That One Time I Made My Best Friend’s Wedding Cake

Last year, I considered making my own wedding cake…

… which is maybe the dumbest idea, ever!

I gave up on that almost immediately. However, just six months after my wedding, my bestie Margie was getting hitched. Making my friend’s wedding cake? Now that sounded doable.

I asked her if I could; she was totally game.

I had a lot of things working for me: Marge’s wedding was small (only 46 people), local and she didn’t really want a traditional tiered cake.

However, I suck at baking.

I love cooking. You can wing cooking. Baking requires precision, patience and the ability to follow instructions. I lack all of those things. Zoe Francois, on the other hand, knows what she’s doing. She’s a CIA-trained pastry chef, the lady behind the brilliant Artisan Bread in Five series, and also my neighbor. So I emailed her and asked if she’d help me.

God bless her for saying yes.

I got this... maybe.
I got this… maybe.

She then asked me: Do you know what you want to make? 

As a non-baker and infrequent dessert eater, my ideas top out at apple crisp and English toffee. But this was for a wedding! I didn’t want it to be just good, I wanted it to be fabulous. Partially because I love my Margie, but also because I am a show-off.

We talked flavor profiles, and I came up with pretzel-chocolate-salty-caramel and tart-lemon-berry. Zoe then whipped up some recipes, one inspired by this masterpiece. I thought: WOWZA! How in the hell am I going to pull this off? But that is why we need guides like Zoe in life; an expert to push you further than you’d ever think of going on your own.

Zoe documented the process expertly on her blog (recipes included!).

Something she didn’t mention: I was terrified that I was doing everything wrong. And not just things I had never done before (like whip up a meringue), but things I’d done hundreds of times, like measuring a cup of flour. I have tons of confidence doing something alone, but as soon as their’s an audience, I’m second guessing myself.

Zoe is great and nothing but encouraging, so within an hour, I found my stride… which wasn’t exactly baking like a pastry chef, but I was getting things done without overthinking it too much.

Meringues are pretty darn easy to make if you have a KitchenAid mixer!
Meringues are pretty darn easy to make if you have a KitchenAid mixer!
Perfectly imperfect nests of meringue.
Perfectly imperfect nests of meringue.
The mess is so pretty, it's almost like we planned it!
The mess is so pretty, it’s almost like we planned it!

I’d like to tell you that making this wedding dessert was easy-peasy.

But that is a lie.

Each individual component wasn’t difficult. However, when you add it all up, it’s like holy crap. We made from-scratch lemon curd and strawberry sauce, meringues, a salted caramel sauce, three sheet pans of cake, ganache, pretzel toffee (plus a different pretzel variation that we ended up scrapping all together). It was ambitious!

Adding delicious cream to thin out the ganache.
Adding delicious cream to thin out the ganache.
You never know when you might need a blowtorch. 
You never know when you might need a blowtorch.
Here's how you get pretzel toffee crumble to stick.
Here’s how you get pretzel toffee crumble to stick.
I know you're eying those cake scraps. Yes, we ate them.
I know you’re eying those cake scraps. Yes, we ate them.
Ready for the ganache.
Ready for the ganache.
Messyin' up Zoe's kitchen.
Messyin’ up Zoe’s kitchen.

Here’s the final product:

Ta-da! Pretty wedding desserts!
Ta-da! Pretty wedding desserts!
Pavlova with lemon curd and strawberry sauce.
Pavlova with lemon curd and strawberry sauce.
Chocolate pretzel crunch cakes.
Chocolate pretzel crunch cakes.

Now all I had left to do was deliver the goods.

Eeeeeeee!

What if the car was too warm and melted stuff? Or we got rear-ended? Or went over a bumpy road and the cakes toppled over? And the scariest thing: What if the kitchen screwed up the desserts I’d spent the last two days working on?

My helper (aka the husband) and I got everything there in one piece. The kitchen plated the desserts exactly as I’d asked… even though the chef wanted to top my precious chocolate cakes with caramel sauce in a latticed fashion.

