A wedding cake story in The Outer Banks, North Carolina

Closeup of the top

I spent the last week in The Outer Banks, a collection of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. I swam in the ocean, got a tan, enjoyed a lot of seafood, and couldn’t get enough of the perfect sunny temperatures.

Oh, and I made a wedding cake.

Beach and light house

An old friend from high school asked Steve and I to be a part of their destination wedding and I more than eagerly accepted the request to bake their wedding cake on site. All you have to do is dangle an opportunity to stay at the beach and I’m there.

Looking back now I’d say I bit off more than I could chew, as the week involved much more work and a lot less vacation than I anticipated. But it was all for a good friend and a great cause, and I am so glad I was there.

A beach wedding

Boquet and dock

It all seemed completely doableβ€” I packed a suitcase with every baking tool I could conceive of needing, my friend lent me her kitchen aid mixer, and I was given complete domain of the beach house’s large kitchen and fridge.

I started off the week on a high. I spent the majority of the day in the kitchen baking layer after layer of chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet cake layers and preparing a variety of icings and fillings. They were long days but afterward I could go lay on the beach and let the ocean wash my exhaustion away. And any stress left after that was taken care of by seaside meals, soaks in the hot tub, and many glasses of wine.

The finished wedding cake

I even took Thursday off completely from my project and Steve and I saw the sights. We drove south through the Outer Banks, visiting the site of the Wright Brother’s first flight, iconic light houses, and quaint towns.

Despite all of my preparation and confidence, I could not avoid the panic that set in on Friday. I think the main issue was that I was unprepared for how exhausted I would be by this point. If I was doing this at home in my own kitchen, I likely would have spread the project out over several weeks, instead of cramming it into just a few days. Plus I was also trying to enjoy my vacation.

But I powered through the best that I could and everything came together in the end. The part that I was most concerned about, the stacking and decorating of the cake in between the ceremony and reception, was actually the easiest part. I had never stacked a cake before and had all sorts of nightmares about cakes collapsing.  But when it came down to it, there was no time to get emotional, I just had to do it. And I did. And it didn’t collapse!

Cutting the cake

Everyone loved the cake and I got so many wonderful compliments. Like really, really nice compliments. The bride and groom were happy, so I probably should be happy too. But the perfectionist in me saw many glaring errors. The heat and humidity were a big challenge, one that I didn’t adequately prepare for. But you live and learn, right? Next time I’ll know a little more about what I’m getting into.

Vanilla wedding cake

That is, if there is a next time. I am not the type of person that works well under pressure, I’m the type of person that wants to hide under my bed when I’m overwhelmed. At one point Saturday morning (the day of the wedding) the anxiety was so bad I was finding it difficult to breathe.

Maybe wedding cakes aren’t my thing.

Still, it was a valuable learning experience as a baker, and an invaluable experience being there for my friend on her special day. The Outer Banks were absolutely beautiful and picturesque, and I had such a great time experiencing this new place. If only I had just one more day on the beach to unwind and relax. I guess I’ll have to go back.

Sunset in the Outer Banks

A few details for those interested. The cake consisted of a 14-inch chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream filling, a 12-inch vanilla cake with raspberry buttercream filling, a 10-inch red velvet cake with cream cheese buttercream filling, and a 8-inch vanilla cake with raspberry buttercream filling. There was also a spare tier, another 10 inch red velvet cake. All was frosted in vanilla Italian meringue buttercream.