The First Lady of Cakes
I have wanted to blog about this for a very long time but out of respect for the bride and groom, I didn't, I didn't want to make their wedding about something other than them, because really, a wedding should always be about the bride and groom. In November of 2016, I created a wedding cake for the very lovely Kristen Jarvis and Shaun West. If you're not familiar with Kristen, she was the long-time chief of staff to former first lady, Michelle Obama.
A Fourteen-Tier Challenge
So why was THIS cake such a huge deal and why have I always been reticent to really talk about it. Well, for one, I felt at the time that it would have been a breech of trust for the bride and groom if I were to discuss anything relating to their wedding publicly. I was concerned about jeopardizing the safety of the couple and the privacy of their event, and of-course, there was that whole pesky Secret Servicey thing to content with. But, over a year has passed since I had the great pleasure of creating this cake, and I feel now that the dust has settled, it's the perfect time to talk about what it was like to create a wedding cake for an event of this scale and magnitude.
A Spectacular Cake
The cake, which was positioned at the top of a marble staircase, under a crystal chandelier at the Bellevue Conference and Event Center in Virginia.
The Chief of Cakes
First, it should be stated that, No, I did not make a cake for our former first lady, nor have I ever been asked to, although I would very much like to. I made a beautiful cake for a beautiful bride, and that bride just happened to be a former employee of, and close friend to the Flotus, and consequently she was in-attendance at that wedding, with her two daughters.
This is the moment when my internal voice is squealing with delight, "I made a cake that was within feet of American political royalty, AND that cake was quite possibly eaten by the former first lady".
For any cake maker, that would be a big deal, and one that kept me awake for many sleepless nights as I designed, and created this cake. A cake for an event that was not just one of the most important events in the life of a bride and a groom, but one in which they inevitably also felt pressure, and would be judged, because it was so public, and attended by so many important individuals- No Pressure!!
The talented Darryl Wilson of D'Concierge poses with me for a quick snap.
How did I book this cake? I get asked this quite often. The truth is, I think it was either fluke or fate. I'm not sure, but I do know that it was my very lovely friend, owner of Eclectic Fete Funky Luxe Events who referred me to wedding coordinator extraordinaire, Darryl Wilson of D'Concierge - Wedding and Events. Darryl was the planner for this wedding and he was looking for a baker, in Virginia, who could make (in her words) "a bomb-ass cake". Apparently, Sharia thought I was that baker, and after a few phone-calls, Facebook chats, and vetting, I was booked for the gig.
The brief couldn't have been more simple- haha. Create a fourteen tier wedding cake that would WOW. Can you hear my heart palpitations?? I was also asked to create a grooms cake, and a separate cake for the bride (as the majority of the large centerpiece cake was going to be faux). Three cakes, one event.
Cutting the Cake
The bride and groom during the ceremonial cutting of the cake.
Photo by: Pharris Photography
The Wonders of a White Cake
After some initial indecision, we all eventually settled on a stunning all-white design, a combination of classic-, traditional-, and modern-elegance - but above all, stunningly-beautiful. I sent several sketches of designs via video-message to the bride and groom, and the chosen design was a show-stopping cake with a spiral-floral-cascade. The bride chose a sweet and funky "birthday cake flavor" cake with colorful sprinkles, and the groom selected "blue velvet".
It goes without saying that months and months of work went into the execution of the cake. Over 400 hours were spent creating the thousands of sugar-flowers that adorned the cake from top to bottom. Each flower was crafted individually, each petal cut, shaped, and textured for realism. Every rose was built petal-by-petal. Swarovsky crystal brooches were adhered to the centers of flowers, hand-cut fondant lace was placed on each tier (accented with more Swarovsky crystals). It took a full day just to organize and attach the flowers to the cake, which was constructed in two halves and then transported and assembled on site at the venue.
The beautiful bride stands for a picture with the former first lady, Michelle Obama.
Photo by: Pharris Photography
The brides cake was created to be a smaller, simpler version of the reception cake, though at five tiers, it was no-less stunning or grand.
DDay - that's delivery day. I had to rent a refrigerated truck to transport the cake to the venue. I've never driven a truck before. Funny story: I drove for 2 miles before realizing I was in the wrong gear! The cakes were wrapped and loaded, and Sharia drove the 18 miles with me to the venue. You never realize how slowly time can feel when you drive 18 miles with a 14 tier cake in the back of a truck. Every bump in the road felt like a mountain, every pothole felt like a canyon. Every turn, felt like a stroke waiting to happen. It took almost an hour and half to drive the relatively short distance and finally we arrived at the venue, The Bellevue Conference and Event Center. If you have not seen this venue, you should, it's absolutely the most beautiful wedding venue I've ever worked.
The Bride's Cake
A smaller version of the large cake was created for the bride. It featured 4 tiers of birthday cake flavor cake.
The Cake to End All Cakes
The centerpiece cake was to be placed at the top of a marble staircase, with a crystal chandelier hanging from above. One thing I recall among the hustle and bustle was remembering how beautiful the floral arrangements were. Mauve roses are my absolute favorite flowers! After several hours of assembly, the cake was complete and I think I may have even shed a tear myself as I stepped back and took pictures.
This cake was the cake that both broke me and made me. This was a once-in-a-lifetime type cake and will always be a very special memory for me. It was challenging and rewarding in ways I cannot describe and it also led me to meet some wonderful and talented people. Darryl the event planner- who's work I have followed in awe. The wonderful dress designer, Pharris Photography - the list really goes on. Though I will never know if Michelle Obama ate my cake, it really doesn't matter. When I booked this cake I was very concerned with the Prestige of the event but a year later all that really remains are the memories, and those are something I will always treasure.
The cake featured thousands of individually-crafted sugar-flowers, crystal-accented lace, and Swarovsky crystal brooches.