For the last few years there's been a trend to present luscious banquets of sweets in style, and I've been desperately wanting an excuse to execute something over the top and completely ridiculous. Amy Atlas is my main inspiration - her tables are always stunning, and her approach is pragmatic, using unexpected household items to decorate and assemble her displays.
Anyway, a wedding seemed like the perfect excuse to pull a little something together.
The first rule was that I wasn't going to make the desserts. Well, maybe one. But definitely not the cake. Quite aside from the fact that making wedding cake is downright stressful, I know too many purveyors of excellent cake, and here was my opportunity to let them show off a bit.
Were there other rules? Not really. I compiled a list of the things I particularly wanted on the table (Denheath custard squares! Macarons from J'aime les Macarons! Bohemein chocolates!) and sought prices (ouch). And then I moved on to modelling the proposed layout in Microsoft Visio so I could source appropriately sized platters and stands (proportions are important! And yes, I'm obsessed). This is the diagram (top elevation and side elevation)(did I mention that I'm obsessed?):
Once I had done this I could start looking for platters properly. I wanted plain white, because there was enough going on already, and I thought they'd be easy to hire. Wrong! Apparently only caterers use these, and apparently caterers don't like to hire out plates for not-their-own food (fair enough). I scoured TradeMe, rang hire places, asked around... And eventually bought a stack of Maxwell Williams ones from Briscoes at half price. I also found some nice wooden trays on TradeMe, bottles and jars from Arthur Holmes, and hired some pretty glass candy jars from Oh Buttercup. At the last minute I got my Dad to chop up some bits of 2x4 to elevate the black forest jellies we made, and Mum wrapped them in tissue paper so nobody could tell they were just lumps of wood! Innovation for the win. :-)
Once we had an idea how many people were coming I ordered the goodies - over ordered in most cases, but who's complaining about leftovers? Not me!
I'm a big fan of a bargain if they're going, and if you're buying a lot of something make sure you ask if they have a bulk discount - as an example Bohemein apply their loyalty scheme so basically for every $100 you spend you get about $20 worth of chocolate free. Also, some companies can personalise their product for you - J'aime les Macarons regularly colour-match macarons to wedding themes and it doesn't cost any extra.
I had a list of what had been ordered, when to pick it up, and if it was paid or not. Most places were paid in advance to reduce the thinking we had to do the week of the wedding - it meant I could send whichever brother-in-law or parent was available to do pick-up duty!
Pulling it all together was the part where I failed slightly. I spent some time the night before putting chocolates on plates, and then wafted about during the hair-and-make-up time putting macarons and doughnuts on plates (for me putting pretty food on pretty plates in pretty piles is pretty much the best relaxation activity around - perfect for pre-weddingitis!).
We had told the caterers in advance what we needed them to do during the party (plate custard squares at the beginning of the reception; pour chocolate milk at dessert time; provide plates and cutlery) but I didn't leave instructions for putting things on the table, so Mr Cake and I went off to have photos taken and get married and stuff, and when we arrived at the reception the table still needed to be set up. It was fine, as the caterers were supremely helpful and we got it all sorted in a matter of minutes, but would have been a bit better to have sorted it out earlier.
My table isn't as styled as some of those I admire, but then adding much more might have been over the top - and a pet peeve of mine is that the pretty tables tend to have plates with, say, eight items on it. Are there more than eight people at your party? Yes? Then that is just mean! So my focus was ensuring that the supply was ample, which does affect aesthetics.
Most items were just set out on their plates. The doughnuts were piled high (and yes, I planned the number of doughnuts perfectly so that I could make them into pyramids, don't judge me) and the jellies we on the aforementioned timber. The custard squares, which come frozen, were set out at the beginning of the reception and defrosted on the table, which meant they were just right at dessert time - otherwise chilled things would need to go out when dessert was served. And the chocolate milk was poured (with a funnel!) into the mini milk bottles just before serving, because warm milk is not all that awesome.
The desserts were:
- wedding cake (carrot, chocolate and red velvet cake layers) by Sweet Kitchen
- jellybeans from The Lolly Shop (jars from Oh Buttercup)
- treat size custard squares from Denheath
- sea salt caramel and melting passion ganache chocolates from Bohemein
- black forest jellies, made by us (very easy - recipe to follow!)
- caramel hit and dusted sugar doughnuts from Couplands
- passionfruit and salted butter caramel macarons from J'aime les Macarons
- chocolate milk from the supermarket
- dessert cakes from Just Desserts
What do you think? Completely over the top, or within acceptable parameters for Mr and Mrs Cake? Would you (or have you) ever planned something like this?
Photos by the amazing Frank Visser.