I had just come home from class when I realized I had a voicemail. It was from a number I didn’t recognize, and that usually means it’s a potential client.
Well this potential client happened to be Dame Diana Rigg: English actress who was currently in New York performing in the Broadway show My Fair Lady.
What was it like making a cake for someone as iconic as Diana Rigg? I remember the event planner in the voicemail hadn’t referred to her by name but instead told me that he needed four cakes for “a well-known actress’ 80th birthday party.” Like any sane human being, I immediately began searching for all actresses in NYC who were 79 and had birthdays in late July. I asked my boyfriend when he got home and he said, “maybe it’s Meryl Streep!” We then proceeded to look up Meryl Streep’s age and realized we had just insulted Meryl Streep by thinking she was 10 years older than she actually was.
This order was the biggest order I had ever gotten. They were asking for two sheet cakes and two 10” cube cakes all made with vanilla cake, vanilla buttercream, and filled with lemon curd. I knew it was going to be an insane amount of labour and ingredients, and I knew that LEMON CURD was not a very stable building material. The order was placed months before the event, and the weeks leading up to the event were the most panicky weeks of my life. I had spent the past weeks ordering bulk ingredients, doing geometry equations I never thought I’d do again to figure out how much batter was needed, refining and altering my lemon curd recipe, and mentally trying to figure out the best methods for production, structure, and transportation. This cake was a result of tireless planning and ridiculous logistical organization. Every single step we seemed to encounter a problem that needed solving.
The night of production I enlisted the help of my incredible boyfriend and a friend from culinary school. My boyfriend and I hauled several boxes of ingredients that we had been storing in our studio apartment over to the kitchen we’d be working in. The three of us worked non-stop in the small, dimly-lit, hot basement kitchen of a local bakery for almost 10 hours. I had never worked with so much cake batter, buttercream, and damn lemon juice all at once before. Without the help of my boyfriend and my friend I am convinced I couldn’t have pulled this off. They were endlessly helpful.
By the time the cakes were fully baked, the buttercream fully whipped, and the curd fully set, it was time to assemble the four cakes. Each cube cake had 7 layers of cake and 3 layers of structure just to ensure they would both make it to the venue the next day. By 2am, the cakes were done, my feet were tired, my face was sweaty, and I was delirious–but the cakes were fucking done. I had dreamed about this moment since I got the order.
After the delivery, the event planner I had been coordinating with sent me some photos of Diana when the cake was unveiled. Seeing those photos and seeing her smiling face, she made me almost forget about how hard it was to make it happen. I’d do it all over again if I knew it’d make people as happy as it did. And I was unbelievably proud because I had proved to myself that I could handle this industry and this massive order.
That’s what it was like making a cake for Dame Diana Rigg. An unforgettable experience.