Rain. Buckets of rain. The kind of cool summer downpour that this mountain top garden drinks in like a farmer does sweet tea and lemonade. The bride, in her white dress with swirls of blue silk and vintage lace, holds her lovers hands underneath of a pole tent. We gape at the force of the storm, swirling around us. It’s streaming off of the tent, a force splashing into a serpentine river of mud and gravel. We look on, watch the two gentle hearts with eyes fixed on each other, the officiant yelling over the noise of water pounding canvas and earth, thunder rolling. I’ve often thought of my friend, Mary, as the eye in the middle of the storm. She’s a force of calm amidst chaos. But now I see the two of them, hand in hand, together emanating that stillness. No fear, no distraction within the deluge. They’re completely centered within it. Natural and serene. It would take two perpetual gardeners to inhale the storm and breeze right through it, thanking it for blessing the fields and nourishing their sunflowers. And that’s exactly what they did.
If you’ve been following along on instagram or read my last post, you’ll know that (now Mr. & Mrs.) David and Mary asked me to make the desserts for this stormy, romantic, heart-full occasion. Cake for 60, tarts for 160. So I did. Mary coordinated my wedding last Fall and did all of the flowers. It was a dream. So there was no way I was going to make anything less than swoon-worthy desserts for this event.
The task itself seemed simple enough: make a wedding cake for the formal wedding luncheon and some berry tarts for the barbecue reception/after-party. Oh, what I fool I am! Simple is not the word I would choose to describe the process, looking back. Maybe delicious. Maybe intimidating. Maybe maddening. But simple? Time to find another word.
There’s nothing that could have prepared me for the fear factor involved with stacking and frosting and filling and decorating my first wedding cake. There are days of build up — physical and mental — all preparing for this moment. If the frosting isn’t stable enough, the filling is too liquid, the cakes crack: total heartbreak. For you and for a lot of people counting on you. So you have to be prepared for anything. I admit I made a backup buttercream just in case the gelatin-fortified whipped cream I prepared didn’t hold together (it did and it was awesome). Thank goodness for our friend, The Internet. Without Food52 this whole thing would have been a nightmare.
Here are the links I used to prepare myself for the organized chaos of wedding cake making.
But what kind of cake did you make, Renee? I made a chiffon cake (adapted for a 9″ pan from Two Red Bowls), with a fortified whipped cream and lemon curd. I really love chiffon wedding cakes. They’re airy and light, moist, freeze and stack well, and you don’t even have to level off the tops.
But, Renee, that’s SO not high vibe hippiefied like you do! Yeah, I know. But you guys, this one wasn’t about me. But I didn’t forget about you of course! To make the wedding cake super hippie dip and all stars-in-yer-eyes tasty good for ya you can use my Gluten Free Chiffon Cake recipe, my Genius Cashew Coconut Frosting OR Vegan Vanilla Buttercream and my Dairy Free Citrus Curd recipe!
The wedding itself was located at the top of a steep driveway, so I found myself frosting and filling and layering and decorating about an hour before the ceremony in the lovebirds’ kitchen. Surrounded by buckets of the brides home grown flowers. And dapper groomsmen. And dogs. So many dogs. While I was at it Logan was busy measuring out a bunch of coffee concentrate for the reception, which was met with love and adoration and obsession by the attendees. Did I mention Logan helped me time everything out and organize my brain and finagle a giant cooler to store everything in? Also he let me freak out and have a breakdown moment when I tried to make a backup swiss meringue buttercream (like an idiot) and didn’t hold it against me. So, yeah, he’s the best.
Somehow I got the cakes to the reception site (thanks to a volunteer with an umbrella) and decorated them with flowers and blueberries. Logan even shook a bunch of flower buds over the cake tables. Falling in love. Again. It happens.
Everyone was happy!
