The Sweetest Thing

Local baker turns butter and sugar into forever

Actually, I suspect it would be nearly impossible for a raging homophobe to throw a really good wedding in this town. Or in America. David Mess pointed that out to me, while also noting that the Twin Cities are in something of a lag when it comes to promoting gay weddings. In places like Florida and San Francisco there can be an almost "gayer-than-thou" competition between venues to try to capture the commitment-ceremony dollar, but a visit to gay wedding resource sites (such as www.rainbowweddingnetwork.com) reveals a shortage of local places reaching out to the gay reception market. Which is perhaps why others I spoke to for this article, like award-winning local florist Anthony Shane, say that despite a spike a few years ago led by local companies and governments debuting domestic-partner benefits, the number of commitment ceremonies held in the Twin Cities has actually decreased: "Lately, a lot of people go to Hawaii for their ceremonies, because [gay marriage is] legal there," says Shane. "If they got the domestic-partnership deal wrapped up here so that it was legal, we'd probably see more again." Perhaps that's a revenue stream our cash-strapped legislators should examine: If everyone within driving distance started hosting their weddings in Minnesota? It boggles the mind.

Though maybe not as much as this does: When I visited the Minnetonka Buttercream to taste wedding treats and interview David Mess, one of the problems on deck was the quandary of the woman who was insisting that she be provided with a seven-tier cake that served more than 370 people, for a birthday party where fewer than 30 guests were expected. Mess was busy working out the logistics of getting the likely remaining 300-plus slices to a willing shelter. Who orders that much dessert for so few people? Really, really rich and important people. Mess wouldn't tell me who--unsurprising, because he is the only baker I know of who regularly has to sign non-disclosures about menus and events, because of the VIPs he bakes for. Which Buttercream concoction is Bill Clinton's favorite? Mess wouldn't tell--though he let slip that Prince and Mayte's reception showpiece was festooned with various sizes of Belgian-white-chocolate dolphins, and that Al Gore once had three slices of Buttercream's raspberry chocolate truffle cake. I think a lot more is going on in Minnetonka than I realized. But it's not just about bigwigs, because Mess says what's good for the goose is good for Waconia, and so has devised a special packing system that has allowed his cakes to be transported and easily assembled anywhere, which has led Buttercream to be the frosted-tier favorite for some of the most important weddings of Fargo, Waconia, and Lake of the Woods. By the way, Mess says you haven't been to a wedding till you've been to a Minnesota farm-town wedding, where a 650-person guest list is not uncommon.

How is it that Al Gore, Prince, Savage lesbians, and Waconia farmers have found something to agree on? It's butter and durability, mostly. Mess and Buttercream co-owner Gene McDevitt pride themselves on using only the highest-quality ingredients--real butter, real cream, real berries, fresh grated carrots, whole just-toasted walnuts, and real cream cheese. Which might not seem like a big deal to you, but in the current climate of wedding cakes it's usual for bakers to use horrifying products like Bettercreme®, an icing that, unlike actual food, is unaffected by sun and time. Buttercream Collection cakes are lush and plain in the mouth. They taste homemade in the most old-fashioned way: The white cakes are as light as morning mist, the carrot cake is as dense and dewy as could be. And the cakes cut well, and keep well--an incredibly important factor, because it's normal for a cake to have to stand out in the open air for hours between cutting and serving. These high-performance issues of durability are unique to wedding cakes; it's nothing your mom's cake or a fancy restaurant dessert ever has to endure. Mess worked for 20-some years in both front- and back-of-the-house restaurant and catering positions, which is what led him to dream the impossible dream of wedding cakes, and then perfect it: The durable cake that tastes great.

Good ingredients creating durability? That seems like the lead-in to a wedding toast, but I'll leave it to you to fill in the details. You've probably got a year, at least for the new suite of weddings that will be seeded this weekend. That's the timetable, you know: proposals this weekend, cake tastings five weeks later, and then, eventually, whether you're gay, straight, farmer, Prince, or president, a big cake on the big day.

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