Archive for the ‘Wedding Cake’ Category

Theresa's cake

My fiancé and I were surprised yesterday by a cake celebrating our upcoming marriage at a potluck dinner for his program. Theresa Ramirez, a pastry chef whose wedding cakes you might remember reading about here, made this beautiful and delicious cake. Thank you so much, Theresa!

Even though I’m on the inevitable pre-wedding diet that I tried to avoid, I enjoyed a nice, big piece.

So, I tried to swear off a pre-wedding diet. I’ve been inundated with information (otherwise known as “ads”) about how to lose weight quickly before your wedding. They are in wedding magazines, Facebook ads, Google ads, etc. They are disheartening and could make anyone sad for the unrealistic expectations on women’s bodies.

It is important to lead a healthy life, which includes healthy food and exercise. Trying to focus on that instead of the wedding clothes, my fiancé and I joined a gym. It is the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center, a reasonably priced county gym. It hasn’t been too hard to go regularly.

Unlike some gyms I tried in NJ where many of the patrons looked like Soprano’s extras, this gym isn’t daunting. There are a wide-range of folks there, from kids who look like they might be on a team to senior citizens who park their walkers in the corner. 

So, we go to the gym regularly and eat good cake when we can. That’s a well-balanced life, if I’ve ever heard of one.

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cake tastingToday was a sweet, sweet day. It started off with cake tasting at our venue and ended with chocolate making.  

The Mother of the Bride and I were each given a plate with four different generous slices of cake. The venue made four cakes total and we took home the rest of the four cakes. I had no idea that we would not only taste the cake, but be able to eat it for the rest of the week. That’s what I call preparing for the wedding. 

Our meeting took about an hour, since we discussed many of the final details of the big day (seating, order of the day, etc.) How does time fly by so quickly? It seems just yesterday we were taking off our winter coats and meeting with the same people in January. I’m both overwhelmed by everything that has to be done at the end and amazed by how much we’ve already done. 

I spent the afternoon making the chocolates for the wedding favors. I had planned to make 3 per person, but I ended up making 5 (apparently an odd number is good luck for a bride. I think any amount of chocolate is good luck for anyone!) It was fun, but I could use a massage on my lower back after leaning over for three hours. The Mother of the Bride and I still have to package them in little bags.

Chocolate favor making

To prepare to make the favors, I had experimented with various flavors and techniques for chocolate making in Michigan. I thought that I’d try using squeeze bottles this time, but that proved to be a disaster yesterday. I kept melting the chocolate on low in the microwave and the chocolate wouldn’t melt. When it did, it wouldn’t flow nicely through the very small tip (even after I gave the bottom a good slap.) Finally, I microwaved the bottle some more and it imploded. The bottom was sucked inward and the chocolate was mixed with the melted plastic. That is not something you want to serve to your most beloved family and friends. I threw out the dreaded bottles and bought a new double-broiler on sale at Bed Bath and Beyond yesterday. So today, I knew what I was getting myself into and was ready. 

If you plan to be a DIY bride like I am, I recommend practicing making the items ahead of time (especially if it is food!) I was able to practice in Michigan and then order everything that I needed to have it ready for me at my parents’ house when I arrived last week. I did overdo it a little; there were twice as many bags of chocolate than I needed and I even made more chocolates than I thought I would (see how important math is?) Anyone need a bag? Or seven?

Yesterday was a busy day, too. I finished packaging the hotel welcome bags and wrapped the presents for the Wonderful Women. (More on that after the wedding. Can’t ruin any surprises!) After shopping for the double-broiler (called a “bagno Maria” in Italian – literally, Maria’s Bath?), I bought some special wines to share with our guests at a wine pairing station. We’ve made sure that my fiancé’s home state and our current state (Michigan) are represented. A friend told me that there is New Jersey Exit Wine. Perhaps I’ll look for that. Am I allowed to make the joke about what exit I take for the store? I didn’t think so. 

Tomorrow I’m off to pick up the wedding license, meet with the DJ and visit with my great aunt before going to a dance class with my parents. Somewhere in between then, I might have a slice of cake and a chocolate or two that went awry and wasn’t counting. Luckily, there are more than a few.

Chocolate favors

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Heather and her lovely cakeCake artist Heather Anne Leavitt is trained in sculpture at the University of Michigan and her cakes show it. She adds gesture to cakes where most bakers simply add more decoration.

For one wedding, Heather made table centerpieces that looked like the bridesmaid dresses. These centerpieces each had their own individual gesture and personality. Better yet, the guests thought they were delicious! 






