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Sara Cann Headshot

And We All Had a Piece of Cake

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That's me panting as I carried a 20-something pound cake down a hill into a tent. This was precisely 20 seconds before I yelled, "BEHIND!" to clear a path in the thicket of wedding guests. It usually works like magic in a restaurant, but at a party, no one moved. That's when I started yelling, "I've got 20 pounds of cake in my arms, MOVE!" Cake has made me a little crazy.
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A year ago, two friends asked me to make their wedding cake. I eagerly accepted not knowing if I could even meet the task. I hit a few snags throughout the process. There was the time I baked the wrong layer of the cake -- a layer I had already completed the week before. Cue massive frustration. Then there was the week when I focused on cutting the dowels -- or supports for each layer -- but didn't actually assemble the cake until two days before the wedding.

When I did, there were horrifying gaps between each layer, which was not my intention. Cue the 8:30 p.m. run to A.C. Moore, two nights before the wedding to find a solution: Burlap ribbon. Then there was the poisoning scare. The week before the wedding I realized I should double check the flowers I'd be using were edible. We planned to use peonies, but after talking to two toxicologists, I got two conflicting stories. Both agreed that the roots are poisonous, but one toxicologist said using the flowers (not the roots) wouldn't do any harm -- people aren't gnawing on the flowers. The other toxicologist said there were some reports of people feeling nauseous after eating peonies. So I went the safe route. Roses -- all varieties -- are 100 percent edible. And beautiful.

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My last step in this process was figuring out how to transport the cake. It needed to stay frozen so the smooth butter cream frosting wouldn't be damaged. To do that, I bought 20 pounds of dry ice from a cute, little old man who laughed when I asked to buy gloves to handle the dry ice. And I'm really glad the ice man told me that you can't be in a closed area with dry ice for more than 15 minutes or else you can stop breathing. Oh. Great. My five hour car ride to nowhere New Hampshire should be a breeze -- literally.

We drove with the windows open on a rainy morning to avoid passing out from dry-ice poisoning. I stared at Joe (my fiancé and the man behind the wheel) like a hawk looking for the first signs of dizziness or pallid skin. I think I freaked him out after I asked him for the third time, "Do you feel faint?!" Or maybe it was because he had to listen to me squeal every time we hit a bump (which there were a lot of--it was rural New Hampshire). "The cake!" would hiccup out of my mouth after every sharp turn or bump. Full disclosure: I made a rookie mistake carting the cake up to the wedding. I didn't fasten the cake to the box; even worse, I stacked two layers in one box without skewering them so they wouldn't slide. It was a nail-biting car ride, but, luckily, the cake made it in one piece -- without any dents.

I didn't let the bride and groom see the cake until the day of. I was fortunate enough to catch their first response when they finally caught a glance. I think Theresa (the bride) said, "Oh shit!" but I was reading lips so don't quote me. Then their photographer came up to me and told me he was impressed that a rookie made this cake. He said it was better than some of the professional cakes he's seen at other weddings. Boom.

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The funny thing about making a wedding cake is that during the process, I kept saying to myself, "I'm never doing this again," but seeing their excitement after looking at their wedding cake melted away every grueling memory of this process. (Which is good since I'm making my own wedding cake, which is in less than two months. Oh and I haven't started yet. Gulp.)

Before I sign off on this column, I'd like to thank my mom. She stood by me while I was covered in ganache and cursing the cake gods. She helped me bake, frost, and clean up. Plus she let me use her kitchen (don't be jealous, but it has two dishwashers). Second, I'd like to thank my fiancé. He woke up with me at 4:30 a.m. two days before the wedding, and chauffeured this cake up to New Hampshire.