An opportunity of a lifetime presented itself to me when the editor of one of the most prestigious bridal magazines got in touch asking if we would like to be involved in an exclusive SHOWSTOPPING modern wedding cakes
feature in their magazine and wide-spread press. Who wouldn't?!? After some brain storming and sketching we came up with the Deliciously Stella Gold edition design - taking one of our best sellers and glamming it up for a wedding. On paper it looked and sounded good, and when we decorated it - 5 tall tiers of it - it looked resplendent.
As it happened, I had delegated it to a member of staff who made it out of real cake, not the dummies we had which are meant for display cakes - first rookie error. It did however look spectacular, all glamorous and glistening with 23 carat gold leaf. This superstar was going to outshine at its photo shoot the next day with some of the other top cake makers in the country.
Sadly, staff also forgot to dowel each tier, and when we went to pick up the cake in the morning it had already started collapsing into itself, like a partied-out drunken sloth. With my heart sinking I asked her to fix it, knowing myself that there was no fix - there is no way to dowel and support a cake after decoration, especially 5 tiers of it weighing over 15kg. So she hacked into the back with some dowels in an attempt to hoist it up and the cake looked like a cross between Two-Face and the Leaning tower of Pisa.
What's done is done, and we still loaded the leaning cake carefully into the boot of the car and drove it to the studio. All it took was going over 1 pothole that tilted the cake off-balance on its collapsing side and smash against the boot's door. I heard it, my heart sank some more, but we carried on.
At the destination, it was literally carnage. Opening the boot door with the cake tiers leaning smashed against it was incredibly tense, especially in public with other cake makers unloading too. Like maneuvering said partied-out drunken sloth with its pants on show. If I wasn't so gutted about the state of the collapsed wasted cake I would've taken more notice of the pitiful looks of obvious pain only one cake maker can feel for another - no one takes joy in seeing a cake like that, even competitors.
I went in totally beaten and embarrassed and tried to fix it further without any means to. Had I had an offset palette knife and some spare decorations I could have rescued it given some time and space. Unfortunately, I had none of that and used my bare hands and a warm spoon only to make it much worse despite propping the cake up temporarily.
I explained the mishaps to the photographer and crew and they were very sympathetic and I left feeling dejected and worse having seen the other beautiful and immaculate cakes, all dummies of course, waiting for their shots but simultaneously hoping and praying something would come out of my fallen star...
I emailed my apologies to the editor, with still a small flicker of hope that at least one photo was salvaged. So when the feature came out last week and I saw our collapsed cake didn't make the cut I was not surprised in any way, but was devastated and very sad.
We have a pipeline of new products based on our signature style but I was too heart broken to work on the "same-but-different". I saw the other cakes in the spread and turning page after page an animalistic pride of lion proportions grew within. I thought, "We have to be as good as all of them, that's why we were chosen in the first place!" I could sit around and sulk, hiding head in shame, or I could think about how to better ourselves and stand up to the competition.
I've seen some croquembouches
about - macaron, profiterole, eclair and meringue versions and sure they're nice, but they're done, and not particularly memorable either. Also, I'm put off by having a styrofoam or cardboard cone as the structure of the tower - what's the point other than for display? Once all the good stuff is pulled off you're left with a prickly piece of polystyrene and the party's over.
We can do this better. We can make it all CAKE. So we sculpted a cone out of chocolate and vanilla sponges, and using the ever important DOWELS we hoisted it on top of another layer cake, frosted in pretty ethereal colours. We also made all the various elements for the decoration - the eclairs, profiteroles, macarons, popcorn, doughnuts etc.
Glazing the entire thing almost felt like a religious ritual - pouring precious Belgian chocolate over our precious cake sculpture. None of us could imagine how it'd turn out, it could all just be one big phallic waste of time and ingredients. I mean...look at how it looks naked!
We started decorating it, and as we kept going we kept falling more and more in love with it.
It looked more magical as we kept building it up with sprinkle glazed profiteroles and eclairs, colourful macarons, pretty pastel baked doughnuts, piped buttercream flowers, chocolate pearls, Ferrero rocher cones, "soft serve" buttercream cones and candied popcorn. And WOW. Just look at it!
We ran a little giveaway on Instagram and Facebook using a really rubbish photo taken in silly hours and awful lighting that really doesn't do this beauty any justice, hence I was so surprised by the response. So many participants!
I then posted another photo in the morning posing with my new baby and did not quite expect this response either - the most likes and comments EVER.
While I'm still hurt about the fallen 5-tiered Golden Stella cake, I now feel it wasn't as worthy. Not compared to this blindingly beautiful Horn of the Unicorn Croquembouche cake
. Everything happens for a reason they say, and I think having a serious bite of humble pie had ultimately helped me create my most favourite piece of work yet. I can hold my head and croquembouche cake
up high again.
Lots of love and dowels,