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Showing Our Cake-triotism

January 11, 2011

In my last post, I told you about how we chose our cake design and narrowed my 17 bakeries down to three. As soon as we arrived in Connecticut, it was cake time.

Because I’m not a buttercream fan, I asked to try red velvet cake at all three places. I like cream cheese frosting, and Mr. Panther likes chocolate, so it seemed like a good solution. Plus, it’d be a nod to our new southern home! We also requested basic cakes (marble, yellow, chocolate) with basic fruit fillings (raspberry, strawberry, etc.) at all three.

Our first appointment was at a little family-run Italian bakery. I had chosen it because it because the prices were very reasonable, and the reviews were good. The photos left a little to be desired—everything looked really old-fashioned. You know that episode of Cake Boss when Buddy makes the old-fashioned Italian wedding cake with lights and fountains and doves? Yeah, that kind of thing, but not with the Buddy flair.

This is just a visual example—not actually from this bakery’s site!

Yeesh. But I figured that the type of cake we wanted was so simple that anyone could do it.

Unfortunately, we didn’t even get to the point where we discussed design, because the cake was not good. First of all, when we arrived at the bakery, there was absolutely nowhere to sit. Nobody came out to talk to us about our options—they just handed us our mini cakes and plastic forks. We stood at the counter and ate, and were not impressed at all. Everything was dense, thick and way too sweet. Yugh. Off we went.

A couple days later, we were off to Palmer’s, and I was really excited. Palmer’s lets you choose five different types of cake to try, and they make them into giant cupcakes that you can bring home after your tasting! Megan, the executive pastry chef, had been really helpful with sending us information before the tasting, and we had requested the following:

  • Red velvet
  • Chocolate raspberry (Vahlrona chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries)
  • Chocolate Oreo (chocolate cake filled with crunchy Oreo buttercream)
  • Vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream and raspberry preserve filling
  • Strawberries and cream (vanilla cake soaked in strawberry liqueur, fluffy vanilla icing and fresh strawberries)

I was most excited about the strawberries and cream. I thought it sounded summery and kind of like strawberry shortcake, which is an absolute staple of my Fourth of July weekend. I love strawberry shortcake!

When we arrived at Palmer’s, we found out that it was actually inside of Palmer’s Market, a family-owned specialty grocery store. Now, if someone had told me in advance that the bakery was inside a grocery store, I admittedly might have been put off. But those fears would have unwarranted. It is the most charming bakery I’ve ever seen!


Look at the chandeliers, and cake stands with glass domes, and all the pink packaging! Looooove. Plus, this specialty grocery store sells cornichons, which are one of my favorite things on the planet and are pretty hard to find. You win, Palmer’s Market.

Megan was so nice, and genuinely seemed to care about our wedding and making the cake fit into our vision perfectly. And the cake … Oh. My. God. The strawberries and cream lived up to my dreams and more. Get this: the “fluffy vanilla icing” is whipped buttercream. It basically tastes like Cool Whip, but way more awesome and special. Um. This cake is strawberry shortcake, except better! Mr. Panther loved it, too. It was light, refreshing, delicious and absolutely perfect for a July evening. We had to have it.

But we still had one more tasting to go. I probably would have just canceled it, but this baker was a friend of Mr. Panther’s grandma, and well, you know how that kind of thing goes. So we went to the tasting, and her cake actually was delicious. But it just didn’t compare to the strawberries and cream. As it turns out, Mr. Panther’s grandma wants to contribute some dessert items to the wedding, so she’ll probably order those from her friend, and then everyone’s happy. Right? Right!

We asked Megan to make up a contract for us, and everything seemed hunky-dory until it arrived. That was when we found out that I had overlooked a small detail—the fresh strawberries make the strawberries and cream cake cost an extra $1 per slice. That was around an extra $250 that we didn’t have in the budget. Crap!

After a lot of whimpering and repetition of the word “crap,” we got in touch with Megan to see what we could do. It turned out that the $1/slice was for fresh strawberries in all three filling layers. Each individual layer of fresh strawberries only added around $0.33 per slice. We calculated that we could afford to have fresh strawberries in the center layer of filling, and in the other two, we’ll have strawberry preserves and more whipped buttercream. I think this will actually be even more interesting than the original, and it’ll look really pretty when it’s cut!

Because I’m not great at explaining how this works, I made a diagram of what I think each slice will look like. I could be wrong on the layout, but I’m not concerned. Megan is awesome and we totally trust her judgment.

Aren’t I just so awesome with Photoshop? I know!

So that’s our cake! When I realized that we could make this work, I was actually so happy I wanted to cry. I thought we’d end up with a sweet, heavy cake that would please some, disgust others and be passed on by the bride. What we’re getting is a wedding version of my favorite dessert, and it’s so appropriate for the Fourth of July! We’re hoping to include some blueberries on the plate, too. Hello—red, white and blue! This will be our only nod to the holiday, and I think it’s very appropriate without being over-the-top or tacky. And yum, yum, yum.

How’d you pick your cake flavors? Anyone else including a subtle nod to a nearby holiday? Were you pleasantly surprised by your options?

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