Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Let Us Eat Cake

Ah, weddings. So much love, so much joy…so much food. The menu can really make or break a wedding. Some choose to really do it up with tray-passed hors d’oeuvres and elegant plated meals. Others take the buffet route, whether the steam trays hold prime rib or mac ‘n’ cheese. I’ve been to weddings with beautiful appetizers (at one wedding the chicken satay skewers were tremendous) and artfully plated entrees. I’ve chosen chicken, beef, or vegetarian (last summer, a plate of vegetable curry absolutely knocked my socks off). I’ve had cold meat sandwiches and homemade salads. I’ve been a frequenter of the buffet line and I’ve flat out chosen not to eat. But no matter the couple’s budget, no matter how long the guest list, there is one thing a wedding can’t do without. That one thing is cake.

When Ian and I got married, there were several cake questions we had to ask ourselves. Should we have fondant or butter cream? Fondant looks better; butter cream tastes better (in the end we went with butter cream). Was it OK to have peanut butter icing or would some guests suffer from peanut allergies? How much cake did we really need? And of course, are we going to feed it to each other or (as tradition demands) shove it in each other’s faces?

OK—it’s not much of a tradition anymore. I’m not sure I’ve been to a single reception where the groom smashed the cake into the bride’s face—that would absolutely ruin her makeup and probably ruin her night—nor can I recall seeing a groom get a face full of frosting. This weekend, I saw a bride and groom actually use forks for the feeding. There were shouts and catcalls—quite a few men seemed to want to see that cake splatter—but they very demurely fed each other their first bites, regardless of the crowd. Ian and I didn’t use forks, but we were gentle with each other, too. I might have put a little frosting on his nose to appease the shouting guests (man, do they enjoy cake carnage), or maybe I just thought about it—I don’t know. It was my wedding day! I was too excited to remember every little detail. Still, it wasn’t the big to-do that we see in the movies. It was sweet, not violent—just how it should be.

Then again, lots of wedding traditions have strange roots, some of them with a history of violence.

But back to the good stuff. The cake.

There is one element of the modern wedding cake that truly fascinates me: fondant. Such a strange material. Edible, but plasticky. An edible modeling clay. I had never had the stuff until last weekend, having been warned away from it by many friends and relations. It's no good, they said. It tastes funny, they said. And while I do agree that it's nowhere near as good as butter cream or cream cheese frosting, I have to say that it isn't so bad (nowhere near as bad as the choice to layer chocolate and lemon cake together in one tier). From what I hear, most people respond negatively to the texture and don't really factor in the taste. That, and they might have eaten the pre-packaged fondant you can buy at Michael's instead of making their own. Homemade fondants can taste like more than just gooey sugar. You can incorporate extracts--vanilla, almond, peppermint--to make really exceptional cake coatings.

Of course, this makes me want to make some fondant of my own. It's an irresistible experiment in playing with my food. And of course, I'll need a cake to try it out on. And I won't want to waste the cake, so I'll probably have to eat it.

If I continue with this cooking thing, I am going to be
so fat.

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