Cheoff, will you bake this cake - forsaking all others...
Lovely things, weddings...
After thirty plus years my brother, Paul, and his small-but-perfectly-formed soul-mate, Marie, decided to get married last April.
Prior to impending nuptials, during a relaxed dinner here, Marie introduced a note of tension by saying, “We’d like you to do the cake.”... Gulp!
This was probably on the strength of the cake I'd produced for my bro's 60th - but that had an audience of just six!
There were all sorts of contradictory thoughts as my wife, Jan, and I weighed up the immense compliment we’d been paid against the huge burden of responsibility which lay upon us as we said we’d be delighted.
Paul and Marie then lived a dual existence, sharing time between their Islington house and a beautifully converted crofter’s cottage on Papa Westray, one of the smallest islands in Orkney (the cottage beautifully converted by my talented and creative brother). The island trip is now mandatory for brotherly hugs since the London property is currently rented out for a truly vulgar sum of money. Seven months ago the wedding would be the final grand occasion in N7 for some time.
Closer to the great day, Jan and Marie sat at our computer screen viewing sugar paste Gerbera decorations which we thought might not be beyond our capabilities to reproduce for the cake top. Paul entered and gave his input... "Nah, we don't want flowers!"
He was right, of course. It was Jan who hit on a London/Papay theme which was enthusiastically received - all we had to do now was interpret it... armed with the complete lack of experience which makes such tasks the stuff of palpitations and increased bowel movements. This was going to be a more personal expression which reflected the two very different places which meant so much to the happy couple.
The cake itself was reasonably straightforward with an extra-large edition of Delia's 'Classic Christmas Cake' forming the base to a regular size 7 inch square.
All sorts of ideas swirled round before Jan and I set to in the springtime light of our conservatory to begin the decoration.
Puffins had been requested. They are a regular feature of Papa Westray's fauna. I started squishing sugar paste into shape and had an unusual moment of inspiration. Paul, the ukelele player, Marie and her rabbit, Bob... Marie, Rabbit, Puffins, Paul... Hmmm.
Puffins, Paul and Marie were now melded into a cake-topping bride and groom. (Puffins, Paul and Marie also recorded the classic 'Leaving On A Jet Plane', of course!)
Other elements were needed for the island-life section so I continued to develop my sculpting skills. Puffins love to catch sand eels. This fact contributes to one of my brother's favourite jokes. Hence the pair of brown 'sandeels' which I shaped along with other shoreline regulars... gnaah, groan!
Pleased with my efforts, I looked across at Jan's chosen task - the skyline of London, the Nag's Head Market and Islington's terraced houses. Pretty damned fine effort there, I'd say!
You're seeing the fruits of nearly four days work. Breaking off only to create the occasional three hour Sonos playlist to soundtrack our endeavour, we finally decided when enough was enough and pushed, pressed and pasted the whole thing together.
Our fears about getting the finished cake safely to London were totally unfounded. It was greeted with universal acclaim and we tried desperately to convince everyone that we'd never done anything like it before. Paul and Marie reserved the top for celebrating with their island community and still refer to our offering as a highlight of their special day.
We used friendly advice, local libraries and online help to achieve our goal but all of the recipes and instructions missed out the one thing which we added in abundance... our love.
You can't make anything as important as a cake without love, can you.