BELMONT — Wedding cakes have reached a whole new level, in altitude that is, and local baker Vicki Lee Boyajian is taking them there. After offering to bake the cake for the son of a close friend who was getting married, Boyajian agreed to decorate the cake of a young pastry chef getting married the same weekend. For an experienced bakery owner, two weddings at the same time is, well, a piece of cake. But these had a catch. Both weddings were scheduled to take place in California. The farthest Boyajian’s cakes had ever traveled was to Vermont, New Hampshire, and the Cape, and those went via car and without obstacles from airport security.
Boyajian, who runs Vicki Lee’s in Belmont, had to be at one wedding in San Francisco on a Friday, the other one the following Sunday in Carmel (about 100 miles south). Even with the geographic challenges, she decided to bake on.
The San Francisco wedding was the cake she was decorating. The Carmel wedding was getting her popular silver-white framboise cake, which is a confection with raspberry preserves and Italian buttercream. She also brought two smaller his-and-her cakes to each wedding. In her downtime between nuptials, she planned to stop in Half Moon Bay on the way to Carmel, and drop off fruit tarts as a surprise to a longtime bakery patron who had moved there.
On Oct. 4, she packed up multiple layers of frozen cakes wrapped tightly with plastic wrap, a 5-quart container and two 4-quart containers of frozen buttercream, two fruit-tart shells (the fruit was later procured by the pastry-chef groom at his local farmers’ market in San Francisco), dozens of fragile purple, yellow, and green fondant flowers, the his-and-hers cakes, and black and white Anzac cookies for wedding favors (these are some of her specialties). She was also traveling with piping bags, frosting tips, and metal spatulas.
On the flight, says Boyajian, her fellow travelers responded incredulously about her baked goods undertaking and looked “confused,” asking if she was “actually going to a wedding?” She stuffed her precious carry-ons gingerly into the overhead bins and focused on the weekend ahead.
As soon as the plane hit the ground in San Francisco, Boyajian began the deliveries with the help of her tech-savvy son, Luke, who documented the journey with an iPad and updated their location through constant Facebook posts.
The baker prepped far ahead for the journey, baking and freezing the cakes to ensure their stability. She even “test flew” a batch of her Italian meringue buttercream with the mother of the groom, who was heading to California a few days earlier. Boyajian requested pictures and measurements of the refrigerators she would use, shipped packages full of baking equipment, and even considered what type of vehicle to rent for her drive along the California coast. As she pointed out, “You can’t drive a cake around in a convertible.”
Then she called many Bay Area bakeries to barter for walk-in freezer space, emergency frosting in case her “buttercream gets busted,” she said, and the use of kitchen equipment if necessary. With her pastry connections and fellow bakers on standby on the West Coast, all she needed to do was get guidelines from Logan Airport and Virgin Airlines. The rules were clear: no spreadable, gel, or liquid items permitted on the plane. But, frozen is another state, one that allowed Boyajian to carry over 10 quarts of solidified buttercream in the overhead compartment.
By Friday she had already decorated one wedding cake, dropped off the Anzac cookies, and assembled the baked goods for her next stop. She spent the afternoon in Half Moon Bay.
Finally, on Saturday, she arrived in Carmel with plenty of time to assemble the framboise cake. She sandwiched multiple layers of a light, moist almond cake with a thin spread of rich raspberry preserves. The Italian meringue buttercream, made with egg whites, sugar syrup, and butter, says Boyajian, “is a lot of labor and needs real egg whites” to be authentic.
With the help of the groom’s mother, Boyajian finished the four-tiered cake with intricate piping, decorating it with the fondant flowers she had brought with her, and fresh flowers to match the wedding decor.
In the end, the cake was a big hit. The newlyweds thanked their bicoastal baker on the wedding menu: “Our cake traveled 3,000 miles with great care and love from Belmont, Massachusetts,” it read.
After the energetic weekend, says Boyajian, she “needed more time to relax.”
At least she didn’t have to bribe any airport personnel with her Anzac cookies.
To find more photos of Vicki Lee Boyajian’s wedding cake adventure, go to her Facebook page through www.vickilees.com.