing Wise Reflections on the past year, garnished with tasteful photos of Memorable Meals.

But I’ve just spent a week blogging twice a day with all my thinky thoughts about food poverty, and in all honesty, I’m about out of words.

And, having spent the last three and a half days either baking like a maniac or hosting Eurovision parties, I’m also about out of time.

So instead, you get pictures.

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Farmers’ Market Post: Return to Coburg Farmers’ Market

I am back, having survived the St Matthew’s Passion with my vocal chords intact!  It was a glorious, glorious thing, and I am itching to sing it again and also to learn all the soprano and alto arias and maybe sing them one day, and *also* I have the biggest music crush ever on Andrew Goodwin, the brilliant tenor who played our Evangelist.  He has absolutely the most superb tenor voice I’ve ever heard – he just floats over those top notes so easily and gently, but he can also be wonderfully dramatic in the sections where this is called for.  Swoon.  Being in Choir Two, I was able to appreciate this from pleasingly close quarters.  Though not as close as the altos.  Another reason I should have sung alto.  Yes, I am a very sad case.  But a voice like that doesn’t come along every day, and he seemed like a thoroughly lovely human being, too.

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(And that was the sound of me losing several minutes to looking up said tenor on YouTube and listening to the sadly small number of his recordings I was able to find. No CDs yet, alas…)

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(Also, the Palm Sunday service I was at read the entire text of Matthew 26 to 27, which is basically the text of the St Matthew Passion, with different readers being different characters and the congregation doing all the crowd responses.  It was all I could do not to burst into song.  In German.  Because it turns out that somewhere along the way I memorised all the German crowd bits.  Oh dear…)

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I have even more singing ahead of me, with Easter coming up next weekend, but this is probably not why you are here, so maybe I should consider getting to the point of this post, which is that Andrew and I actually managed to get back to the Coburg Farmers’ Market this weekend, for the first time in over a month.  We did manage a flying visit to Flemington last week, but there was no time to write about it afterwards, what with choir followed by Bach.  Due to singing, work, and the resulting extreme levels of exhaustion, I’ve been having to resort to the local greengrocer, and sometimes even the supermarket, for my fruit and veg for about the last six weeks, and it’s really not the same.  In the meantime, Melbourne has moved from high summer into quite definite autumn, with more varieties of apple than I can poke a stick at, and nuts of all kinds, as well as the last of the corn, eggplants, beans, capsicums, and even a tomato or two.

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