• Ashley Margaret Waterman

My First Wedding

Have you ever baked and frosted 120 cupcakes and an 8-inch cake? Have you ever made your own fondant? Have you ever felt so grateful for two people falling in love that simply seeing them look at each other was enough to make you cry?

These are all things that I did and felt this past weekend.

I know you all remember me telling you I would be baking for a wedding. That wedding was October 11. I spent most of the week mentally preparing. I had spreadsheets for stores based on pricing and the amount of gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients available. I had bags full of ingredients and lists of what each bag contained.

The first step toward baking happened on Thursday. I boiled beets and pureed them for my natural red velvet cupcakes (the recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups flour. To make them gluten-free, I used Bob's Red Mill GF All Purpose Baking Flour. This is a flour I feel comfortable substituting cup-for-cup) and made my own fondant. I had never made fondant before. I decided that baking for a wedding would be a good reason to try. It was surprisingly easy and I stored it in a ziplock bag until I was ready to roll it out and fit it to the cake.

I wanted to start baking, but I also wanted to ensure the cupcakes were as fresh as possible. So I waited.

On Friday, I drove to Mead to begin my cupcake baking extravaganza. Sarah has a spacious kitchen and she and her husband agreed to let me mess it up for the day. I arrived at her house around 9:45 a.m., and began to set up. I decided on the baking order earlier that week: 8-inch cake first, then lemon, pumpkin spice, espresso brownie, and finally red velvet cupcakes.

I began with the lemon cake because if I royally screwed up the bride and groom's cutting cake, I would have enough time to fix it. The last time I baked it, the cake came out a bit too dry. Instead of using 3/4 of a cup of sour cream, I used 1 cup of apple sauce. The extra quarter of a cup made the cake springy, moist, and essentially perfect. This was the only non-vegan dessert for the wedding. I didn't want to risk altering the recipe too much by using flaxseed eggs. I wouldn't change anything about the way this cake turned out.

The lemon cupcakes were a bit of a disaster. A recipe from the Babycakes cookbook, I knew I could trust it; however, that didn't stop me from making a gigantic mess. I let the agave and lemon boil over. I was attempting to tweet my baking session instead of watching the pot. Hot, sticky, lemon infused agave covered Sarah's electric stove top. It's a good thing she has a nifty electric range with an easy to clean glass top. I was flustered. I let it cool and cleaned up my mess, but made a huge mistake: I forgot to add the lemon infused agave to my batter! When I realized this, there was already a batch baking in the oven.

I pulled them out, subsequently burning my arm, and attempted to mix the lemon infused agave into the remaining batter and already warm cupcakes. The resulting cake was dense and a bit chewy, but Sarah, my official taste-tester of the weekend, told me they still tasted decent and were worth frosting. Feeling a bit defeated, I moved on to the pumpkin spice.

The whiskey ginger, aka pumpkin spice cakes with whiskey frosting, was my favorite cake of the day. Another Babycakes recipe, these are the perfect pumpkin treat for October. This cake was chosen because Elyse and Chris (the bride and groom) had a whiskey ginger as their signature cocktail. I drank my fair share of the Shugs & E.

The third cake baked was the Prufrock, also known as the chocolate espresso brownie cupcake. This cupcake contains caffeine. Need I say more?

Sarah was hosting a rehearsal dinner that night, so after the Prufrocks were done, I cleaned up and headed to a cafe to work on a few applications. When she was done celebrating with her family, I returned. All I had left to do was bake the red velvet cakes and ice EVERYTHING.

I started baking a triple batch of red velvet (I had extra beet puree and wanted to use as much as possible) and making dairy-free buttercream frosting. I began with the cake.

In case you forgot, this was my first time using fondant. Sarah was a wonderful assistant.

The fondant was a success but I began to grow frustrated with the decorations for the cake. The little pearls just weren't sticking. Sarah suggested we put the cake in the fridge until morning. This was solid advice. The next day, putting a few edible pearls and a red ribbon around the cake was simple.

I had to be at the venue by two. Anxious to put the cupcakes on display, I left Sarah's with music blasting. I arrived at the venue and was greeted by a friend who was also attending the wedding. He works in catering and helped me create the beautiful display of cakes. There were a few cupcakes that toppled over in the box on the way to the venue. He and I enjoyed the casualties while constructing our cupcake masterpiece.

I couldn't have been happier. The baking was done. The frosting was done. The display was ready. All that was left was the wedding. I went to my hotel room and met the two ladies kind enough to share a room with me. We chatted about Elyse and Chris while we finished getting ready. At 4pm, we got to witness the joining of two people as one.

Sitting with a bunch of poets, I watched Chris and the wedding party, including his giant dog Yoda, walk into the space. The announcement to please stand was made. As I stood and turned to see Elyse, the tears were automatic. Not only is she a wonderful friend, but she was painstakingly radiant in her mermaid dress, looking down the aisle at Chris.

At that moment, it was impossible to forget why I agreed to bake for the wedding. I wanted to support two friends who are so much in love with one another and so appreciative of those around them. Baking for them was better than any kind of payment.

The ceremony was short and very sweet. Elyse and Chris wrote their own vows and I could hear their poetic voices as they shared their love. The most memorable line for me was spoken by Elyse: You are the you I have been writing to.

After the ceremony we made our way to the drinks. The guests began drinking some Shugs & E and talking about how beautiful the ceremony was while the newly weds took photos. Around 7 p.m., the announcement to make our way into the reception tent was made. We all stuck our fingers in paint and put a fingerprint on a tree that served as their guestbook. The tables were author-themed. I was at the Kerouac table. I thought the table names were appropriate for the marriage of two writers. The Kerouac table made me think of the first time I heard Chris read as a feature: Neal Cassady's birthday bash in 2013. I was feeling a little emotional when I sat down at the table and thought I was done crying, but then they cut the cake.

The DJ announced that Elyse and Chris were going to cut the cake, and Chris grabbed the mic from him. He began to thank me and I immediately started crying. I can't remember exactly what he said because I was overcome with happiness. I did not need to be thanked, but Elyse and Chris are so considerate that they couldn't let me go unrecognized.

After they cut the cake and guests started to grab cupcakes, I snagged a red velvet and wiped away my tears.

The rest of the evening was filled with laughter, love, and dancing. Though I haven't been to many weddings, I must say this was the best one by far.

For more photos of the cupcake baking extravaganza of 2014,

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