Of all the pieces that have to come together to make a wedding these days, I never would have thought I’d get two posts out of the baked goods.
But when I got to the end of my previous wedding post about the cake, I realized I’d done well over a thousand words without ever getting to the part where we actually bought one.
So here we are.
To begin with, I must tell you that, after keeping it bottled up for 27 years, the bride, my daughter Casey, recently shocked us by coming out about a lifelong dream she’s had of a wedding cake from Riviera, which is a bakery near where we used to live.* We really didn’t see that coming. We still love her, of course, because she’s our daughter no matter what her preferences might be, but I have to admit that my immediate reaction was to suggest she aspire to greater things in life. However, I put all the wisdom of my 60 years to work and kept that thought to myself.
The Riviera Bakery (also known as The Whimsical Bakehouse), is famous far and wide (or at least in Westchester, NY) (or at least to Casey) for its ability to produce elaborately decorated cakes without the use of fondant.
Five years ago, if you had, in a misguided attempt to engage me in a conversation about baking, uttered the word “fondant” to me, I might have thought you were talking about some mutant form of Swiss cheese dip. But I know now, from having accidentally stepped into rooms in which Casey and/or my wife Barbara were watching cake competitions on TV, that fondant is kind of like the cake equivalent of spray paint.
It’s a sort of rubbery, plastic-y, supposedly edible substance that comes in different colors, and you just lay it out over a cake instead of using one of those flat thingies to scoop icing out of a tub and spread it on. To me, the only difference is there’s no flat thingie to lick afterward, but Casey, an excellent baker herself, is a purist, and firmly believes that… well, let’s just say she believes that if Alex Rodriguez was a baker, he’d use fondant.
Although fondant makes it easier to execute intricate cake designs, Casey steadfastly stands by her opinion that it’s better with buttercream. Van Gogh didn’t paint-by-numbers, she thinks, and cake designers shouldn’t fake it with fondant.
So Barb and Casey were off to the Riviera… bakery.
Liv Hansen, the cake designer there, sat with them, discussed designs, and sketched out a mouthwatering, multi-colored monument to matrimony some four buttercreamed tiers tall.
They asked for a price and were surprised to learn that, unlike most specialty cake providers, Riviera does not charge by the slice, which, as I mentioned in my previous post, is a practice that makes no sense to me. It’s like pricing toilet paper by how many times you sit on the bowl (some slices are bigger than others).
Also, unlike some providers, Riviera does not assemble the cake onsite. Actually, Liv asked Barb and Casey if they wanted to pick up the cake themselves, and, in one of the few instances in this whole wedding planning process in which Casey and Barb instantly agreed on something, they vehemently said no. Casey’s sense of humor is too sophisticated to appreciate the kind of hackneyed sitcom cake calamity one might expect, and Barb wished to eliminate any possibility of owning an SUV with buttercreamed upholstery.
So they contracted for a cake to be designed and delivered, and, as we leave Riviera with its confection to bake, I have a confession to make.
The day after Barb and Casey ordered the Riviera cake, all four of us (groom Alex included) went for a cake tasting in Westport, CT, keeping a previously-made appointment. This was one of the few times I went along on one of these wedding excursions. To rationalize this post-purchase expedition, Barb said we were going for the purpose of comparison, and I said I was going for the purpose of writing about it in this post.
But also we were going to get to eat cake!
The chef seated us at a small table, each with a glass of water, a plate and a fork. Then she brought over a platter with 16 tiny frosted cakes in four varieties, each about the diameter of a silver dollar (the old ones, with Eisenhower, not the ones everyone mistook for a quarter), and I wondered briefly if it would be sufficient to just stack the 16 wee cakes on top of each other for the wedding and call it a day (difficult to slice, perhaps, but all those tiers!).
We were supposed to taste the four different cakelets with a palate-cleansing sip of water between each one. Alex asked if it was like a wine tasting and, if so, where were we supposed to spit out the cake?
After sampling all four, I came to the horrifying realization that I really don’t like cake that much. I mean, yeah, I’m fine with a brownie, or a nice Ebinger’s Blackout Cake (if they still exist somewhere in a utopian world), or even a carrot cake with cream cheese icing. But all this buttercream-laden, mousse-filled stuff was too sweet for me.
The cake lady then began sketching out a 5-tiered cake in an aquatic theme (because the wedding will be at the Norwalk Aquarium), and I kind of felt sorry for her going through all this work when we’d already bought a cake. But then I thought we could still cancel that other cake because this place did have some advantages, like having to transport this huge thing a much shorter distance (not to mention an amazing 5th tier!), and this nice lady did, in fact, say she could make Casey a fully fondant-free tour de force, so I was all prepared to huddle with my people and make an argument for Westport.
But then she gave us the price. By the slice.
It came to about double what Riviera was charging. So Casey would get the Riviera cake of her dreams.
But I still wish she’d raise the bar a bit on her life goals.
See you soon.
*I’ve been submitting these wedding posts to Casey in advance in case I offend someone excessively, and she sometimes asks me to make changes, because the person I usually offend excessively is her. In this case, however, she has taken issue with Barbara’s and my recollection of events, so, in the interest of fairness, here is her rebuttal:
To make me sound less insane, I have TOTALLY mentioned always wanting a Rivera cake, because of the full buttercream, but you and mom apparently have a complete mental block about it. I have mentioned it before….many times….I can promise you both that.
I guess she may be right. But, really, shouldn’t her aspirations in life not involve frosting?