Fresh, Naked Cakes...

Because we need a little springtime right this very minute....   

Dahlia and Blackberry Cake
Not long go I was asked to make a "naked" cake with fresh flowers and/or fruit.  
This definitely gave me pause because I'd never made a cake without being completely covered in icing.  In fact, 99% of the cakes I make are not only covered with buttercream, but then covered in fondant as well. 
As for the flowers, I'd never loved the idea of putting fresh flowers on a cake. I always felt like, "what's the point? the whole essence of what I do it to hand-make decorations, like flowers, that are sugar."
But something about the assignment intrigued me.  Maybe it was just timing, or because I like figuring out how to do things I haven't done before and in part just for the sheer simplicity of it.  AND I do  love flowers.  Flowers are so magical.
Like the majority of my first-time projects, I think I went a little overboard scouring the flower market hunting down the perfect buds.  (If you live anywhere near a flower market and you've never gone, you have to go exploring!)
I found this great blog post about navigating the New York City flower market, and then I broke pretty much every rule in the article... but I still recommend it!

Rule #1. Plan ahead (not so much)  #2: Arrive early (broken)  #3: Browse first, buy later (broken!)
Research: Next  I did some seriously unscientific research (thank you, Google) about attaching the flowers to the cake.  There are number of different ways to go, and I tried a little bit of each, in my first cake attempt:  
  • Wires: cutting the stems very close to the top of the flower and inserting floral wires then wrapping in floral tape
  • Spikes: cutting the stems fairly short and placing them inside of flower spikes filled with a bit of water
  • Some people also just stuck the flowers directly into the cake; (if you try this, wrap the stems in foil first)

Cake after 1 HOUR. *note: this cake is a second version (I can't show the original one yet) made the next day as a study, so the flowers are a couple of days old.  All of the flower stems on this test cake were cut, the bottom 2/3's covered in foil and stuck directly into the cake.
Timing: The average wedding reception, not including the cocktail hour, is about 4 hours.  I couldn't imagine that flowers would still look good after being out of water for that long, so I tried it.

Thoroughly unscientific timing experiments: Queen Anne's Lace cut down to about a two inch stem and checked in on periodically over the next 5 hours to see how it would hold up.  It did surprisingly wonderfully!  I detected very little difference from beginning to end.  
BUT I realized my experiment was flawed when I tried it out on a cake. I kept the above test subject laying flat on a counter.  When the flower is standing upright on a cake you could see it start to wilt over the same amount of time, although it still did really well and I would use it again.

Left to right: Rice flower, "Green Magical" Eryngium , Jasmine vine, Ranunculus, Black berries on the vine, and...(not sure about this one), birds-nest fern? All except the fern leaf did great and still looked great after 5 hours.

At the 4 HOUR mark.

5 1/2 HOURS...showing its temporal nature, which to my eye is as poignant and beautiful as ever.
 This cake is loosely based on the Raphaelle inspired flower photographs by Sharon Core, both of which at their heart depict flowers at those last fleeting moments, beautiful and fully open, and just before the petals begin to fall.  While perhaps not best wedding metaphor, I love that moment.


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