Thursday, October 21, 2010

Today Throws a Modern Day Wedding! Wedding Cake NYC Style

Last month we had the honor of being chosen by the viewers of The Today Show to create the wedding cake for this year's couple, Melissa MacMillin, a Columbia, Missouri nursing student, and Jeremy Gebhardt, an Air Force senior airman stationed in Anchorage, Alaska. The wedding took place at Rockefeller Plaza, followed by a reception at Hudson Terrace. For those of you who've never seen the show, every week Today Show viewers nationwide pick a different element of the wedding: the bride's dress, reception venue, rings, wedding cake, etc.

Our adventure all started with a call from The Today Show producers asking Ana to create a wedding cake for their live segment Today Throws A Modern Day Wedding. Ana and three other cake designers from across the US were asked to submit a sketch of their cake designs, and after approval, they had to bring their cakes to NBC studios in NYC, along with cake samples for tasting.

The original sketch. Ana eventually omitted the monogram, because as the design evolved she realized it made the cake too busy.

Ana's not used to designing a wedding cake for a couple without knowing any details about the venue, the flowers, or much else about the wedding. Ana had to come up with an elegant design that would fit in just about any wedding. We were curious to see how the general public would react to Ana's wedding cake design; our brides love her designs, but then again they come to us because they're attracted by Ana's style. Would the general public have the same reaction?

We'll tell the rest of the story with videos from The Today Show, some of our own photos, Rob Trenske's amazing images, and give some glimpses behind the scenes. If you aren't familiar with Rob and Kathleen's (Kathleen is Rob's wife) work, you owe yourself a visit to their website and blog.

Photos above by Ana Parzych Custom Cakes

Ana with Margaret Braun (a very talented cake artist, author of Cakewalk) posing for a snapshot with their wedding cakes at one of The Today Show's three fully equipped kitchens. All the cakes had to be delivered to the studios ahead of time to get ready for presentation the next day. The resident food stylists work their magic, making sure every detail (table, linens, etc.) is just right.

Gail Simmons, judge from Top Chef and host of Just Desserts, presents the four cakes live on Today. Designers: Cake Divas (LA), Maggie Austin (DC), Margaret Braun (NYC), and Ana Parzych (CT).

After more than 110,000 viewers cast their votes over the next week, Ana's wedding cake was declared the winner! Thanks to all who voted and passed the word!

We found out on Tuesday, September 28 that Ana won, and had to keep it secret until the official presentation the next morning. Wednesday morning started very early, when a car arrived in our driveway to take Ana to Today's studios to make the presentation. Our good friend Gayle came along to keep Ana company; Gayle is the most laid-back person we've ever met, and this wasn't the first time she's helped us out on very short notice.

After presenting the cake, Ana got to spend some time with Melissa and Jeremy. They are a lovely couple, very gracious and sincere. (photo by Gayle Rossi)

Ana with Matt Lauer. Matt is as friendly as he seems on tv; he has a knack for making everyone comfortable, which is what makes him a great tv host. (photo by Gayle Rossi)

After presenting the winning display, Ana was whisked back to her studio to work on the actual cake. There was no time to lose; this was a complex cake, we had less than a day to complete it, and we had six other custom wedding cakes to make that weekend. In between it all NBC30 came in to interview Ana and film.
We are blessed with a skilled, enthusiastic staff that always goes the extra mile to get the job done, even when we aren't around to supervise. Thanks Katerina, Kaecey, and Lauren! And of course Miriana and Gayle!

 On the way to the venue we picked up photographer Rob Trenske, who had photographed Ana's wedding cake for the initial presentation and graciously offered to photograph the event for us.

Rob's first task was to keep me calm and awake as we sped down the Merritt Parkway in the driving rain. During the hardest downpours the windshield wipers were almost useless. I was worried about Rob having a heart attack from all the hydroplaning, plus the usual crazy drivers on the Merritt, but he kept calm. Exhausted from working days on end with little sleep, Ana slept in the back of the delivery van, oblivious to the bad driving conditions.

My biggest worry was getting the cake into the venue without it getting wet; even a drop of water could destroy Ana's sugar flowers. Luckily, the rain slowed by the time we got there. Even luckier, they let me drive the delivery van right onto the sidewalk, and two guys with large Today Show umbrellas sheltered the cake from the rain as we carried it five feet from the car to the front door.

Once the cake was inside, Ana had to put on the finishing touches, including some borders she hadn't had time for before leaving. Being an artist, she couldn't resist making some last-minute refinements.

