Where do the ideas originate to create your cakes?
It all begins with a client’s vision – a party theme, a custom look we design to fit their style, vibe, or simply a photo found online. In this case, our client Catherine – who hosts many WOW parties every year – is unique in that she designs her own vision on CAD for us to bring to life in cake. This year was her 20th ANNIVERSARY of this annual event! Catherine sent us computer mockups for three different book stack formats to represent the 20 years of history she’s had hosting this party: the crazy-tall stack of books encapsulated 13 years of party “titles,” the upright bookshelf covered 6 party themes, and the open book represented this year’s 2021 celebration.
Catherine orchestrates multiple incredible parties every year, and people vie for an invitation! The gifts, the entertainment, the decorations, and of course the cakes!
This year saddened my heart because she is home sick and was unable to attend her own affair. With her husband’s career at SPACE-X, it seemed fitting that
Catherine couldn’t be at the party, so she arrived as a ROBOT – gotta love tech-smart people!
she “arrive to the party” as a robot – dedicated as ever to ensure her guests celebrate in style. This woman is UHHHH-MAZING!
The narrow cake design would have been extremely narrow and precarious to stack, so we agreed that part of the 13-tier cake would have to be made using foam cake dummies – the last thing we want is for a cake to topple over during a party!!!
Once we get designs and logistics sorted out, the next step is a LOT OF BAKING by our chefs Jeff & Noel followed by some intense teamwork from the décor team.
The team looks so determined and focused in these photos, how do you keep them motivated on such big projects?
Our fabulous decorating duo Stephanie & Priscilla (who was still fairly new to our kitchen) did stress out a bit with these books. I’m a big fan of boosting people up and showing them how AWESOME their work is and how much clients appreciate their skills & talents; kind words go a long way…as does taking the trash out for the baking team.
The secret ingredient to fondant decor…or is it?
We had so many weddings this same weekend, so I ended up helping my Décor team a great deal on this project.I took on the 13-tier cake so that they could focus on the upright & open book cakes, so it helped them to see me sweating it right alongside them. Getting dirty in the trenches together bonds a team for sure!
How do you transport cakes of this size?
Simply put: VERY CAREFULLY! Special event cakes need WOW factor, and WOW factor usually requires delicate hands and patience to transport and set up. For all of this weight & lineup of boxes, I recruited my wonderful husband Michael to help me with load-in & setup at the Del Mar Racetrack. The 13-tier cake was designed in two sections for easier transport (otherwise it wouldn’t even fit in the door of my vehicle,) but the upright books were the HEAVIEST and most precarious to lift (think TOP HEAVY) – built on a very specific cake board to fit a specific riser, we prayed every time we lifted it during production!
What were some challenges you came across while working on this cake?
The HEAT that week! The buttercream kept melting…always a summer challenge. Even though we were able to cover some of the foam cake dummies the week before, most of the work had to be done within 2 days of the party…in addition to all the other weddings, we’d booked post-Covid that week.
Our chef had SO MUCH TO BAKE for this cake – and our client likes to customize her flavors, vs. following our menu combinations (hey, when someone is spending this much on cakes every year, they deserve a little extra VIP treatment!).
What did it feel like to finish this cake?
Absolutely one of the most ACCOMPLISHED feelings ever is to see a cake like this completed! Even better when we get to witness the party guests snapping photos, excited over which flavor to taste…and of course seeing our HAPPY CLIENTS with their finished product. Other feelings: RELIEF, JOY,PRIDE, and HOPE that the client will love our work.
Elaine Ardizzone is the owner and operator of Sweet Cheeks Baking Company in San Diego, CA. Sweet Cheeks provides spectacular looking and super delicious cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and treats for weddings special celebrations!