Just Desserts

Even though this blog is no longer “The Daily Binge,” obviously food is still VERY important to me. Therefore I want to tell you guys about our wedding dessert quest, partly because it is a story about realizing less is more.

After the wedding, I emailed our vendors to have a mutual thank-you love-fest (I recommend this), and our photographer/cake-topper-maker Tammy said something that stuck with me as an ultimate compliment: “Nothing was too over done or under done.”

To me that was really nice to hear because it’s easy to get bogged down in the details that don’t matter, and it basically affirmed that — whether or not I spent hours hand-wringing over certain elements — in the end, we kept it relatively streamlined.

There were many things that I 100% knew we weren’t going to do from the beginning of the process, including any role involving children (we had a child-free wedding… we just don’t know enough of them at the moment), bouquet toss, and garter toss. But much like I almost wore a veil, lots of things get kind of fuzzy in the long march from engagement to wedding. One of those things, for me, was the desserts.

Luckily, I have Sam. He is the hero of this story, because he doesn’t give in to Pinterest or other wedding BS. He only gives in to me, if I’m being somewhat reasonable. (To use a phrase we invented on that weird bus ride to Venice, I’m “huzzing out” for him.)

In the beginning, Sam proposed to me with a homemade cake: lemon, with berries and whipped cream. As I think I mentioned, we hardly ended up eating that cake, so we decided we most likely wanted to include another version of it at the wedding.

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The cake that started it all.

We also decided that we didn’t want a big, many-tiered, super pricey wedding cake. So it seemed like a great idea to have Sam make a small cutting cake! Right? Very cool? (And… somehow we’d make it feed everybody?)

But then it started to seem stressful for Sam to have to execute this cake, and for Sam to be making a bunch of practice cakes in conjunction with us trying to fit into our wedding clothes. (My hair stylist, who used to be a cake maker himself, later told me that he was very relieved that we dropped this idea. Haha.)

We also decided that one of the PERKS of being engaged is getting to attend free wedding cake tastings. Right? Very cool? Even BEFORE we decided to use a baker, I was scheming about how we’d score a few cake tastings, just for FUN!

You guys, it’s kinda fun to taste cakes — and it kinda isn’t. It’s actually somewhat weird to have to eat a bunch of cake at once, on demand, and pretend you like it even if you don’t. (The cool side is that it’s kind of scientific. Cake science!)

Initially, we thought we’d just ace the whole thing on our first try at our local pretty-cheap mega-bakery — we’d get a one or two-tiered cutting cake, and serve sheet cake to make up the difference. But the tasting really bombed for us (the flavors they do for wedding cakes aren’t their usual lineup). Also, they had a minimum of three tiers. So that was out.

I started thinking — maybe we should have a DESSERT TABLE. Those are so NOW! Right? Very cool?

So we started tasting at places that did MORE THAN JUST CAKE! So many options!

We tasted at one place that was pretty great on the cake-front but was too far away, so the delivery fees killed it. (Also, I didn’t like their cookies… and Sam didn’t want cookies.)

We tasted at one place that does tons of business, but we got turned off by… oh, SO MANY THINGS! Where to begin? First, we were told that we’d need to HIRE A STYLIST to style the dessert table. Not from the baker. Just… an outside person of our choosing. Because they weren’t about to style their own dessert table.

Second… oh my God, she told us the weirdest story about how she did business with a cult leader, involving weird sex stuff that happened at the bakery. (If you want the full story, just ask me in person some day.)

On a more practical/normal note, they turned out to be very expensive… and, uh, didn’t have their best flavors available to taste that day? Even though we made an appointment?

So yeah, they were out.

Then we went to Hawaii and I became enthralled with shave ice, and decided that maybe it would be awesome to have shave ice at our wedding, in addition to cake/a dessert table! Right? Very cool? (Literally.)

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This is a photo I’ve posted before but I really did get SO INTO SHAVE ICE. Wait for me, Ululani’s!

Unfortunately it’s kind of hard to taste Los Angeles-based shave ice trucks when it’s December. Crazy enough, they’re not really on their shave ice street beats during an unseasonably cold winter. (We all miss that winter now! … Sorta.)

So we tasted at one brick-and-mortar shave ice place (weirdly, my favorite part was their cookies), before Sam veto’d the idea because “our wedding is not a carnival, it doesn’t need dessert booths with long lines.” (Paraphrased.)

Sam laid down the law in a very nice way, explaining that we really didn’t need to feed people ALL THE DESSERT, and that if we definitely wanted to serve wedding cake (the traditional choice, whether or not we wanted to present it in a traditional way), that would be enough. (Dayenu!)

