Jerome and Emily are a couple within a group of mutual friends. When they approached me 9 months ago to ask if I could make their wedding cake and favours, I was more than happy to oblige. I was even more thrilled when they told me their idea for an edible terrarium; no doubt to wow and fool their guests into thinking that they have a living plant in front of them. This was in line with their wedding’s garden theme which also included plenty of pastel flowers, succulents, wooden stumps and soft green moss.
With the terrariums, Emily wasted no time in ordering the plastic containers so I can experiment. I tested my regular chocolate mudcake (predominantly made with dutch cocoa) for the base dark soil but soon found that it didn’t work well after the cake is crumbled as it dried out and lost its chocolate flavour after a day or two. I then experimented with Bourke Street Bakery’s flourless chocolate cake but found the process to be extremely complicated so I came up with my own flourless chocolate cake recipe using almond meal and melted couverture chocolate. Not only did it taste rich, it retained moistness so it was gooey. Next came the top ‘sand’ to introduce contrast in colour and texture, made with almond meal, brown sugar, butter and the magic ingredients of sodium bicarbonate and salt which brings out the flavour of the chocolate and imparted a subtle crunchiness or sandy feel in the mouth. To make this dessert even more luscious, hidden in the center, between the dark soil and top sand is a dollop of delicious ‘mud’ made of Belgian milk chocolate ganache.
Sprigs of fresh herbs and sprinkling of chocolate rocks that I ordered over eBay provides some realism to the terrarium. The herb component gave us the most headaches. Initially I wanted the entire dessert to be edible with the herbs complementing the chocolate flavour. We discussed microherbs and pretty edible flowers but due to their fragile nature and the fact that I had 150 terrariums to make and deliver within a certain time-frame we needed a backup plan to avoid guests having to look at wilted, half-dead herbs by the time reception lunch comes around. So it was bye bye to the likes of regular thyme, lemon thyme, mint and basil and we considered the very hardy rosemary and aromatic lavender which was technically edible but not encouraged. The lavender and rosemary infused a lovely scent into the chocolate dessert which was surprisingly good and the herbs lasted overnight .
It was decided that the pièce de résistance, the showpiece wedding cake, would be a dummy cake constructed of polystyrene barrels. Emily and Jerome gave me a lot of leeway with their wedding cake design so it was a big relief as I could decorate the dummy cake in advance and concentrate on the 150 terrariums a day before the wedding. The only requirement they had was the tiers must be equal in height and feature their beloved pets – lop ear bunnies Barley and Winston. Naturally they were the cake toppers which I made with sugar paste. I decided on a 2-tier cake constructed out of 2 x 8-inch and 2 x 12-inch polystyrene dummy cakes brushed with edible gum made from water and CMC or Tylose powder and then covered in white sugar-paste. Decoration was minimal; just french lace, a big white sugarpaste flower flanked by pastel pink yellow roses and of course the bunny toppers. Fresh flowers, moss and wooden stump bases provided by their florist completed the look. When the florist told me I could pick ANYTHING out of all the flowers supplied I could hardly contain my enthusiasm; almost drowned the cake with fresh flowers. Haha!
Thank you Emily and Jerome for letting me be a part of your special day! On a somber note, while it was the happiest day of their lives, it was also the saddest as one of their pet bunnies, Barley of which the white sugarpaste bunny was modeled after, passed away on the same day RIP in Barley. May you continue to have a happy, hippety hoppety life in fluffy Bunny Heaven.