Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wedding Cake Tasting: Jacques Fine European Pastries in Suncook, NH

I hate driving.

I drove an hour and a half to get to Jacques Pastries to look at wedding cakes. 

I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I've known for nearly 2 years that I wanted Jacques to make my wedding cake.  I'm pretty sure it was the second bridal show mom and I went to that I saw them.  The first was at Spinelli's, and while they were very good, they wouldn't make me a small cake.  At the second show I went to, they were there along with one or two other bakeries.  And there was just no comparison, Jacques' cakes were by far the best tasting cake there.  Mom encouraged me to ask, "Can you make a small 3 tiered cake?  I'm having fewer than 25 people."  They said yes, so that was that.  I've had my heart set on them ever since.  I tried other cakes at other bridal shows and never changed my mind.

So I made the 90 minute trek up to Suncook, NH.  I have to say, much as I hate driving, heading up the highway in New England in the fall on a crisp day will put ANYONE in a good mood.  It was beautiful.  The foliage lit up in the sunlight against a cloudless blue sky, the bridges, the rivers, it was like looking at postcards for an hour and a half.

Another thing that put me in a good mood was the fact that I am alive during a time when GPS exists.  If I was driving there prior to that little innovation I probably would not have made it.  And if I had attempted to drive there prior to MapQuest I am certain I would not have made it (seriously; I gave up on a job interview once because I got too lost).  I only hit one small snag getting there; the GPS said, "You have reached your destination," and I clearly had not.  So after a few minutes of looking for a place to pull over that had a sort of landmark I could give them, parked, and happened to look across the street.  It was right there.

And perfect timing too; I left early, drove pretty fast, but only had 10 minutes to spare.  So if you're traveling from Massachusetts to visit them, keep all this in mind but trust me when I tell you it's worth it.  I was one of 3 other groups all scheduled for a tasting at the same time.  The shop was really cute, and the staff seemed friendly.

We sat down and talked about the day and location of the wedding.  I asked if it was possible for them to deliver it to my mom's house because it's about a half hour closer to their shop (and it's a small cake) and they said sure.  She even checked for me a little later on and it turns out I'd save $60 that way, yay!  We agreed on a 9 am delivery for that day.

Then we talked size.  I told her I was only going to have 12 people, and that I was told I could get 3 tiers.  She balked a little and I said that I didn't mind having some left over.  I wasn't thrilled when she told me it would serve 25, (everyone, please take TWO slices) but I bit the bullet.  My cake topper will fit, it won't look like a cupcake, and she even said the top tier can be a little shorter in order to make it proportionate.  

Next we talked design.  I showed her a printout of 9 wedding cakes, basically white with some filigree/swirly sort of designs, with 3 round tiers.  One of them was even on Jacques' website.  It looked a little on the simple side, and not really intricate and elegant.  But my priority was more that it would just have that traditional feel to it, and that's achieved with the color and silhouette more than how tight the filigree is, I think.

My cake will be this but 3 tiers and no flowers.
So when she confirmed that the more lacy-looking design was going to cost more, and the one I printed from their site is their most basic design, I was okay with that.  After all, at the last bridal show I went to, they had their "mock wedding," and the couple went over to the stunning work of art that was actually a real cake from Jacques, I was horrified when I thought they were cutting into it.  I flinched, I turned away, I said to mom afterwards, "They didn't actually cut it, did they?!?"  It was like a horror movie.

I decided that I want to enjoy how yummy my cake is, not feel like I'm destroying something beautiful when I cut into it.  And I already know that feeling; Adam has gotten me custom made cakes for my birthday and it always kills me to watch them sliced.  No, there's too many expenses when it comes to the wedding; I'd rather save the money than have the most ornate design I can come up with.

On the other hand, when it comes to the TASTE of the cake, I wanted something a bit special.  I've heard that people expect the wedding cake to taste bad.  That form is paramount to function when it comes to wedding cakes.  Well, like I said I've tasted their cakes before so I already knew that does not have to be the case.  And I was prepared to spend $5 per slice (plus delivery) for a cake that people were going to really enjoy, as opposed to $3 per slice that they eat out of obligation.  That was the real reason I made the trek.  And I overheard a group at the next table say that they came from Maine, but it was totally worth it.

So I told her what Adam and I discussed last night:
  • Top tier:  (For our anniversary) Spice cake with cinnamon frosting
  • Middle tier:  (For Adam) White or Red Velvet cake with vanilla or black cherry frosting
  • Bottom tier:  (For me) Lemon cake with raspberry or strawberry preserve
She recommended black Russian frosting on the red velvet, which I said I'd be happy to try, as well as chocolate filling for the white cake, which I'd never turn down even though I knew Adam felt chocolate in a wedding cake is blasphemous.  She came out with the 4 cake flavors we talked about with "vanilla" frosting, and little cups of the other flavors so that I could mix and match how I liked.  That's exactly how I was imagining this tasting would happen!  Otherwise how would they have everything stocked that I wanted to sample? 

So I tried everything, and the top tier was good, my tier was easy to decide (raspberry beat strawberry by a good margin).  Adam's was trickier because, well, I had to guess what he'd like!  I thought the cherry and black Russian were both really good, but really different and I'm not sure which he'd like better, or if he wouldn't like either and prefer plain.  She said I could wrap it up and bring it home for him, and I explained that home for him is England, and I assumed that a month out from the wedding would be too close to make changes.  She said no, they only needed 2 weeks notice to change things, and that gave me an idea.  "What if I took a piece home to FREEZE for him?"  And that's just what I did.  I got a piece, the remainder of both little cups of frosting, and put down vanilla for now.  Paid my deposit, finished off my slices of yummy, yummy cakes, and left happy!  One more task checked off of the wedding to do list!

Top Wedding Planning Tips:
1.  Bring your cake topper with you when you go for your tasting so they can put it on for you.
2.  Bring a palette cleanser!  I put some shredded wheat in a small container to eat after each bite.  This was especially important when eating the same flavor cake with different frostings.  I overheard someone at a nearby group say, "I don't know what's wrong with me; it's all starting to taste the same!"  I didn't have that problem, nor did I have the problem of too much sugar making my mouth hurt and pucker.  The baker provided water but that doesn't really help.

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