Wedding cake centerpieceWedding cake centerpiece 2

Wedding cake centerpiece 3











The insides of Heather’s cakes are just as beautiful as the outside. She works with local vendors. In fact, she even has a relationship with most of her vendors (Calder milk, John Harnois, etc.) In fact, she even made a number of cakes to honor the vendors she loves so much, such as Zingermans, Anatolian Bakery, Roos Coffee Roast. See images of them here.

She became particularly attentive to food when she studied in Florence, Italy at the Lorenzo di Medicii program. There, dinner is an event. You eat what is in season. When she went to the Central Market, she discovered how little she ever knew about taste. She writes on her website: I learned that food was not a subject to be taken lightly, and unless it was fresh, in season, and from a reliable source, it wasn’t worth my while.  When I struggled to maneuver my two overstuffed suitcases through the cobblestones to catch my train to the airport, I took one last fleeting glance at the market and thought, “I’ll always have Florence.” 

She personalizes each cake to the individual customer. She sketches designs, like she did in art school. She believes that you should decorate your cake with as much attention as you would decorate your own home. 

Heather has even been on TV. Recently, she assisted pastry chef Courtney Clark of Cake Nouveau on the Food Network’s Last Cake Standing. They made it through an entire month of challenges (phew!)

Look for Heather at Eve, where she works.

Heather only graduated from the University of Michigan in 2007. I can’t wait to see what she continues to do.


In Michigan and interested in reading more about local Ann Arbor food? Check out this blog (with a fabulous list of related blogs on the left)

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My fiancé works in an office with a wonderful pastry chef: Theresa Ramirez. He often comes home from meetings raving about what treat she brought in for the group. When I heard that she also makes wedding cakes, I knew I had to learn more.

I hope you enjoy this interview and the pictures (mmmm!) as much I as I did. I was particularly interested in Theresa’s advice about how to save wedding cake for your first (or second!) anniversary.

Theresa's cake (1)Theresa's cake (2)Theresa's cake (3)Theresa's cake (4)Theresa's cake (5) 





How did you get started?

I got started in 1982 My eldest niece (Missy) was living with me at the time, [her mom remarried and they moved out to the country (pigs and horses for neighbors)] so she moved in with me so she could continue to work and be close to her friends, including her fiancé.  I have always enjoyed baking and she asked me to make her wedding cake.  So I enrolled in a cake decorating class to learn how to make flowers and such.  I had lots of fun and learned a lot.  Although having the bride in the house, and all the hormones that goes with planning a shower and wedding, baking the cake, planning the lunch between the church wedding and the reception was very hectic.  I was actually late for her wedding – I missed her walking down the aisle.  It was one of those things where the reception hall wouldn’t let you in until a designated time and I had to decorate it and then drive back to the church and there just wasn’t enough time. 

How long does it take you to make a wedding cake?

Time depends on the size of the cake and how much decorating there will be.  I would say the average cake (serves approximately100) takes about 6-8 hours to bake and at least 12 to decorate.  The average time to set up the cake and add the finishing touches at the hall is about 1-1/2 hours.

What is the hardest part?

Definitely delivering the cake – there are always so many variables – weather, road conditions, construction, steps, timing at the hall or reception area, etc. 

What is the secret behind the high layered cakes (how do they stand up?)

Each layer has to be supported – back when I began it was always that you used wooden dowels, strategically placed in each layer.  Now there are newer and better pillars to use to separate the cakes or they have floating cake stands where each layer is just placed on a ring that is soldered to a base.

If a couple goes to a cake tasting, what questions should they ask of the baker?

They should ask how far in advance is the cake baked? No one wants to eat stale cake.  I always bake mine the week of the wedding and store them in the fridge.  They can be frozen, but then sometimes you get water condensation when the cake defrosts. 

Another question would be to taste the frosting  – if the frosting is too sweet or doesn’t taste good (too much Crisco – too grainy, etc) the cake will be a disappointment for sure.

If a couple wants to save the top layer (or a part) of the wedding cake, how long will it last in the freezer before the taste/texture changes?

The average is a year, but I know from experience that it can last 2 if it is stored correctly.  For my sister’s wedding she was delivering her son on their 1st anniversary so they waited until their 2nd anniversary to take it out and eat it and it was fine.  Years ago (because I hate smoke and frosting seems to absorb odors) I started baking an extra layer that actually did not go on the cake, but I decorated it just like it would and gave it to the couple.  Then this layer (which would already be in a box) needs to be carefully wrapped in foil, sealed with tape and then rewrapped in plastic – I suggest a new, clean garbage bag that could be wrapped tightly around the box and sealed with tape and then placed in the back of the freezer. 

What was the most interesting cake you ever made?

