Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Adventures in Obtaining a Gluten-Free Wedding Cake

Disclaimer: I started writing this weeks before the wedding and never finished it...oops :/

The title of this blog sort of says it all. We just found our wedding cake this last Saturday. Exactly two weeks prior to our wedding date. According to those checklists you can find online, we should have had our cake when we were 6 months out. I excused myself for being late on a lot of things because our engagement was just over 6 months long, so of course I would miss some deadlines.

I figured I'd write about it in hopes that I could help someone else who goes on the same adventure.

Early on in the planning, I discovered that there are no dedicated gluten-free bakeries in town. I was fairly certain I knew this already, but double checking was important too. There were a few bakeries that I discovered that claimed to do gluten-free wedding cakes, but I was warned against trusting them from individuals who had gotten sick from their products because they were cross contaminated.

About 20 miles from me, there is a gluten-free company that recently started making cupcakes. They have a dedicated gluten-free facility too. When I was down there on business, I decided to check with the owner to see if she could do a wedding cake. She said she would be able to bake a cake, but she doesn't decorate. Another option would be to just use her cupcakes.

At this point, I needed to find a cake decorator, or at the very least, we would at least have cupcakes. A back-up plan was definitely not a bad thing.

After I realized I had a back-up option, I moved on to other wedding tasks which was probably my biggest mistake. This was months ago.

Fast forward to a little over a month ago. I was traveling for work to various gluten-free events. I got the idea in my head that I would use one of my favorite mixes and make cupcakes myself. This way I could make them gluten/dairy/soy/nut free because I was fairly certain my back-up plan cupcakes definitely contained soy and may or may not have contained dairy. My friends told me I was crazy. My fiance just kind of smiled and nodded because he knew if I set my mind to it, I would do it no matter what he said.

I thought my plan was genius. I would bake them ahead of time and freeze them. If I didn't have them ready at least two weeks in advance, then I would go with my back-up plan.

The next week, I was at an event a little over two hours away. I met an employee from a bakery who stopped at my table, so I asked if they did wedding cakes. The answer was yes! He said they had never delivered so far away before, but he could possibly make a day trip with his daughter to visit my city and delivery the cake. He gave me their phone number and instructed me to call on Monday. When I called on Monday, I was told that they were already essentially fully booked for the weekend of my wedding, and my only option would be to pick up the cake myself, but they didn't want us to say where we got it because they didn't think a cake could make it so far in the June heat.

I felt defeated, but I decided to attempt calling another dedicated bakery which was about an hour away. They immediately said they were 100% booked on our date.  Crap. Crap. Crap. I suddenly didn't feel like making our own cupcakes anymore, and I was out of options.

I forced myself to move on, and decided I would buy the flour I needed at the next vendor fair I was attending three weeks before the wedding. I got really sick in the middle of the night before the next vendor fair. I forced myself to get up, but I was sure I was going to pass out or vomit, and I almost turned around when I had hardly made it out of town early in the morning to arrive in time to set up. I slowly got a little better, and eventually made it there. I walked around a little after I had set up my table, but then I decided I was better off taking it easy, so I went and bought 6 boxes of flour and went back to my table.

As I sat waiting for the event to start, I noticed there was a bakery across the room. It seemed wrong not to at least try, so I walked over and asked if they did wedding cakes. The answer was yes. I then asked if they could do gluten/dairy/soy/nut free. That answer was also yes. I asked if they were available on my date. Yes again. She gave me her card, and I was instructed to e-mail on Monday. She was located another 45 minutes away in addition to the hour I had already traveled to the event, but it was still an option.

The website showed great looking cakes. They definitely weren't up to the caliber of what I was used to seeing, but I knew if I kept it somewhat simple, then it was going to look amazing. I also worried about what it tasted like because I hadn't been able to try anything. We wound up setting up a tasting because we didn't want to blindly order a cake--especially because the price seemed incredibly inexpensive.

There were a total of four of us that traveled to the tasting although a friend lived nearby so she met myself, my fiance, and his son there. The bakery was based out of the womans home although she did much of the baking in her church because their church kitchen was not used for anything. She had prepared a bowl of buttercream frosting, a bowl of bavarian cream, a chocolate cake, and a vanilla cake. Everything was excellent, and we finished off both cakes and far too much frosting and filling which we simply spooned onto our plates and ate with a spoon. We were sold, and we finally had our cake. The best part was that it was much better than most wedding cakes I've had in my pre-gluten-free days.

Delivery would cost a little over $100, but she was also transporting it about 75 miles, so it was 150 round trip. She agreed to delivery at precisely the time the set-up for our reception would happen even though we offered to let her deliver it earlier in the day and let the staff bring it out. She wanted to ensure it didn't need to be moved and that it would look perfect, so she insisted on coming when it wouldn't need to be touched.

**Update: The cake looked and tasted amazing. She brought along each of the 4 individual tiers of the cake and put it together and did the swirl decorating right on site. Most of our guests had no idea it was gluten-free, and everyone said the cake was amazing. The only thing I would have done differently would have been to add one additional tier as the cake went quickly, and many people wanted seconds and didn't get them. I would have gladly paid extra for everyone to have had seconds had I known that was going to happen.

Have you or anyone you know ever needed to find a gluten-free wedding cake? What was your experience?

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