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Published: Sunday, 7/3/2005

The making of a wedding cake

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dennis Wixey spreads the first of two coatings of frosting on the base of the cake. The three tiers in the foreground are completed. Dennis Wixey spreads the first of two coatings of frosting on the base of the cake. The three tiers in the foreground are completed.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

Fate brought them together.

And though their relationship was fleeting, it ended happily enough.

We speak of local bride Gretchen Amstutz and her baker, Dennis Wixey.

Ms. Amstutz and Robert Burns, both 26, were recently married at Bethel Lutheran Church. Wixey Bakery, a South Toledo family business now in its 75th year of operation, made the wedding cake for the Holland couple after their original order was lost when Strauss Bakeries Inc. shut its doors in early May.

This is the story of their cake - just one of many cakes in the busy wedding season, yes, but representative of a tradition that dates back to Roman times. Heavy with hope and symbolism, a wedding cake is far more than the sum of its parts.

For the record, these were the parts of Gretchen and Robert's cake: a 6-inch diameter round chocolate cake atop an 8-inch Red Velvet cake atop a 10-inch strawberry cake, atop a 14-inch square chocolate cake base. Each tier consisted of three layers of cake, trimmed to a height of 4 inches.

They chose the flavors after sampling 10 to 12 types of cake and fillings, Gretchen said. "I wanted multiple flavors for the guests to be able to choose from," she explained.

Their cake was frosted in white, accented with flowers made of yellow icing, and topped with a spinning, illuminated glass figurine of a dancing bride and groom.

Bride Gretchen Burns dances with a wedding guest during the dollar dance at the reception. The cake is nearby, ready for cutting by the bride and her groom, Robert Burns. Bride Gretchen Burns dances with a wedding guest during the dollar dance at the reception. The cake is nearby, ready for cutting by the bride and her groom, Robert Burns.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

It began its short, sweet life four days before the wedding.

Creation of a wedding cake is typically a three-day process, explained Mr. Wixey, owner of the bakery. It's made on Day 1 - not mixed up one cake at a time but scooped from a giant mother tub of smooth, rich batter. After cooling, it's base-iced on Day 2 to keep the cake moist and prevent crumbs in the final coat of frosting. On Day 3 it's decorated, except for any accents of colored frosting. Those are applied at the last minute in hopes the colors don't bleed.

On Day 4, it's delivered in pieces, placed on rubber mats so the tiers don't skid around like hockey pucks on ice as the vehicle moves. The masterpiece is assembled on arrival.

The Amstutz/Burns cake didn't have far to travel - just a couple blocks to the Maumee River Yacht Club at Walbridge Park. Brian Wixey, Dennis' son, delivered and constructed the cake. (Brian's sister, Denise Coulter, also works at the bakery, the two of them representing the fourth generation of Wixey bakers.) Coincidently, the yacht club was the scene of Dennis Wixey's only delivery disaster, years ago when his father ran the business and Dennis was only about 20. "I was going up the back steps and I got to the top and tripped. I put it in my face," he said.

No such misfortune befell this cake - at least not before the sanctioned destruction began with the ceremonial slicing by a bride and groom who had waited so long for the moment.

"Bobby and I have been together for 11 years," Gretchen said. "He asked me to marry him seven years ago, but we put it off because we felt we were too young."

The years passed, but "There was always something that pushed it back," Gretchen recalled. "Finally we said, let's just set a date."

Days after the wedding, it was back to work for the Wixey bakers, who make 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of cake every week. For Gretchen and Robert, it was off to a honeymoon in the Bahamas.

And the top tier of their wedding cake was in the freezer, slumbering until their first anniversary.

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.com or 419-724-6126.



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