Ah Chicago, how I miss thee. But then I spent 6 hours of the last four days in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton…

The week off was capped by my sister-in-law’s wedding on Saturday, which was a splendid affair. Little Josephine failed to make it down the aisle with her bouquet, but the music was loud and there were so many people staring. She’s a simple Kentucky girl (and only 2).

The reception was a delight, on the top floor of a swank downtown hotel, affording views of Navy Pier in one direction and the Chicago River in another. Quite a thing to have the city literally at your feet like that…quite a thing. And my sister-in-law, she was as happy as I’ve ever seen her.

Of course what would a Joe Pastry wedding story be without a critique of the cake? It was impressive. Very simple in design: four tiers with almost no decoration whatsoever, just a simple rolled fondant ribbon where the layers met. Classy in an understated sort of way (the whole wedding was like that). What made it different was the fact that there were two different cakes under the hood, a Devils’s Food on layers 1 and 3, and an almond chocolate chip butter cake on layers 2 and 4 (or was that the other way around?). Both were covered with a white buttercream, so you couldn’t tell until it was cut. It’s a clever approach, and one I much prefer over the “Bride’s Cake/Groom’s Cake” dueling pastry thing that’s been gaining popularity the last ten years.

How did it taste? It was very good, but would have been much better had the layers not been frozen for weeks before the cake was assembled. How could I tell? Because of the hint of telltale dryness. Freezing causes moisture to migrate out of food, it’s that simple. A week or ten days and you can’t really tell. But two or three or four weeks and it’s obvious. Even the best cake bakeries freeze their layers for convenience sake, compensating with a brushing of simple syrup as the cake is assembled. I’ve never cared much for that approach, in part because syrup can make a cake sickly sweet, in part because too much gives a cake a wet texture (I know you’ve eaten a cake like that at a wedding, I just know it).

Due credit goes to the makers of Saturday’s cake for going easy on the syrup. They might not have used any. Yet I wish they’d gone the extra mile to make fresh layers. Wedding cakes cost a fortune after all. So do yourself a favor the next time you’re shopping for a special occasion cake and ask your baker if they freeze their layers in advance. They may sigh, roll their eyes, or say something defensive about kitchen procedures and costs. But fresh cake is fresh cake, and you’re the one paying the bill.

And I once again have to go on record as saying what a shame it is that nowadays we have to go to weddings to taste real buttercream. It’s not a tough thing to do my friends, honest it isn’t. Make one once at home and you’ll never go back.

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