Hospitality @ Home: The. Epic. Wedding. Post


the rascal-y bridal party

So. It’s been a full week of recovery from my sister’s wedding. While we put together the rehearsal dinner ourselves, as well as the wedding cake, floral arrangements, and photo booth, there are only photographic catalogs of 4 of those things— as I sustained a really dumb injury on the night of the rehearsal dinner. As you will definitely see in some of these photos.

smoothing the cake with a bum thumb

It was seriously silly, I cut my thumb open while opening a bottle of tequila with a knife. Which I knew was dangerous at the time, but man, I wanted to get those margaritas made in time to enjoy with the guacamole…. We just super-glued my wound together, chef-style, because there was a full night of cake-finishing to go.

So, here’s the blow by blow. As soon as I landed on Wednesday night, we hit Costco to grab the beverages for the rehearsal dinner, the reception, and The Cake.

bride and the booze

Then we took stock of the bodies at our disposal, and separated them into Team Tux (responsible for getting everyone’s tuxes finished and fitted), and Team Cake (who had the unique distinction of being bossed around by me all day). I ended up with a seriously awesome team of my sisters Megh & Rebekah, along with my sister’s friends Piper, Zach, and Cat (whose amazingly well-stocked kitchen we cooked in).

Rebekah, a major player on Team Cake

After all the testing documented on this blog, we had settled on the Margarita Cake (since they got the marriage license on Cinco de Mayo), strawberry curd filling, Italian Meringue buttercream frosting, and Marshmallow fondant decorations.

It was a process. But it was such an amazing experience. There was a lot of love put into that cake. As demonstrated by the fact that Piper, Zach, and Rebekah assembly-lined the zesting and juicing of the limes.


We doubled up as many tasks as we could.

Like stirring multiple pots of strawberry curd.

While the cakes were baking, we pulled together some marshmallow fondant, that we used later to create ribbons and roses for the cake decorations.

megh’s handmade leaves– no special tools other than toothpicks
blue and white roses

I really liked that none of the roses looked the same, just like in nature. While some of us worked on the cake, there was also the candy-floral centerpieces to work on, and the photo-booth props to complete.

bowl of candy, glue gun, itunes on the laptop….

This photo is of the process of tying colored candies into little bundles, that will be wrapped together with flowers to create hydrangea-like candy centerpieces for the tables. These candy bundles also doubled as favors for the wedding.

the finished centerpiece

And the photobooth….it’s such a fun trend and so easy to do. What I love is the way the guests actually interact with the props and create energetic, whimsical interactions, rather than a bunch of stiff photos with people holding glasses of champagne and trying to look cool.

Jason was man enough to wrangle the hot glue gun and put together some mustaches and lipstick kisses.

cutting out the ‘staches….. yes, his shirt does say “I’ve tried Polygamy”…. it’s a beer.

And because of his valiant efforts, we were able to get moments like these:

And the irreplaceable Piper made magic with the bouquets and centerpieces. We really wanted to work some blue into the bridal bouquets. When the delphiniums looked like they might not make it, Piper suggested individually wiring the blooms to tuck them in to the puffs of hydrangea… and they turned out lovely.

hydrangea, baby’s breath, blue delphinium

I loved that so many hands went into making this whole project come together.

the finished cake!

A giant thank you to my sister and sister-in-law’s friends; you all seriously are the best. Your generosity of spirit, the way you welcomed all of us into your lives (& kitchens), and made sure that everything that needed to get done got done in time, whether it meant pulling an all-nighter, sharing your Costco account, or loaning your stand mixer– It made me eager to move back to the mid-west.

Hospitality @ Home: Margarita Cake


the basic ingredients of a seriously awesome margarita

My sister and her fiancee have decided on a cake flavor for their wedding (in about a week!).

Since they officially got their marriage license and had their union legalized in Iowa on Cinco de Mayo, I jokingly mentioned that we should make a margarita cake. I was banking on one of them saying “oh, no. let’s just do white cake with lemon curd, something really simple….” but as fate would have it, they loved the idea.

you can’t make a margarita cake, without a margarita

So now I had to find a recipe for said margarita cake…..

A Google search yeilds many recipes that begin with “1 package of white cake mix, 1 cup bottled margarita mix….”

Full disclosure: there was a time when my culinary wanderings began, in high school, where many of my concoctions began with the grand church supper tradition of kicking up a cake mix. You know the recipes passed around potlucks, the ones that start with a box of jiffy white cake mix, add a can of drained crushed pineapple, a pouch of instant vanilla pudding mix, and a carton of cool-whip.

close-up cross section of cake

Those early kicked-up-cake-mix-cakes are full of weird multi-syllabic ingredients but are also packed with nostalgia. Maybe all those preservatives add an umami that can’t be replicated.

Even so, for a wedding cake, this whole thing needs to be elevated somehow. So I found a recipe from a 1999 Bon Apetit magazine for a Margarita Chiffon cake, that I tested with a strawberry curd filling, iced with a swiss meringue buttercream.

I enjoyed a slice myself for breakfast, then brought the rest of the 10″ cake to the restaurant to be tested by the widest range of palates.

I couldn’t get a photo before the cake was attacked by rabid badgers, but here was what was left by the time I got the camera out of my office.

I guess they liked it…..

post badger-ing

If this cake can withstand a pre-mother’s-day-brunch wait-station mauling, that bodes well for it’s structural integrity. But it looks like I need to revisit proper cake cutting technique with my staff….

when cutting a cake, speak softly and carry a big knife

Recipes after the Jump….

Margarita Chiffon Cake 
adapted from Bon Appetit

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup triple sec
2 tablespoons tequila
2 teaspoons grated lime peel

8 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325°F. Whisk flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat yolks and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until smooth.
Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in another large bowl until soft peaks form.
Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of whites into batter, then fold in remaining whites. Transfer batter to ungreased 10-inch-diameter cake pan; smooth top.
Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Immediately invert cake onto cooling rack and cool with pan on top.
After cooling for about an hour, run long knife around the sides of pan to loosen cake. Invert cake onto platter.

Strawberry Curd

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries (frozen & thawed will work, too)
  •  3/4 cup  sugar
  • 2 tablespoons  cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon  fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large  egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup  butter, cut into pieces
1. In a blender, process strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar until smooth.
2. In a heavy saucepan, combine yolks and cornstarch, whisk until smooth. Add strawberry puree. Cook over medium heat for 7 to 8 minutes, or until very thick, whisking constantly.
3. Remove from heat; gradually add butter, whisking until melted. Cool mixture slightly; cover and refrigerate for 2 hour before using.

Note: if using as a cake filling, pipe a “barrier” of buttercream around the edge of the cake before filling with curd. This will keep the curd from squishing out the sides and messing up your frosting. I also chilled the “curded” layer for about 20 minutes before placing the next layer on top.