This is what I’ve learnt from making the cake for my cousin Ambrose’s wedding last month. No matter what you wear or how stylishly you’re turned out, a wedding cake maker will only emerge from the occasion looking like a drenched chicken.
This is what happened.
Ambrose and his adorable wife, Wendy, had wanted a really pretty, romantic cake similar to the one I did for C&A. I threw them a few ideas and was thrilled when they picked this one — a confetti of small flowers scattered down three tiers — because I’ve been dying to make this design for a long time.
But when the wedding day arrived, I found myself feeling really nervous, because:
1. It’s the first time that all of my family and relatives — including my dad and brothers — saw me making an actual wedding cake. They’ve heard about my bizarre hobby for some time now. But they finally clapped eyes on one such creation — the reason I’ve been neglecting my child and getting my husband to do takeaways this past year.
2. A lot of the finishing touches had to be done on-site. The tiers can’t be fully adorned with the flowers until they’re at the venue or they’ll be damaged when they’re stacked up.
3. Finally, this design requires the ultimate in creative artistry — how to make like the flowers were scattered naturally? Like the wind did it?
This cake would take a lot of work so I started early in the week. I took one day to bake the chocolate cake layers, and another day to make the pastillage flowers using seven different cutters. But the flowers took a shorter time than I’d expected. After hunching over my dining table for just three hours, I had at least 300 blossoms ready to go. I even had time to watch TV and fix dinner.
The day before the wedding, I realised why the flowers took such a short time to do — I didn’t make enough, fool! The 300 blossoms weren’t even enough to fill up the top tier! And it was already evening time!
Gripped by panic, I yelled at my husband Z that disaster has struck. “N’eh mind, I help,” replied my hero. Promptly, he sat down and started rolling out the pastillage and pressing the cutters. But he’s not doing it right. The flowers came up looking like bug excrement. This is a mountain-biker who conquers slopes and dirty terrain at the speed of lightning — five flowers a minute is not his thing.
So he gave up and asked Tinah, my dad’s maid who was babysitting En En for the day, to take over. So she pressed the baby to him, sat down and started cutting. She was doing a great, great job, but after 10 minutes, she suddenly looked up and said: “Miss, I have to go home.” It was 7pm and Cinderella had to go home to cook dinner for my dad.
So I was back to being a one-woman factory. Oh, but I adapted fast. Fuelled by desperation, I was cutting out them flowers as if I had a robotic arm. After about an hour, my table was strewn with delicate little flowers, which all started to dry up nicely.
The next day, I arrived at the venue, Au Petit Salut in Dempsey, and got straight to work at the dining hall. The top two tiers were already covered with flowers, so I only needed to patch up the seams for that natural, wind-swept look.
Butofcos, trouble would strike again. My carefully laid pink fondant started to drag downwards and bulge at the bottom. Serves me right for filling the cakes with white chocolate mousse. It was probably too soft and got soaked into the cakes; the cakes lost their height so the fondant dragged. Next time, just be like everyone else and use buttercream, fool!
So not only did I have to stick on, like, 1 million flowers, I also had to keep snipping at the surplus fondant that kept creeping downwards. I could feel sweat flooding my armpits, my hairdo collapsing and my mascara melting. To add to the chaos, my relatives started arriving (on time! Who arrives at weddings on time?!) and plying me with questions like, “You made this? When? How? Can you eat it? What’s it made of? Where’s your baby? Where’s your husband? Where are you sitting?” Notice, that not one person said the cake looked nice. So my sweat glands reacted in accordance.
Then, like a flash flood, the entire wedding party arrived and filled up the dining hall. I wasn’t even near done so I wheeled the cake into some dark corner near the kitchen so I could work in peace. By the time I finally completed the cake, I had lost my fight against moisture. I found myself occasionally clapping my knees because, you know, I was also sweating where the sun don’t shine.
Thankfully, W&A decided to cut the cake before lunch was served. I almost wanted to punch the air in jubilation when they sank in the knife — because even if it toppled, the fondant slid off and the flowers exploded — it can’t hurt me now.
But the best thing about this experience was Wendy’s reaction when she first saw the cake. My gorgeously bubbly cousin-in-law, who is from Hong Kong, exclaimed: “Ngor hou jung yee er!” (I really like it!). And instantly, it was as if the wet patches around my armpits got put under the instant-handdryer. That reaction alone, my friends, is worth being a drenched chicken for. Welcome to the family!