I think the most interesting one was for a “beach” themed wedding.  The couple actually went off to some island to get married and then had a reception in their home town.  The person that was supposed to bake their wedding cake cancelled 6 days before the wedding reception.  Someone gave the bride my name/number – she called me on a Monday evening and I delivered the cake that Saturday.  She gave me “poetic justice” to just design what I wanted.  It was a simple – 3-tiered cake, decorated with sea shells.  I went on online and found out how to make and color the sea shells – it was interesting.

If you could design the perfect wedding cake, what would you design?

I’m a sucker for heart shaped cakes – just goes with the wedding theme. 

When I started making cakes I found one in a Wilton Cake book that I just feel in love with and I told myself that if I ever got remarried that would be my cake.  A few years back one of my best friends finally decided to marry the guy she was with (they are a wonderful couple) so I made this cake for them as my wedding present to them – it turned out beautiful and I have made it a couple of times since.

My next preference would be to have different shaped layers – say the bottom square (good base to start with) – then a round layer topped off with a heart on top.  I prefer to have a separation between the top and next layer – either for flowers or a figurine of some type. 

I prefer simplicity to cakes with tons of stuff on them.

How can couples contact you?

Email is best: tramir(at)umich(dot)edu.

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Ultimate Fake Wedding Cake (Polka Dots)In this economy, couples need to find ways to cut corners. What if they want to cut their cake at the same time? I recently met Emily and Liz from Ultimate Fake Cakes. They create fake cakes to help couples save money and still have a beautiful cake to display at the wedding. A sheet cake in the kitchen is ready for slicing, serving and eating. (Keep your fingers out of the fake cake!)


Who knew that was possible? I hope you enjoy reading about their Cakes. 




How did you come up with the idea for your company?  


I received a couple of requests for foam cakes from teachers at my children’s school.  I made the first cake and Emily and I did the 2nd one together.  It was a few months later that the idea hit us, this could be a business.  We both really enjoyed it and thought why not?


Do you create custom cakes to order?


We do custom orders.  We encourage our brides to visit wedding cake sites, find that  perfect cake, and bring it to us.  It is one of the perks of our job to see all the different designs that each bride brings to us.



Do you re-use cakes or is each one new for a new customer?


We can reuse them if the cake is returned to us in original condition.


What is the best advice (regarding the cake) that you’d offer to a couple who is trying to keep the costs down?


The size of the cake is what is going to determine your price.  If they are looking for a lower price a cake with fewer tiers is your better option.  Sugar flowers will cost extra so if you are looking to keep the cost down real or silk flowers are available.


What do brides serve to their guests that order fake cakes? 


Typically, with our cakes sheet cakes, dessert tables, or cupcakes are served. 


Would you ship outside of the area? How would the couple best return the cake to you?


Yes, we ship nationwide.  When we purchase the shipping label we can either choose one way or round trip.  If they wish to return the cake we will enclose a return label in the box along with their cake.  They are required to keep the box and all of original shipping packaging to send it back to us. 


What would you recommend to the “un-bride”? How could she and her love best incorporate your cakes into a wedding?


Our cakes can represent any theme or nontraditional ideas.  We encourage them to bring their idea to us and we will work with them to create their dream wedding.


How would a couple handle the cake-cutting ceremony if the cake isn’t real?


We have 3 different options.

1.         The top layer can be a real baked cake from your baker.

2.         A slice can be placed in one of the tiers where a cake knife can be inserted giving you the “look of cutting the cake”.

3.         A cake compartment can be placed on the bottom tier in the back where a slice of real cake can be placed.


How do you work with the baker? Do you have a preferred bakery that you like to work with?


We are willing to work with any baker.

Ultimate Fake Cakes Duo

Thanks to Emily and Liz for the interview!

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(Thanks to The Ann Arbor Chronicle for mentioning this blog post!)



I attended my first bridal show this weekend at V2V , a lovely boutique in Ann Arbor, MI.


I was smitten with V2V and their dresses when I saw a silk gown with a gathered front hanging in their window recently. Last week, I tried on a few dresses and spoke with Julia and Tracey. They told me about the “Bridal Event” this weekend. It sounded good, but I had no idea how much fun it would really be to attend.  


My friend Shasta kindly drove up from Indianapolis to help with wedding plans and we went together. Saturday, we had an appointment to try on dresses from the trunk sale. There were some beautiful Jenny Yoo and Siri that we loved. I haven’t decided on a dress yet, but I have a better sense of what I might like to buy.


Sunday was the Bridal Event. Shasta and I arrived at 2:30, a little before the second fashion show of the day. When we walked in, the woman gathering the tickets said that we had to try the meatballs right away. I wasn’t sure what she meant until we walked up the stairs and saw the vendors sharing samples of their foods. Who knew we should have come on an empty stomach?


We wandered around the tables of vendors. After tastes of almond cake, raspberry chocolate truffles, meatballs, apple cider and more, we felt like we were at an exclusive party dedicated to crafting original and sincere weddings.


