Recently my life has been weirdly consumed by various activities associated with other people’s weddings. I love those people, so of course it’s nice to celebrate their joy with them. And yet, having observed all of this nonsense up close, I can now confidently say in the deeply, deeply unlikely event that I meet someone to whom I want to make a lifelong commitment I will run to city hall and then perhaps have a high caliber barbecue with friends but that is the closest thing to a wedding I will ever have. You have my word.
So here’s one bride and groom: my sister (!) and her Eric
I mean they get to be in love but I get to hang out in the car with their doggo, Billie Jean. She is very beautiful as you can see.
We decided to take an outing with the pets to Dorothea Dix park, which has lovely, expansive grounds and most weekends resembles sort of a dog party.
But wait… I said “the pets.” Yes, Bean was not the only pet there.
Little Mearl also joined us.
My sister’s cat is an unusual young man.
He does amazingly well in these huge public unfamiliar settings with tons of dogs around. He occasionally retreats into his little backpack when he gets overstimulated but he does seem to genuinely have a nice time sniffing grass and things.
Malindi used her phone’s portrait mode to take this enchanting picture of her and Eric’s hairy children.
And this one of me, hahaha.
Before we went on our nice little outing we stopped for French pastries (!) at Lucette Grace, the most magic little patisserie in downtown Raleigh.
I got this lemon meringue tart which was ACCESSORIZED by a MINI LEMON MACARON. It wasn’t beautiful or anything.
And Malindi lived her best life and got this double header of various cheesecakey and chocolatey things.
Those were all great but honestly I think my favorite thing was this truly unbelievable brown butter pecan caramel. I bought one for each of us ❤
So Malindi and Eric are getting hitched and that is very exciting. I already recounted their Virginia/hometown engagement party. But then their friends in Raleigh also threw them an adopted town engagement party!
And, as you’ll recall, until-recently Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was at their Virginia party… and current North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper was at their North Carolina party! Just ridiculous!
He came in the door and everyone (Eric until recently worked on his staff and most of the folks at the party were part of his campaign and/or work for him now) was like “Wait, governor, weren’t you just on TV?” And he was indeed but that must’ve been his last official event for the day (a Saturday) because he stayed and hung out at the party for a good long while and was so friendly and nice!
It makes Eric look pretty dang likeable that all these fancy and important-ish politicians he works for are so nice and enthusiastic about coming to low key parties for their staffers.
Well I saw low key but actually it was pretty heckin fancy as parties go. LOOK AT THIS DESSERT TABLE.
Because I had some leftover chocolate cake scraps sitting around (reasons will be revealed below!) I opted to add to the dessert enjoyment by making my first ever cake pops. I will confess that the cake itself was homemade, as was the chocolate ganache I dipped it in… but for the actual cake ball formation process I totally just used frosting in a can. And it was real tasty.
Anyway, I thought these turned out real cute!
The savory department at the party was also really impressive. They had both fried risotto balls AND fried macaroni and cheese balls.
Okay now for the other bride and groom who are quite close to me… my friends Shaylen and Kyle!
Kyle was part of my Americorps gang in 2010-2011, after college graduation. He and Shaylen had just started dating then, so I got to know her a bit too. We all stayed in touch while I did my little things and they did their considerably bigger things (most notably, living for two years in Indonesia!) Eventually (I like to fancy with a little bit of pull from me) they ended up moving to NC so Kyle could attend law school at UNC. I’ve gotten to see lots of both of them since then. Shaylen also works in public health so it’s been lots of fun having her around to gripe about various things with 😀
So THEY are getting hitched this August and THEY are the couple for whom I will be making a wedding cake!
So I got to get in a practice round at Shay’s gorgey bridal shower!
Shaylen’s friend Caroline is the most gifted flower arranger I have ever met. I mean, she works in the wedding industry so she’s had some practice, but my understanding is still that she is pretty self-taught.
She made the following bouquets using mostly flowers from TRADER JOE’S, supplemented with some peonies she bought wholesaler using a florist connection she has (… I mean)
Can you even?! SO gorgeous!
And for my contribution to the shower I did a WEDDING CAKE PRACTICE RUN! I went for the chocolate layer, and had my first ever adventure with Swiss buttercream.
This was how things went down in my car (thank God the place where the shower was is about 10 minutes from my house. On the actual wedding day I’ll use cake boxes, I promise). (Also it was not slanty it is just the angle, I swear. I did a rather nice job leveling it, if I do say so myself.)
Caroline worked more of her magic and put some greenery and loveliness on top of the cake, and I did some finishing buttercream touches. I was so pleased with how it turned out!
Also on the menu at the shower was the usual fun afternoon tea things. I love a cucumber sandwich. I love a mini scone. It’s so easy to make me happy.
Caroline also made Shaylen a magic flower crown that she got to wore. She looks so adorable in this picture! Despite the fact that the shower was outside and it was about 300 degrees!
Okay so now let’s talk cake:
- Chocolate cake– Smitten Kitchen.
- Swiss buttercream– Smitten Kitchen
- Chocolate ganache filling (!) My cousin the pastry chef talked me through it. I quote: “Ganache is just equal parts chocolate and heavy cream. So I’d guess for a big cake you’d need at least a quart of cream (scald) poured over 2lbs bittersweet chocolate (easiest to do with chips). Stir while hot until there are no chunks at all. Once it cools there’s no getting rid of chunks. Leave at room temp until ready to use. I don’t refrigerate it before assembling because it makes it impossible to spread. If it looks like it separates, just add a little fat to it and whisk…Make sure you don’t pour the choco into the hot milk pan. Could burn and then it’s gross.” Because she’s a fancy lady she scalds her cream on the stovetop but I will confess I microwaved it and nothing bad happened. And holy cow, bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream melted together tastes like HEAVEN.
I ended up making the cake in a HUGE pan (testing the structural integrity of the huge pan for the actual wedding day- it stood up fine but I actually am going to end up making more cakes in smaller pans). Then I traced around small pans to cut the big cake out into two 8-inch layers and two six-inch layers.
The two 8-inch layers went to the party. And the two 6-inch layers went to my friends’ Dan and Bethany’s house because I hadn’t seen them in awhile and they’re great! Their four year old daughter LOVVVED THIS.
So the ganache, I’m not changing a thing. It’s extraordinary. The swiss buttercream, I’m not changing a thing. It’s wonderfully easy to work with, relatively heat resistant, and DELICIOUS- not too sweet.
The only thing is that the chocolate cake is almost TOO rich?! They’ll have an outdoor wedding in August, already be serving a rich meal, it’s covered in buttercream and chocolate… I may, rather than using the Smitten Kitchen cake recipe, make my cousin’s genoise recipe (similar to this). That way the cake itself is a bit lighter but can soak up some flavored syrup for some exoticism (and I may throw some booze in there 😉 ) and since I”m not stacking it I don’t have to worry about it getting too heavy/soggy- I can just focus on its deliciousness!
Anyway, here’s the interior shot. Not bad, eh?!