And you know what? He was right. I used to watch that docu-reality show Four Weddings, and my biggest note was always that the weddings seemed to serve a week’s worth of food. So why serve a week’s worth of dessert — right? (Side note, though, dear readers: If you serve tons of dessert at your weddings, I am 100% on board and will steal cookies for later.) (And Sam will eat them, because he actually does like cookies under non-wedding circumstances.)

So we went back to the cake drawing board, more reluctant than you’d think to continue tastings.

We tasted with one bakery that was mostly fine, but we happened to be at Trader Joe’s and our checkout girl asked us what we were doing later and we mentioned this place. She said she used to decorate for them, and we were better off finding an independent baker on Instagram. (But then she wouldn’t tell me her Instagram name… haha.)

We thought about using this amazing bakery that does vintage cake recipes and just getting like 5 different cakes from them, but it turned out they don’t sell those recipes in any stores, and it would have cost a buttload to buy and/or taste them, on top of the buttload it would cost to buy them for the wedding.

Finally, I contacted this really cool baker I’d been following on Instagram forever, but I figured she’d be really expensive because her work was so nice and popular. I was pleasantly wrong, and she pretty much had us at, “Yeah, I’ve met Gail Simmons.”

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Leftovers from our tasting with Danielle, aka Sheila Mae. We ended up choosing EVERY FLAVOR. That’s how we roll.

One thing I noticed about vendors, is that usually if someone you meet with gives you an amazing idea, you should go with that person. We had been musing — should we supplement our cutting cake with sheet cake? Cupcakes? Cookies?

This baker said, “Why not just have two small cakes on the side?”

Why not?? It was simple brilliance. AND she made a lemon/berry cake. So we very happily had zero more tastings, and hired her.

(Side note: Some of my favorite, genius vendors were also the ones with the cheapest quotes of their field. Not always, but it’s nice to get a few great bargains.) (Further side note: The simpler your cake, size and decoration-wise, the cheaper the quote. So we benefitted by keeping it simple.)

(If money was no object, I might have had her do this gorgeous cactus-with-chevron design that you can see on my Pinterest.)

For our cake topper, I knew I wanted to buy one from Tammy, aka Letters to You. But we waffled for a while about what exactly to say. We ended up going with “better together,” because we liked the sentiment. (So much that I ended up using it in my vows .)

It’s also a phrase that lives in our kitchen.

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Prints by Sean Mort, our Renegade Craft Fair buddy. (As in, we buy from him so often that we’re friends now.)

Initially, Sam seemed to think that buying a special cake knife and server fell into the category of making too much of a deal over the desserts. But once he realized we kinda needed to do it, he told me he had a grand scheme in mind and that he’d take care of it.

A few weeks later, the most awesome, Mid-Century-esque, non-cookie-cutter cake knife arrived (from Canada! swoon), engraved with the usual wedding-date info — but also what Sam said when he presented me with our engagement cake: “If you say no, you don’t get any cake.”

We ended up incorporating our engagement story into the little decorative sign on our cake table, and telling people that they had to “say yes to the cake.”

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Cake table, before it was adorned with further flowers, etc.

As the caption indicates, that’s the bare-bones version of our cake table, grabbed pre-ceremony. (Our baker styled the cakes with flowers from the florist, and we rented the cake stands from her!) After the ceremony, various flowers were reallocated to the cake table, and eventually the marquee letters from our sweetheart table were also added.

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Best photo I have at the moment, by my friend Karen.

So I said yes and got more cake than I’d bargained for, overall — and Sam said yes and got like a year of neurotic fiancee, with a side of cake (and ALMOST a shave ice carnival wedding!). (BUT at least he didn’t have to make any desserts the day of the wedding!)

BTW, those marquee letters were like $9 total from Michaels, on sale (the AAA batteries cost more than the letters), and now live on our shelf. Similarly, I think the little gold frames were like $8 for three, at Aaron Brothers — and we only needed three, so it was perfect.

We also had a little golden rhino from CB2 on our welcome table, and he now lives on our shelf. It’s kind of fun to repurpose wedding decor into your everyday life — a sweet reminder of the day. (We originally intended to have golden animals everywhere, but pared it down to one. That’s another thing — we didn’t buy anything until pretty close to the wedding, in case we changed our minds. Another reason I’m glad all of our vendors worked on a rental basis… we didn’t have to pre-buy anything for them, only to whoops later.)

ANYWAY, that’s the very-long, digression-filled story of how we ultimately did the traditional wedding cake thing, but thought very hard about it and kinda maybe made it our own.

In the end, in the most roundabout and non-simple way, we ultimately kept it simple. Haha. Poor Sam.

And someday, I swear, I will get to the honeymoon or even (gasp) REAL LIFE again.

(BTW, all the people I’ve said nice things about and linked here were our real-life paid-for vendors and didn’t solicit these nice words nor give me any compensation. I’m just a regular person!) (And all the real people I’ve vaguely shaded, I didn’t call out by name. So… deal with it.)

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