October 1, 2013

I Freakin' Love Weddings!

I had the opportunity to help create a little bit of magic for a dear friend’s wedding last weekend…  She had asked me in the spring about baking cupcakes for her wedding, and of course I wanted to help her out with it – cupcakes are my specialty!!  I also wanted to be able to give her a unique gift… something that couldn't be bought.  (I’m all about the uniqueness, if you can’t tell from the other posts here)
Tara had shown me a couple of products on Etsy that she really liked – they were cake stands that were made from slices of logs – very rustic in their composition, but still so beautiful!  I immediately scoffed at the price of these ‘handcrafted’ cake stands ($80 plus for some dead trees? Come on.)  So I told her, “Oh, I can totally make those for you – don’t you worry!!”   Never mind the fact that I don’t have a woodpile at my house since I don’t have a wood-burning fireplace, and I’m not exactly a lumberjack… I just happen to be a creative and cheap frugal person, which I totally attribute to my parents’ teachings over the years… If I am the Princess of Upcycling, then they are the King and Queen of Resourcefulness. 
Fast forward a month or two from our talk about tree cake stands… I arrived home from work one Friday and found my prized Buckeye tree lying in the yard.  Not even the whole tree… the entire canopy had come down, but the trunk just stood there, mocking me.  After I let our a string of expletives that would make a sailor cringe, I busted out my junky little electric chainsaw and stripped the limbs off the main trunks so we could haul everything away… I mean, what the heck was I going to do with this stupid tree??   Can’t take buckeye nuts off it anymore… can’t use it for smoking barbecue because it doesn't burn well…  
**insert light-bulb-over-head moment here**  
My dad had just bought himself a fancy-pants new Stihl chainsaw, which he said “cut through logs like butter”.  I decided his chainsaw needed a good test, so I asked if he could come over and help me with the tree dissection.  Sure thing!  He brought over his chainsaw that weekend and I had him slice up some discs of the tree – about an inch and a half thick, from different limbs/trunk pieces so I had an assortment of diameters to choose from for my next project. He didn't ask what I was making… he never asks anymore, since he knows it’s either a hare-brained idea, or it’s positively brilliant.   Mostly hare-brained, but I digress…

If you’ve ever cut up buckeye wood, you know that it’s very lightweight – think balsa wood.  It is horrible for really anything to do with construction, but it’s fabulous for little projects because it’s light enough to carve, cut, shape or even bend, to a degree.   I didn’t know if the buckeye wood would work (say that 3 times fast), but I wanted to give it a try.  I placed the wood discs and an assortment of cut branches into a little portable greenhouse box that I have in my yard.  It cooked the crap out of my vegetable seedlings earlier this year, so I knew it would be ideal for “kiln-drying” the wood pieces!   I left the pieces to roast in the sun for a few weeks, then I assembled the stands using nothing but a drill, some drywall screws, and some wood putty.  They were rustic, alright… but just what I had in mind!
In addition to the dozens and dozens of cupcakes, I also made Tara and Allan a special cake tier to cut… I couldn't bear the idea of them looking back at wedding pics down the road and thinking,  “Why didn't we have a REAL cake instead of just cupcakes?”  I remember watching an episode of that “Four Weddings” show on TLC one afternoon… the bride and groom had met while working at a pizza shop (or maybe it was their first date – whatever) and they thought they were just so clever and used a pizza to cut for their photos, then had an ice cream sundae buffet for guests.  Idiots.  All I could think of when I was watching this was how mortified they will be when they’re thinking back later about how they were trying to be unique and clever and they looked like morons on national TV…Now, Tara and Allan’s wedding wasn’t televised (and they certainly wouldn’t have looked like morons anyway!) but I still thought it still might be nice for them to have a “real” cake for cutting.
For their cake, I prepared a three-layer 6” round tier of carrot cake, and I decorated it with some edible maple leaves made from tinted confectioner’s coating – basically white candy “bark” with vanilla flavoring. Tara didn't believe me at first that the leaves were edible until I shoved one in her mouth (what are friends for?) and her now-husband didn’t believe that I made them.. but I did!  
The leaves are really pretty easy once you get the hang of it.. messy as hell, but they’re gorgeous when they’re done!  All you do is take a silk leaf of your choice, wash and dry well, and spray with non-stick spray such as canola oil.   Prepare your candy coating or chocolate as directed, then dab it all over one side of each leaf with a pastry brush or with your finger in about a 1/8” thick layer.  I like to mix colors in a marbled pattern - think fall leaves turning.  Place on waxed paper-lined trays, and refrigerate until set.  Peel the silk leaves from the chocolate once set, then you can continue to refrigerate the completed leaves for up to a month – just store in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper.   I waited until I arrived at the venue before I placed the leaves on the cake, which was frosted with vanilla buttercream.  I find that simpler is usually better when you're trying to make something pretty and classy. 

I've included some of my own photos from the wedding, but I also wanted to share the photographer’s blog since she did such a beautiful job capturing the moment! 

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