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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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