Thursday, October 27, 2011

Star Wars: Aries' Trilogy

This post is dedicated to all you Star Wars Fanatics out there! Guarantee, there will be a few Princess Leias, Darth Vaders, Luke Skywalkers, etc. etc. roaming the streets this weekend in celebration of Halloween. Maybe this will inspire you with your costume.

This year I was asked to make some cupcakes for Aries' 3rd birthday. Last year I made his 2nd birthday cake with Yo Gabba Gabba and Disney Characters....this time I got to sculpt Aries' favorite Star Wars characters. 
My initial sketches

Storm Trooper
Boba Fett
Darth Maul
Darth Vader
I also made some colorful light sabers and made Aries' name using the same lettering as the Star Wars logo. R2D2 was added later because 5 characters was a weird odd number.

In case you haven't seen or come across it yet, here's a throwback of one of my favorites and my first Star Wars cake request....
Death Star Cake
I hope you enjoyed this post. No matter what you decide to dress up as this weekend, please have a safe and memorable Halloween folks....stay away from the Dark Side. Thank you for stopping by.

~Abs of Cakes~

Friday, October 14, 2011

MoJo Wedding

Earlier this month on October 2, 2011, my dear friends Monica and Jojo (MoJo), celebrated their one year wedding anniversary. I had the privilege of making their wedding cakes...Yes, in PLURAL! Not one, not two, but THREE different wedding cakes!!! This was a HUGE opportunity for me to not only gain experience and build my cake portfolio, but my work would be seen and tasted by over 300 of MoJo's wedding guests! They also hired the very talented photographer Ja Tecson to take photos of their special day, which included my cakes. At that point, it was the biggest and most important cake order I've had. To say the very least, I put A LOT of pressure on myself...and I learned A LOT from this experience!  So much went into this one order that I honestly didn't know where to begin...which is probably why it has taken me over a year to post about it! Here is my attempt to break it all down.

Months prior to their wedding, MoJo came in for a cake tasting where we also discussed some design ideas. Being that their wedding was located atop the hills (er, mountains) of Malibu, Monica had the idea of doing three "smaller" cakes as opposed to one huge cake...for transportation purposes.  I agreed and came up with the concept of one cake representing Monica the Bride, one representing Jojo the Groom, and the third representing their union. They loved it, chose three flavors, and so the wedding cake designing began!

(1) Vanilla Cake with Mango filling and Cream Cheese Frosting ["Bride" Cake]
(2) Chocolate Cake with Strawberry filling and Chocolate Ganache ["Groom" Cake]
(3) Banana Cake with Nutella Frosting [MoJo Union Cake]

Nothing screams "Bride" more than a wedding dress! Monica sent me this sketch of her dress design and I was instantly inspired by the lace and embroidered details. I wanted to capture the feminine shape and detail in cake form while keeping its simplicity and elegance.

Jojo is a proud Officer of the US Military (ARMY). During the ceremony, he wore this Uniform, then changed into a suit for the reception. Monica sent me images of his medals to incorporate into the "Groom" cake. It was a nice special detail that many of their fellow military guests enjoyed.

I wanted the third cake to represent the Union of the happy couple...the "MoJo" cake. Inspiration for the cake came from the wedding's details. There were three distinct elements that I incorporated into this cake design: Capiz (a mother of pearl shell decoration from the Philippines representing their culture), Gerber Daisies (flowers chosen for the wedding), and the color Teal (the color of the bridesmaids dresses and wedding decor).

