Thursday, March 22, 2012

Time in a Bottle Cake

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I was lucky enough to be able to surprise my dear friend for her birthday this week. And I got to make her cake. Sort of.
I really wanted to. But while planning out the design, I just couldn't figure out how to actually bake it myself and get it there when the party was to be held several states and an airplane ride away. Timing just didn't allow it. So I asked our friends, The Cake Mamas to help. They were happy to be included in the fun and asked that their involvement be their special gift, just from them. And what a generous and lovely gift it was. Now that they're even more FAMOUS,
(they WON $10K on Food Network's Cupcake Wars recently) I wasn't sure they'd have time.
But they made time.
Thank you Fab and Janelle for making the day so special!

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Different views

I must've changed the design about 12 thousand times while tweaking out the details. I even tried a version of all chocolate tiers. It wasn't easy for me to put the image in my head to paper. I could almost touch the feeling I wanted it to have.
But conveying that to others was another story.
Thank you Jessica for talking me down off the ledge a few times during the process.

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The most important elements of the cake were that it be personal, unique and a grand showpiece in her honor. Family and friends are her life and she loves taking lots and LOTS of photos of them to capture the moment. So I wanted her love of these things to be reflected in her cake. She has lovingly crafted an endless number of beautiful cakes for her family members and their special occasions over the years so I made sure to include photos of all that I could get my hands on to include with the other photos that would go in the bottles and around the room. Thanks to her husband, son, daughter, best friend and sister-in-law for making sure there were plenty of warm memories in photos.
My friend also loves colors so the jewel tones were a must.

Some of the 266 photos for the guests to view were hung near the entry. The rest were placed on the cake table.
All of the photos were printed in sepia tones with photo corners at Costco. Loved that option.
It gave them an antique feel and also helped them look like they all belonged together in one story.

Here are some of the worker bees
(aka family members & restaurant staff)
before they ran home to change into party clothes.


Individual bottles with lights and the lyrics to "Time in a Bottle" by Jim Croce were placed at each place setting for favors. The guests were treated to another favor of a photo magnet. No danger of forgetting where they were that evening. 
The staff removed the tablecloths before the party started which gave the tables a more rustic and homey feel. 
And the flowers. Smelled. Heavenly. Fresh gardenias on each napkin.
Another personal touch was the descriptive words on crystal clips for all the tables. Lovely.

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The Celebrate banner over the mirror was handmade by the birthday girl's niece. Her attention to detail was amazing!
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Some of the nearly 100 bottles drying in the oven before being packed up and shipped.
Hey! We could've played 99 bottles of something on the wall. Darn!

After several revisions, lots of conversations with The Cake Mamas and much second guessing, I packed up the boxes of styrofoam rounds covered in paper and dragees along with the rest of the supplies and hoped that they would get the picture. They did. Perfectly. The colors were exactly what I had in mind for the feeling of the cake. And they managed to apply the 15 billion dragees as the borders which must have been a tricky and very messy step since those little buggers just go everywhere when you're working with them. I'd dyed them to match the heart, pocket watch and borders of the plaques that would also go on the cake by mixing a couple of different metallic luster dusts.

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The bottom 14 inch round was the only edible tier since the party was limited to immediate family and a few friends.
Just seemed like such a waste to have the other four tiers be edible when the one tier would serve the guests.
Turned out to be a good decision due to the weight of the bottles and method of stacking as there was no center rod support. The bottom tier was doweled well and topped with an acrylic disc and a layer of bottles. The rest of the tiers and bottles were stacked and held in place by sheer weight and some strategically placed double stick tape.
Not the usual kind that you'd get at the office store. This tape is labeled as permanent and was sold by the shop that cut the acrylic rounds for all the tiers. Worked like a charm and was invisible in the bargain. It was all quite sturdy and endured the mini earthquakes (okay, maybe not earthquakes - just slight jostling) while the guests were gathered around the cake table picking up and looking at all of the photos scattered about.

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See the little lights inside? Kind of like fireflies.
The only glitch was that the lights aren't as bright if you don't turn them all the way on.
And I forgot to mention this while we were stacking the tiers in the afternoon.
Since the backdrop was a window and we had to turn them on in the daylight, we couldn't really judge the brightness.
So I went ahead and stacked and taped and made sure everything was sturdy and wouldn't come apart. 
Only to find out after the sun went down that some of the bulbs were quite dim.
With no way to pull it all apart and reassemble it as the guests were streaming in,
we ended up tucking votives in the center to add more light.
Thank goodness the restaurant had them on hand. Nice save.

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Fabulous party.
Happy Birthday dear friend.