The Air Force emblem Ana incorporated into the topper to honor Jeremy's service. Like all the flowers, the emblem is made of sugar and completely edible.

Some of the detail on Ana's cake (freehand brush embroidery and the borders)

Ana with celebrity wedding planner Colin Cowie, who designed the reception details.

Natalie Morales presenting Ana's cake on live tv.  Natalie is down to earth and very friendly; she spent quite a long time talking with us.  Having started her career in Connecticut, Natalie is familiar with Cheshire, where we have our studio.

Colin Cowie commenting on Ana's cake to Natalie; you can see his presentation below.

We know we've done our job when guests go straight to the wedding cake as soon as they enter the room, and take pictures with it.

Ana with Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, Today Show hosts.

Ana with Carley Roney, founder and Editor in Chief of The Knot Weddings Magazine and Ana's cakes have been featured in three issues of the popular magazine this year,  but had never actually met Carley in person until then!

A rare photo of me (at Rob's insistence!) with Ana, Melissa, and Jeremy.

Jeremy and Melissa cutting the cake. This shot illustrates just how good Rob is at getting a great shot while remaining completely unobtrusive. The Stealth Photographer strikes again! Thanks so much for your great photos and your good company during the day, Rob!

The whole experience was exciting, yet went by so fast. It was surreal meeting so many people in person we had known only from tv.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dubai Wedding Cake

Our 2009 wedding season ended with one of our most memorable and exciting wedding cakes yet, a delivery to the Park Hyatt Dubai!

Images courtesy of Park Hyatt Dubai

We had been looking forward to this delivery for months, since Zainab and Leena, high-end wedding and event planners in Dubai, first sent us an inquiry.

The staff at the Park Hyatt Dubai gave us a warm welcome upon our arrival. After a nice talk, Events Manager Ana guided us to the pastry kitchen and introduced us to the staff.

No two pastry chefs in the kitchen were from the same country, but they all took a lot of pride in their work and bent over backwards to help us. Chefs Jocelyn and Amit and their staff keep a very upbeat, productive atmosphere that made us feel right at home. With less than 3 days to put together a very complex custom designed wedding cake, we had to get right to work.

Ana had designed the wedding cake well before our trip, working closely with Reem and Marwan (the bride and groom) through Zainab and Leena. Based on a wealth of information about the other elements of the wedding, Ana sketched a variety of wedding cake designs, and, with Reem’s feedback, the design evolved over several generations. The final design featured fondant drapes inspired by Reem’s Manuel Mota Couture dress, royal icing piping to match Reem’s and Marwan’s invitation, and lots of sugar flowers to match the wedding flowers, with all the design elements and colors tying together to fit the theme of the reception, “Old Hollywood Glamour.”

Photography by Sue Johnston

Once the wedding cake design was finalized, Ana and her staff spent weeks hand-crafting the hundreds of gumpaste sugar flowers. We were relieved and very grateful when Emirates, the airline, showed great flexibility and let us carry all the flowers into the cabin with us (it takes special handling to transport Ana’s paper-thin sugar flowers 6,000 miles overseas).

We’d flown lots of different airlines between 5 continents, but the food, the entertainment, and especially the truly amazing service made this the most enjoyable flight we’d ever experienced.

Between marathon sessions in the kitchen putting the cake together, we were spoiled by incredible meals in the Park Hyatt’s restaurants.

The wedding reception was very upbeat and lively; a mix of Arabic and western traditions.

The tables were named after famous movie stars, in a perfect match with the Vintage Hollywood Glamour theme.

Zainab and Leena did a beautiful job transforming the ballroom, adding crystal chandeliers, custom mirrors, and elegant furniture, along with hundreds of candles, lavender silk linens, and lace backdrops, all illuminated in shades of gold and pink.

Thanks to Julie Gibson of Studio Grace for taking the trouble to send us all the stationery, which was a great help in designing Reem’s cake. Thanks also to Sue Johnston, a New Zealand photographer living in Dubai, for all her great photos.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring has finally arrived! Cherry Blossoms Wedding Cake

I know spring has arrived when I see the beautiful cherry blossoms outside the bay window in my kitchen;
I can’t wait for the first blooms to arrive every year to tell me that the too-long New England winter is finally over.

So last year when wedding icon Maria McBride (BRIDES wedding style director) commissioned me to create a Spring wedding cake with a bird-inspired theme for their 2010 Jan. issue, I immediately thought of a lovely birds nest sitting atop the branch of a cherry tree.

BRIDES Jan. 2010 issue

Photography by Alison Rosa - Courtesy of
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