Thursday, March 7, 2013

Promotion Cake!

Last week was pretty much devoted to Dan's promotion stuff--what a crazy week!  After much discussion about what his promotion would look like, we settled on two important points:

1)  Abby would miss school (against my desire to keep her in school) to attend the ceremony, but the boys would stay at home taking naps with my mom watching them.

2)  We would not order a grocery store cake.  Dan saw the possibilities associated with me making our own cake, and wanted to create a cool, one-of-a-kind cake.  Plus, he figured out that it hurt my feelings when he said he wanted to just get a store he reversed his position on that pretty quickly!  

My mom came out the day before Dan's promotion to help me turn my kitchen into a bakery--lots of cupcakes and cake to be made!  Dan wanted to make sure we had enough food for everyone--since the cake I was making only used one sheet cake mix, Dan was concerned that it wouldn't feed enough people, so he wanted cupcakes, cupcakes, and more cupcakes.  I think my mom and I made 72 cupcakes???  Some of them were eaten here at our house prior to Dan's ceremony (the kids had to taste test, naturally), but still, it was a lot of cupcakes.  My mom mixed up my grandmother's amazing chocolate frosting recipe to ice them, and I iced 15 of them in white buttercream so that I could write "CONGRATULATIONS" across them.  :)  I wasn't putting any writing on the cake itself (I haven't honed any writing-on-cake skills...), so I wanted to write something on the cupcakes.

Dan picked a chocolate cake, which I carved based on a template he created for me (very much like the process we used for Alex's last birthday cake)--he wanted the JAG Corps crest, but when I looked at the crest, I was really intimidated by the detailed wreath in the I brainstormed ways to avoid trying to recreate that wreath with icing.  I proposed that we do an oak leaf in the middle instead, signifying Dan's new rank, and Dan thought that was a good idea--phew!  I wasn't sure how I was going to pull off the oak leaf, but I figured it had to be easier than all the branches and detail on the wreath!  Dan created a cardboard template of the shape of the crest, and I used that template to carve the chocolate sheet cake:

the carved cake

After I carved the cake, I realized a huge bummer--I was going to be icing the sides of the cake in white buttercream...and the cake had tons of chocolate crumbs!  White icing and brown crumbs are not a great mix...I ended up spending a few hours with the white buttercream, trying to cover and hide all those little bits of chocolate cake!  What a pain...  The cake also had a lot of little nooks and crannies that were hard to ice on the side, so it just took a while.  During this whole process with the cake and the cupcakes, I ingested way too much icing/frosting--my grandmother's chocolate frosting recipe is irresistible, and I just end up eating buttercream by default when I decorate.  Ugh--my stomach hurt.  It was midnight when I finally had the cake totally white iced, so I asked Dan to draw the design in the buttercream for me with a toothpick--he's the artist, and I don't trust myself with interpretation creativity!  I much prefer to have lines to follow.

Dan drew the design into the white buttercream for me!

Since it was so late, I opted to just go to bed instead of decorating the whole cake after Dan drew the design on for me.  Even with that smart choice, I didn't get to bed until 1:30am after cleaning up the mess in the kitchen with my mom (but not actually cleaning the kitchen, per my cleaning schedule that day--there was no way!).

The next morning was crazy--I got up and got right to cake decorating.  It took me about 3 hours to ice the promotion cake--it wasn't hard, but it takes some time to do all those stars.  I thought about doing the outer gray band in smooth icing, but I knew I would drive myself nuts trying to make it smooth (I didn't have a tip big enough to ice the whole band in one swoop, so I would have had to somehow smoothly combine two strips of icing...), so I went the easier route and just did everything in stars.

it's beginning to look like the design!

The oak leaf in the middle presented some challenges, and I wasn't sure how I was going to tackle it.  Dan wanted the oak leaf to have dimension--shading and depth...but again, that stuff is not my forte, and I didn't really have time to be messing with mixing multiple shades of the yellow gold icing to try to get the shading right.  I was going to star the oak leaf until my mom suggested that I just pipe the veins into the leaves...good idea, Mom!  It was a little tricky where one leaf ended and another began, especially closer to the stem, but I think it turned out really well--it wasn't quite what Dan envisioned, but it was the best I could do!

all done!

side view!

When the cake was finally done, I had to run to the store to pick up flowers (yes, I picked up flowers for myself, Abby, and Dan's mom--for Dan to give to us at his promotion...ha ha!), get back home, load up the cupcakes and cake, and make myself look decent for a fairly formal event.  I'm not a dress-wearing girl...the only dress I have right now that fits me is the dress I wore to Dan's brother's wedding this past summer, so that's what I pulled out of my closet.  I did feel pretty good about it--I think I've definitely lost some weight since I wore it in July, and it didn't look half bad.  Then I had to rush over to the promotion venue to get all the goodies set up:

the spread at the promotion ceremony!

 After making the table look good, I headed over to Abby's school to pick her up early, got her changed into her promotion outfit, and then hightailed it back over to the venue for a meet-and-greet with some higher-ups prior to the ceremony.  I hadn't eaten lunch and had the beginnings of a migraine, and was so tired--but I pushed through, and the ceremony was proud of my awesome husband!  The higher-up officiating the ceremony even asked me if I'm a professional cake-baker...I'm sure he was just being complimentary, but it was nice to hear that he liked the cake.  :)

Abby's special seat at the ceremony  :)

It was a lot of work and a bit of stress, but I'm really glad I made the cake for Dan's big day--and he loved it, so that's what counts.  The day was very special for all of us, and we definitely made the right call in having the boys stay home--even Abby had a tough time staying quiet and still during long, glowing remarks about her daddy!  :)  Congratulations to my awesome husband!

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