Design is a Process:
Before any baking begins for me, I need a game plan. That means SKETCHES! Many many sketches. Although the designs evolved a few times, they helped me stay organized and focused which was important for such a big order. Here's a peek to the drawing board...(Sorry for the low res photos. They are sketches afterall).
Typically, round shapes represent curves and femininity while square forms represent angles and masculinity. Thus the round "Bride" cake and squared "Groom" cake.
For the most part, the Bride and Groom cakes each stayed true to their original game plans. The MoJo cake on the other hand, changed quite a few times...(even during the day of the wedding, but shhh, don't tell that to Monica and Jojo).
Let the baking begin! I reserved the WHOLE week to work on these cakes, and trust me, I needed every. single. day. My oven and Ethel (my KitchenAid Stand Mixer) was put to work! Overtime even! With so much production, everything had to be made in a timely manner so as to keep the cakes fresh with time to decorate. Each cake required different elements, techniques, and ingredients, which meant each had to be treated differently.  
I told you my oven was working Overtime.
While the cakes were either baking or chilling in the refrigerator, I worked on the embellishments. I used royal icing to create various "lace" pieces to be used on the Bride cake. The beauty of royal icing is that you can pipe out designs that will eventually dry to a hardened state.  These pieces are rather fragile and should be handled delicately. I made extras and boxed them up to be placed on site.
Royal Icing was also used to create the medallion pieces for the Groom cake. I did my best to recreate the honorable details in sugar form.
Pieces of Jojo's decorated US Army uniform.
For the third cake I worked with gumpaste to create flowers (teal gerber daisies to be exact) as well as white chocolate to create flat circular pieces that replicated Capiz shells.
Monica and Jojo did not consider themselves a traditional "bride-and-groom-cake-topper" type, nor were they fans of monograms to top their cake. With that said, I decided to add a topper tradition with an "Abs of Cakes" touch. I decided to make chocolate dipped strawberries that did exactly what the "Bride" and "Groom" cakes did, except smaller and on their "Union" cake. 
I did a few practice runs to get the best looking strawberry.
Okay, so the cakes were baked. Details completed. All that was left to do was assemble, right??? If only it was that easy. I would say at that point, only half my work was done... 

Obstacles along the way:
(1) The HEAT - The Monday before the wedding (9/27/10) marked the hottest day EVER RECORDED in Downtown LA. Heat and cake don't mix! Heat also means ants...don't worry, no ants got to the cakes. But they were a nuisance that I had to worry about.
(2) Limited refrigerator space - At the time I only had one refrigerator to work with which had to store three cakes as well as food for my home. I had to be VERY strategic with the limited space. Did I mention it was a HOT week?!
(3) Going Solo - This is a tall order for one person to tackle. Although I had some help from my cousin and chef Kenneth, there was a lot of work to be completed....which meant very little sleep.
(4) The Delivery -  This is always THE MOST nerve racking part of an order....especially a wedding cake order...for THREE cakes! They barely fit into my car. Upon loading the fragile cakes, I had to avoid slipping on the wet ground....YES, IT RAINED! Apparently, the evaporation from the week's heat caused it to pour down the morning of the wedding. But luckily, the wedding's venue was high above those rain clouds to be affected by any precipitation.
(5) The Wedding Location - Although the rain was not a factor here, the excursion through bumpy roads and up the Malibu mountain was giving me heart palpitations. Our cars had to be at a good inclined slope before reaching the majestic mansion, which meant my cakes had to endure a good tilt before reaching it's final destination.

I am fortunate to have some really great friends that helped me with the delivery. [Shout out to John Banawa and Ritchie Ramirez!] Aside from manual labor like lifting and driving, they really helped calm my nerves. I can't thank them enough! We got the cakes to the wedding site with some damage, so I had to think on my toes, work quickly, make the proper adjustments.
Adding some final touches to the Bride cake.
I love how the details of the Bride cake came out. Of the three, this was my favorite and least fussiest to work with.
The messy drippy look of the chocolate ganache on the Groom cake was deliberate. I didn't want it to look pristine and perfect, but rather spontaneous and a bit flawed. The idea was to give it a ruggedness playing off the concept of masculinity. 

Overall, I'm grateful for this order and all the hurdles I had to jump. I learned so much from it. After all that was said and done and all those crazy obstacles, the cakes made it to the table. Hallelujah! 

The rest of these photos are from the eye and lens of Ja Tecson. Thank you for your fabulous shots!
The Florist really pimped the table out! His flowers really added that punch of brightness and really brought the cakes together. Also, a special thanks to Anne Ramis for creating those framed signs for each cake. Thank you, Thank you!
With the happy couple....that's right, they used a SWORD for their cake cutting! Pretty awesome, I know!
Hands down, the MoJo wedding was the most beautiful wedding that I've ever witnessed, been a part of, or attended. It was truly a memorable day for not only the lovely couple, but for their family and friends. Thank you for trusting me to make the cakes for your special day! Congratulations on your One Year Wedding Anniversary! Hope you two had fun traveling around Europe!

~Abs of Cakes~
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