This past weekend was spent just outside of New York City with friends and family celebrating my sister and her husband's wedding. My gift to the happy couple was their wedding cupcakes which I baked in the groom's mom's kitchen in the days before the ceremony.
Originally, I hadn't planned on making the cupcakes since the wedding was out of town, but there was a mix up with the venue that left the couple cakeless and I was happy to have an excuse to design a pretty cupcake tower for them. My plan was to decorate the majority of the cupcakes with a simple flower and sugar pearls, then add a small amount of elaborately decorated accent cupcakes to make the tower more interesting.
I considered completely covering the accent cupcakes in sugar pearls and mini flowers, or using icing to pipe roses onto them while the rest of the cupcakes got plain swirls. Eventually, I settled on giant peonies made of gumpaste after seeing the flower choices for Vanessa's bouquet.
For the peonies, I turned to the wonderful tutorial at Cake Journal for guidance as well as a number of Youtube videos for tips on shaping the petals. The first peony I made took a ridiculous amount of time and I had focused so much on making the edges of the petal thin and delicate that there was no way it would survive the flight to NYC. In fact, I chipped it a number of times just moving it to a safe spot to dry. Later, I dropped it which sort of solved the issue of how to transport it.
Over the next three months I made batch after batch of peonies, trying to keep a balance between making the petals thick enough to be durable while keeping them thin enough to be realistic. It really helped to make my own petal drying molds out of tinfoil scraps. Each tinfoil mold was slightly different shaped which kept the petals from looking too uniform and gave the finished flowers a more realistic look.
The original goal was to make 60 flowers to account for a 50% breakage during transport, but in the end I only made it to 42. As time went on I was able to make them at a faster pace, but each flower still required more than two hours to complete not accounting for the drying time in between steps.
A couple of times my boyfriend questioned if I had maybe taken on a liiiitle bit too much, to which my reply was NEVER! I love elaborate projects, and had previously made my brother's wedding cupcakes so I was thrilled to have a reason to make another fun design come to life.
For the non-accent cupcakes I went with a couple of small, simple flowers and some sugar pearls. Compared to the peonies, making these little guys was a breeze. In only two hours I was able to make and paint close to 200 of them. Once dried, they were so durable I had no worries they'd break in transit. I figured even if 75% of the peonies broke during the trip, the little flowers were still enough to make the cupcake tower wedding-worthy.
To transport the flowers I wrapped each peony in a ridiculous amount of toilet paper and packed them in tupperware cupcake holder trays I found at the dollar store. The little flowers got tucked around the peonies which were then topped with even more toilet paper and the lid. Next, I prayed to the gumpaste flower gods to protect them and guard the containers from unnecessary jostling and bumps before packing them in my mom, dad, and boyfriend's carry-on bags.
Once we arrived, I met Edye (the groom's mom) and she graciously let me take over her entire kitchen for the next two days to bake, ice, and decorate 144 cupcakes. I had decided in advance that for ease of execution I would only be making chocolate cupcakes with either a mocha-rum icing or a plain vanilla icing piped with a 1M tip.
The recipe was my usual no-fail one bowl chocolate cake and each time I use it for an event I love it even more. Mixes together quickly, and the cake never ever dries out. No joke, it seems like it gets more moist and flavorful the longer you leave it. Nobody wants dry cake, and with this recipe I never have to worry about that.
The actual baking and icing of the cupcakes went seamlessly. Only making one flavor plus skipping topper cake really cut down on the time and everything was done in a matter of hours.
I didn't unwrap the peonies until the day of the wedding, and much to my delight only one peony was too broken to use. A few had a petal chipped here and there, but overall they were unharmed during their airplane adventures. I'd like to think it was the force of my will (and my mom's will.. she was pretty intent on delivering them in one piece) that held them together.
They were attached to the cupcake via a small piece of wire...
..then arranged amongst the other cupcakes on a tower I bought off of Etsy and had shipped to NYC beforehand.
Sorry for all of the poor-quality cell phone shots of the cupcake tower. With the sugar flowers in tow I didn't have any room to drag my camera bag along with me so I had to rely on my phone.
With the cupcakes all set up we went back to the hotel so I could get in my bridesmaid dress and take part in the ceremony.
The ceremony was beautiful and their vows had us all crying. My sister and her husband did a number of years of long distance before finally being reunited at the same medical school in NYC and it was touching to see how strong their relationship has stayed despite the time spent living in separate countries.
The couple loved their cupcakes, and the wedding reception turned into one huge, crazy party with everyone dancing, laughing...
So congrats Mark and Vanessa! All the love to both of you and thanks for hosting such an awesome event.