Making the Tart
4 days before the wedding I went out picking blueberries and peaches with the bride-to-be and a friend. Blueberries and peaches are both hitting their peak early season ripening in Nelson County, Virginia. So incorporating them into the desserts was a no brainer. I stuck them in the fridge and worked on the cake until…
2 days before the wedding aka CRUNCH TIME and I became a slave to the kitchen. I baked the final four cake layers, hand squeezed 48 lemons for lemon curd, made said lemon curd in two batches, made two giant batches of my pistachio date press in crusts (the same ones in my strawberry goddess tarts), pressed them into baking pans and stacked them (with difficulty) in the freezer.
I filled the tarts with lemon curd and topped them with sliced peaches and blueberries during a moment of calm between the formal luncheon and the chill backyard barbecue portion of the wedding. Then I served them with cans of whipped cream. Cuz easy and nostalgia.
I can confidently say that the tart got rave reviews. Logan actually caught his mom piling a plate full of it right before they were heading out because she wanted to freeze it for later! It made a damn fine breakfast the next day, after a night of partying and camping under the stars. But what dessert doesn’t make good breakfast fare I ask ye?
The crust is no-bake and just about as easy as a tart crust gets. Dates, nuts, chia, coconut oil. Simple as that. The dates give the crust a deep, caramel flavor that accents the luscious, smooth, tangy-sweet lemon curd and play really well against the perfectly ripe peaches. Also, why aren’t there more blueberry and peach combos out there in the world? It’s a damn fine combo. Serve with coconut ice cream, coconut whipped cream, or a classic swirl of dairy whip. Just make sure whip is involved y’all! It takes it to the next level.
All of todays photos were taken using VSCO.
- 1.5 cups roasted, unsalted pistachio meat
- 3.75 cups almond meal
- scant 1 cup chia seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
- 1 cup coconut oil, melted
- 30 moist medjool dates, pitted
- 12 large eggs
- zest of 4 medium lemons
- 2 cups strained fresh lemon juice (about 12 medium lemons)
- 2 cups sugar (evaporated cane sugar, although you can use coconut sugar if you like, but it will make the lemon curd darker)
- 1.5 cups softened butter OR softened coconut oil
- Yellow peaches, sliced -- 8-10 large peaches (I add lemon juice to keep them from browning)
- Blueberries, about 3-4 cups depending on your preference
- to serve, whipped cream OR coconut whipped cream
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with an S blade, mill the pistachio meats until you have a gritty flour -- about 1 minute.
- Add the pistachio flour to a large mixing bowl along with the almond meal, chia seeds, and salt.
- Add ½ cup of the coconut oil to the flour mix and mix evenly with your hands.
- Add half of the pitted dates to the food processor, and process -- streaming in half of the coconut oil while the blade is running.
- Add the rest of the dates while the blade runs. Blend until you have a sticky, caramel-like mixture, about 20 seconds more.
- Add the date-coconut oil mixture to the bowl of flour and knead the mixture together with your hands until you have a pliable dough and everything has come together.
- Press the dough evenly into your baking sheets, pressing the crust up the sides of the baking sheet as well (I used two 9" x 13" x 1" quarter sheet pans). Freeze until ready to use.
- In a non-reactive medium sauce pan, whisk together the eggs, zest, lemon juice, and sugar.
- Add the butter.
- Whisk over medium heat, reaching into the corners and scraping down the side of the pan as you go, until the butter is melted and the mixture is thickened and beginning to gently simmer around the edges. It should coat the back of a spoon thickly. Whisk for another 10 seconds, then remove from heat.
- Set a strainer over a large bowl. Scrape the curd over a mesh strainer and press the curd through (this is to catch any cooked egg bits). Scrape any lemon curd on the bottom of the strainer into your the bowl.
- Refrigerate, covered, until chilled before using. Lemon curd keeps in the fridge, covered, for up to 1 week.
- Spoon and spread the lemon curd into the crusts, smoothing the curd out evenly between the two tart pans.
- Top with sliced peaches and blueberries.
- Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Serve with whipped cream or whipped coconut cream! Enjoy!