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Let them eat cake!

Josh takes on wedding cakes

Everyone pretends they go to a wedding for the couple, but the truth is we all go for the food…specifically, the cake.

I mean, there are several songs about the oft tiered wonder of sugar, from Rihanna’s repetitive chorus to DNCE’s sea-themed song that I don’t believe is actually about cake. We clearly want cake. Nevertheless, this former fat kid emphatically loves cake, and just had to learn more about how the centerpiece lands at the ceremony.

Monica Shaughnessy has been the owner and lead baker of Tredici Bakery since she opened its doors in Capital Heights two years ago. When you walk in, it’s exactly what you want in a bakery—a cheerful aesthetic, colorful macarons on display, Frank Sinatra bumping through the speakers, and of course, cake. Before I could sing “I Want It Now!” Monica brought me into the kitchen to begin.

With tiered (stacked) wedding cakes, you have to trim the dome of the baked cakes to ensure the whole piece remains level. Also, at this point, you can add in a sweet syrup to keep the cake moist (I want to say sorry for using that word, but you know it’s unavoidable when you write a piece about cake). Once trimmed, you pipe a layer of icing around the perimeter to serve as a dam before adding the filling, then add a layer of icing atop the filling. After you’ve assembled, you ice (or add the frosting to) the cake’s exterior, creating a crumb coat. This acts as a sealant and primer. You’ll then place the cake into the fridge for up to an hour to let it chill. Rinse and repeat for the remainder of your tiers.

<Pretend as if it’s “TV magic” and our cakes have been chilling for an hour.>

Upon removing our cakes from the refrigerator, Monica continued to walk me through the process of assembling the stacked look, which begins with inserting wooden dowels in the base of the cakes for stability. They’re cut to the height of the bottom cake, and placed strategically to hold up the boarded tier that’ll sit atop it. Again, you continue this process for however many tiers you have.

Once doweled, creativity happens. You can add more frosting for a smooth finish, drizzle chocolate ganache and adorn with fruit, throw on fondant (imagine a sweet marshmallow with the consistency of Play-Doh), pipe a design or do what so many are doing now and leave the cake naked. Mind out of the gutter, folks. A naked or semi-naked cake has little to no icing, essentially a cake with only a crumb coat. While I am a sucker for frosting, (confession: I’ll make it and eat it plain) I wanted to try one of these trendy creations.

To add some Kanye to our cake, Monica let me use edible gold. Edible gold, y’all. We placed the delicate foil artistically across the tiers to be a little fancy. You can’t be too ostentatious, right? For the final touches, we piped a border and added an edible flower, also painted with some gold magic.

From this point, cakes get prepped for delivery where the baker will pray for no disasters. Monica says she has personally had no falls happen to her, but it definitely happens. The cake will then pose for hundreds of photos, typically have silver things pulled from it, and then, finally, cut.

While I have dabbled in baking before, it was a sweet treat to watch Monica work and be in Tredici. Though I don’t think I’m quite ready to be judged by Paul Hollywood (miss you already, Mary Berry), I am more in love with cake than I could have imagined.

Photos by Sean Gasser


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