I said no way, Jose!

Easily my most panicked moment of the experience.

The bride and groom adored the desserts, as did their guests. A few even said it was the best dessert they’d ever had at a wedding. I have to admit, I was blown away at myself. Just goes to show that sometimes all you need to do is try*.

* And maybe have a friend like Zoe in your back pocket.

* * *

Huge thanks to Zoe, as well as photographer Matt Lien. How great are those photos? Next time he takes my pic, I vow to not be wearing a big, boxy sweatshirt.

Not my first ever Hey Eleanor kitchen escapade. There was the time I made mussels at home. Also, a rack of lamb and dove nuggets (from doves I’d hunted myself!). Cooking/baking is a great way to push your comfort zone. You probably won’t die, the food will likely turn out better than you think, and if you screw up, you can always order a pizza!

Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates.

I completely respect your privacy.

You might also like

Comments (11)

  • Kathleen Anderson 3 years ago Reply

    Nice work Molly! The desserts are beautiful and look delicious. I am also a reluctant baker (everything is too precise), but recently discovered a perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’m so proud of myself for baking something so delicious and have made several batches in order to prove to Will and friends that I can bake. That sweet victory is nothing compared to this one though! You should be very proud.

    molly mogren katt 3 years ago Reply

    Aw, thanks Kit! I don’t know if I could recreate these recipes again, but they worked the first time!

    I want this chocolate chip cookie recipe you speak of.

    Kathleen Anderson 3 years ago

    I wanted to keep it secret, BUT…

    http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/01/chocolate-chip-cookies/

    molly mogren katt 3 years ago

    IN!

  • marge 3 years ago Reply

    The desserts were beautiful and SO DELICIOUS. I can’t thank you enough for taking on the challenge for my ultimate benefit. The best part was I literally didn’t have to do anything after I made the decision! Molly only asked me one question – a sort of flavor profile choice and in the end she went with TWO options so we go it all. Totally added to our awesome day 🙂

    molly mogren katt 3 years ago Reply

    Hands-off wedding decisions are the best! It’s kind of how I felt with the bachelorette party you planned for me. I said location, you did the rest. THANKS!

  • Tom Stack 3 years ago Reply

    Hey Molly,

    This blog is great! Love the concept of doing something out of your comfort zone. Very creative and extremely funny. You have talent coming out your ears! I forgot to thank you for that unbelievable dessert…….(I had one of each..is that wrong?).

    Tom

    molly mogren katt 3 years ago Reply

    Thanks, Tom! And I’m glad you had them both… so long as you cleaned your plate.

  • Ashley 3 years ago Reply

    Those look incredible!! Great job. I’ve never made meringues…well, I’ve made meringue for pies but never on their own. Now I need an excuse to bake!

  • Jim Stack 3 years ago Reply

    Hey Moll,

    Glad I spied this. I think it was Todd Davis, who knows his way around the menu, said that the chocolate dessert was not only best wedding dessert ever, but best in any setting, country, you-name-it. He was blown away. And this was next morning. No Merlot talking. I was in sort of a distracted haze during wedding dinner and didn’t attend to the desserts as I wanted. However tasted both and loved em, and damned proud to remind my table-mates that YOU made them! I agree with you, cooking is kids stuff compared to baking. I haven’t even bought a Kitchen Aid mixer knowing how reluctant I am to get serious about baking. It’s chemistry, precise measurement, exact temperatures, cooking … OY! I get anxiety! I’m going to forward this link to our friend Barb Z. who’s a good baker, unafraid of it, and who’s Mom did baking for a school for years. Thanks to Zoe too. What a night!

    molly mogren katt 3 years ago Reply

    Thanks for sharing that, Jimbo! It’s funny– when you’re very involved in a wedding (for example, your daughter’s) you feel like you’re so present in the moment… and the next day it all feels like a fog (even if you don’t drink!).

    I did get a KitchenAid mixer as a wedding gift and have used it quite a few times, but only once for baking. It’s great for mashed potatoes.

Leave a Reply