WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - She had spent the week shucking fava beans for a spring pesto, buying flowers for decorations and wrapping favors for 120. Now, after putting the finishing touches on tiered cakes of tiramisu, chocolatera spberry and coconutpassion fruit, Eileen Kilmartin got her hair done and slipped into her wedding dress.
It had taken careful planning and determination to reach this day. Kilmartin rose at 5:45 a.m. She carefully packed her car with everything she would need, from fava bean puree to extra pantyhose. She then drove from her parents’ home to Marin, Calif., and unloaded the entire vehicle.
‘‘You’re going to be stressing out about something,’’ said Kilmartin of a typical bride on her wedding day. ‘‘I’d rather be making really good food than worrying about whatever doodad is in my bridesmaids’ hair.’’
By 9 a.m., she was already ensconced at her reception site, the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Center, a scenic building with a blooming garden. She stood in a jean skirt, leather mules and a light green button-up shirt (borrowed from her ‘‘almost husband,’’ as she called him), decorating eight cakes (one layer of the coconut cake fell apart) with candied lilacs, shredded coconut and ground chocolate.
Making your own wedding cake may sound crazy, but Kilmartin is an ambitious woman. Even her fiance was dubious when she first mentioned the idea, but she succeeded beautifully — and the cakes were just the beginning.
With the exception of a few chafing dishes full of spinachricotta ravioli and seafood papardelle from a local restaurant, Kilmartin and company made all the food for her wedding. She treated 120 guests to lavish appetizers such as stuffed risotto fritters and foccacia with gorgonzola and grilled onions. There were platters of strawberries with quarts of fresh whipped cream and gallons of red and white sangria studded with grapes and citrus wedges. Throughout the reception, guests eyed the stunning cake table. They couldn’t believe the bride had made all the cakes.
‘‘It takes a village to cater your own wedding,’’ said Kilmartin that morning as she touched up the mocha buttercream frosting on one of her tiramisu cakes. ‘‘People have been tremendously helpful.’’
"I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who hasn’t worked in the restaurant business,’’ she said.
Still, Kilmartin’s adventure proves that with a level head and good planning, do-ityourself cakes are definitely possible. Kilmartin baked, filled and frosted her cakes three weeks before she was married. She then carefully wrapped them and tucked them away until the big day. Tasting them, you would never know they hadn’t been baked that morning (freezing wedding cakes in advance is standard practice at professional bakeries).
The ceremony went beautifully and ended with a surprise treat from the groom’s parents: A bagpiper greeted the couple as they left the church and played through the village center as all in attendance walked to the reception a few blocks away.
After hours of celebrating, it was finally time for cake. The guests went wild for each one, but plucked up slices of the tiramisu cake so quickly that the servers couldn’t keep up with demand. Each cake sang with its own flavor — superior to most bakery jobs. But, perhaps more importantly, they had a homemade touch.