Here were some highlights:


TeaHous is a Kerrytown-area store that specializes in tea and tea products. They had sample earl gray lollipops that would make wonderful favors.


Cakes by Rubina  offered a pure almond chocolate cake bite. It tasted like a true Italian dessert.


Decadent Delights  shared moist chocolate cake with us. They make custom cookies and can even make cookies that match your cake.


I had walked by Schakolad , the chocolate factory, a number of times in Ann Arbor and never stopped. That was clearly a mistake. I tasted a raspberry champagne truffle and wanted to create a distraction so Shasta could steal us the entire silver tray of chocolates.


When we found Zingerman’s, we found the meatballs. At this point I was too full to want to squeeze in extras, but it was delicious. Shasta enjoyed some of the apple cider.


The ultimate high point was the ten minute chair massage by Bellanina I was a new woman after that (why did I have to get up?)


The fashion show was great fun. The models walked down the runway in the dresses carrying lovely bouquets of flowers. Here are some pictures from the show:



V2V white dress

V2V group

V2V Show 3 I highly recommend attending future shows there. The cost was $8.00 in advance, $10 at the door. This was exactly the place to be for a bride who is looking to create an authentic wedding day without the excess of impersonal, commercial vendors.  


Thanks to V2V and Shasta for a wonderful weekend. I’m brimming with good ideas and cake.

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I have a salty-tooth and can pass on most dessert. I’m rarely swayed to eat a piece of wedding cake when I could have had a few extra pieces of cheese or fried calamari.


My fiancé and I aren’t interested in a standard wedding cake whose decorations resemble a Barbie’s wedding dress. However, I’ve been looking through wedding magazines and have seen some eye-candy cakes that could change any un-bride’s opinion of the final course.


Recently, we were in Hoboken for lunch (at the lovely Brass Rail http://www.thebrassrailnj.com/) and decided to stop by to peruse the counters at Carlo’s Bakery (http://www.carlosbakery.com/). Carlo’s is used by one of the venues we are considering.


My fiancé, my father, my father’s friend, and I were equally stunned by the display of cakes, pastries and other goodies throughout the store. From a cake that looked like luggage piled three high to crispy, unfilled cannoli shells, I knew this was the real thing. We immediately made an appointment to meet with the chef, Buddy Valastro.


A few days later, we found ourselves tasting cake in the back of the bakery at ten a.m. with my parents.


Buddy brought out a book with cakes included in the venue’s package and a book of additional wedding cakes that we could choose from for an additional charge. Over coffee, we looked through the binders and ooh-ed and aah-ed as if we were watching fireworks on the Fourth of July.


There were cakes with matte ganache that looked like they had been painted and fired in a kiln. There were polka-dots and sugar bows. There was a cake designed to look like a stained glass window. Another one that seemed to be covered in blooming cherry blossom branches. Fall leaves with perfect colors. Every flower imaginable for every season graced one cake or another.


Buddy explained the various fillings and decorations that could be added. When I disclosed my ever-challenging allergy to high fructose corn syrup, Buddy knew which toppings and fillings I could eat.


Then we were kindly offered a paper plate with slices of cake. We tasted a variety of flavors, from chocolate to hazelnut to carrot to red velvet. There was a cannoli layer in one cake. A cream cheese layer in another.


Buddy and his cakes have been featured in countless bridal magazines. The weekend we were there, he told us about his upcoming appearance on The Food Network and Good Morning America, to make Brittney Spears’ birthday cake. He is famous for good reason.


We haven’t made any final decisions on the wedding cake, but we did immediately decide to purchase sesame cookies, pignoli cookies and an almost all-crumb crumb cake.


Here are some pictures from our cake tasting adventure:


Carlo's Baker in Hoboken, NJ


Carlo's Bakery Counter


From Carlo's Binder O'Wedding Cakes

Tasting time!

Buddy Valastro, my fiance' and I


To all of you un-brides and un-grooms out there, don’t give up on the wedding cake. There are modern interpretations that might just steal your heart.


You decide how you want to approach dessert at your wedding. My parents had a one-layer wedding cake with a strawberry and pineapple ying-yang topping. You can simply offer a plate of pastries or even individual cupcakes that look like mini-wedding cakes. Or, you can serve a more traditional cake, dessert display and even a chocolate fountain. There are so many options.


When you are looking at venues, ask them if the cake is included in the final charge. Often, a venue will either have a baker on staff or they will use a local bakery. You can show the baker a picture and ask for a tasting. You can also decide to order your own wedding cake and have it delivered to the site the day of your wedding.


Here are some professional pictures from Carlo’s: http://www.carlosbakery.com/WeddingCakes.asp


If you order from Carlo’s, I hope you’ll invite me.

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