Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Wedding Cake Endeavor

A couple months ago, Roger told me that his coworker Debbie's daughter had decided not to have a wedding cake at her wedding, even though she would have liked to have one. And I agreed that as long as everyone involved understood that I am an amateur cake maker, and hadn't even held an icing bag in my hand for years (because Sarah was usually the one of the three of us who wanted to decorate cookies with that kind of detail), I would be happy to try my hand at a small wedding cake so that the bride and groom could have that moment of feeding each other--or smashing it into each other's faces, whichever they decided to do.

The bride's grandmother volunteered her top tier (which had been in the freezer for 63 years) to use as the top tier for this cake. The original buttercream had to be removed and I would redecorate it to go on top of the cake. Debbie came up with a mirrored cake plate--a huge relief to me, because it couldn't hold a very big cake--and there was a 6" high Eiffel Tower as the topper. (The groom proposed at the Eiffel Tower.)

At first the plan was that I would use fondant. I would make or get some almond paste to seal up the top tier for a few reasons. First, it was fruitcake and the color would bleed through fondant. Second, almond paste could be used to even out the holes left by fruit that had fallen out. And most importantly, the cake had been spending 63 years next to fish, as one whiff would prove.

Debbie hooked me up with some fondant a baker friend of hers made so that I could play with it.
My first trial run was a chocolate pound cake that I was thrilled with; it wasn't very chocolatey. But I tried out the fondant on it anyway. It was easier to handle than I'd expected, even though I did end up with a couple of rips to deal with. The fondant trial, though, made me realize how smooth the underneath has to be; that cake (which I'd tried to level off with a knife) had some serious bumpiness going on underneath the fondant.

Still, I was pretty confident that I could make a good-looking cake with fondant as long as I could get some almond paste to wrap the top tier. April and Marlene, the lovely ladies at The Huckleberry Hutch (one of my favorite stores here in town and possibly my favorite kitchen store ever), suggested I go to a bakery to buy some, but all the bakeries I called didn't have any (because it wasn't Christmas, when they usually have an abundance on hand)--and there aren't a lot of bakeries in town anyway. But when I explained my project to Maxine at Black Tie Pastries, she suggested I just use buttercream, and told me how to get a smooth look similar to fondant (but she also gave me a recipe for my own fondant in case I needed it).

I never did locate any almond paste, but another trial run with a cake I really liked (and so did Debbie and the bride), showed me that crumbs were going to be an issue with buttercream. A little internet research advised me to apply a crumb coat, so I called my mom for a refresher on making her frosting (because I knew that would work well as a seal layer if I made it a little more glaze-like), and voila!

63-year-old fruitcake

Cake with the crumb coating (thanks, Mom!)

The Wedding Cake
(after suffering several moving bumps and subsequent repairs)
I put the top tier on its own board for easy removal, lest
someone tipsy should decide to see what 63-year-old fruitcake tastes like.

And here are a couple pictures from the wedding, which was just the kind of wedding you'd expect at the end of a fairytale. (I queued the music for the ceremony, too, so I had a unique perspective, even though the window filtered some of the color.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lots of news! First, I'm now a permanent resident of Canada! I even have a social insurance number already!

When we were planning our "run around the flagpole" trip, we found in our envelope of temporary resident papers a letter explaining that it's no longer necessary, if I'm already in Canada, to leave the country and then re-enter as a permanent resident (which did seem a rather silly hoop to have to jump through). So we called the number provided and scheduled an appointment with our nearest immigration center--Nanaimo. That's a way easier trip than Washington. Just three hours, give or take, each way.

So we drove down the night before our appointment, slept in our Westy at a rest stop and had a crazy lady encounter at 3:44 AM when a woman came knocking on our window asking for gas money with some story about her car breaking down and having her 7-year-old daughter with her. Her story changed two or three times as she desperately tried to reiterate why she needed money. (I was inside the van with the phone ready to dial 911 in case things got exponentially weirder.) I was going to just barely mention this, but Roger swears this is the woman who knocked on our window, which I find more than a little creepy.

By 6:30, we were in Nanaimo, looking for a place to eat breakfast. Nothing seemed to open before 7, and we were shocked to realize that the main stretch of Island Highway before downtown Nanaimo offered not a single Denny's or IHOP. (We were shocked, I tell you.) We settled for the only open cafe we found and had muffins (that was the worst pumpkin muffin I've ever had) and hot beverages (my green tea smelled and tasted like freshcut grass).

Getting my passport stamped was almost anti-climactic--but not quite. The woman who processed it all for me (who had a wonderfully literary name) was pleasant and seemed to enjoy listening to the stories we had as answers to her questions. And the next morning I was able to take my paperwork to the government office in Powell River and have a social insurance number issued to me. Now the only thing I can't do in Canada is vote. (Citizenship is another couple years down the road. And no, I don't have to renounce my US citizenship to become a Canadian citizen.)

The next big news: We're buying a house! We had the building inspection done, and even though there were a lot of strange, quirky things, everything was good and sound. Yay! No more paying rent and renting storage space! Our new yard borders on our friend's yard, too, which will be wonderfull handy for all involved, I think. (Especially, since, at the beginning, we may have to borrow his lawnmower.)

These pictures are from the realty site. We're going to remove the pool and use the space for a garden; the walls will help deter the deer, and there's another garden I plan to put in the patch that was, evidently, used as a garden sometime in the last couple years.

We'll be taking possession on July 2, I think, so we'll be able to use the long weekend to move in. (It's Canada Day weekend here, for those of you wondering why Canada would celebrate July 4.)

And the last of the news: we're getting a kitten! That friend with whom we'll be neighbors has a fantastic, friendly cat who just had kittens, and he said I can have the girl (a calico). I went in to look last week--they had just opened their eyes.

No, I don't expect Kitty* will like the kitten very much, but I hope she'll appreciate having another living thing in the house when we're out, and I hope the kitten teaches her to play--right now, she just stares at strings, and she's not good at jumping (we're not sure if it's a hip problem or her thyroid meds), but she is horribly fond of licking to death the catnip toy Iams sent me last year when I wrote to tell them how much Kitty likes their food. (Thanks, Iams!) But when a friend got a puppy, his older dog seemed years younger--and I'd like it if having the kitten around rejuvenates Kitty.

So, that's the news here. And these are especially for you, Mom:

*When we got the cat from Roger's mom, the cat had been called Purr-Purr by a couple of families who'd had her. And both of us hated that name--even though it's apt; all you have to do is look in her direction and she starts purring. Since she also seemed to answer to "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty," calls, we've just been calling her Kitty. We did try to come up with a new name for her, but that seemed too weird. (Sometimes we still call her Purr-Purr when no one else is around to hear.) We promise to come up with a better name for the new kitten.