I have been deliberating on what structure to write this blog piece in. Should it be a timetable of events? Recipes and top tips on wedding planning written out in a methodical way? But I have decided to write it as a bit of a travel/experience journal… which will hopefully transport your senses to an idyllic and picturesque French wedding.
So this adventure started off back in March 2015. I was literally just starting out and I thought it would be a great idea to get myself out there. So I opted to do a wedding fair. The wedding fair I chose was a little off the beaten track: A Most Curious Wedding Fair - its patrons tend to be very young, hip and trendy couples on the look out for wedding inspiration. For the last two years the fair has been held at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. This part of London oozes street cred and coolness. It is here I met Helaina Willson a lovely bride with a very very clear vision. Her vision was how I saw my desserts, that serene chic “Frenchness”. So we embarked on planning her perfect cake table for her wedding, which was set to happen in the Dordogne region of France. I was over the moon that she loved Mon Dessert’s designs so much that she wanted me to come over from England to make her wedding cakes!
It was great from the get go working with Helaina, we had great discussions over colour schemes, flavours, décor and sizes. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer and more focused bride. After lots of back of forth emails and a sampling with her husband to be, we finally had the final line up sorted. Then there was silence for about a year…
In that year Mon Dessert bloomed. There were more and more wedding & event commissions. But the main thing was the launch of what was to be a new direction for the business, baking kits and then to be stocked in the most luxurious of shops Fortnum & Mason took up a lot of my focus. In a good way.
The time came when the Dordogne wedding was only 2 months round the corner and the channels of communication with Helaina began once more. I was reminded how nice it was working with her. I have to say for me I wanted to make it so perfect for her big day. So I started planning and organising myself to make it a super slick operation. I may need to rewind a bit here… When I first took on this commission and told my very practical and pragmatic husband Johann he was not convinced. Going to France with the kids and a wedding gig was going to be a tough feat. But once I talked him through all the ideas and the fact the flowers were also coming from a UK-based florist, the amazing India Hurst from Vervain Flowers. This was going to be a fun and exciting adventure for the whole family.
OK I will not lie! The week running up to our French departure was super, super stressful. Not only was there a surprise Fortnum & Mason reorder, the kids were on summer holidays and there was also the wedding cakes and packing to do and logistics to plan. We were taking a lot of stuff with us. Including a big fridge where I had premade icing and other elements of the cakes that would keep well refrigerated. But once we all got in the car my pressure level dropped. Johann is the driver usually for French trips as I am still not 100% okay having a right hand drive in France. He loves driving and I am happy to leave that to him.
Below is my travel log of our adventures. It has been truly amazing, a trip to remember for all the family.
Day 1- 3am start taking the Euro Tunnel then 5 hours to Orléans France for a night’s stay in a hotel. We did not see much of the town here but we had a lovely hotel, part of the Novatel group where the staff were very accommodating; especially with my odd request to put icing in their fridges!
Day 2 - On the road again to Beynac-et-Cazenac. This would be my base for the wedding cake prep. There are no words to describe how beautiful this town is. Built between a cliff and a river, it is complete with a medieval chateau and gardens. It is truly a magical place! Our hosts were the very lovely Chase family. Originally from Boston, USA, they made their home London for many years and have since sold up to reside in this exquisite part of France. First a shopping trip to the markets and nearby Sarlat. The French know about fresh produce, their range of fruits, vegetables, fish, meats & dairy is a feast for the senses. I was in heaven and so was Johann as he was reminded of so many yummy regional foods, like salted foie gras. So once we had our shopping done it was time to get baking! I seriously could not have asked for a better kitchen to prepare my cakes. Everyone left me to have full reign so I could work my magic. First the crème pâtissière made with fresh organic eggs, baking the choux for croquembouche, putting gold leaf on the macarons and lastly assembling the layers of the naked cake which would be the main cake.
List of cakes:
Day 4- The wedding day. It was just over an hour to the town Lanouaille and Le Chateau Durantie. As soon as we arrived we could see how perfect this wedding was going to be. A very picturesque marquee was already in place and that was before the flowers arrived and once they had been installed. Everything looked truly wow! Now it was my turn. I didn’t want to set up the cakes too early as it was a hot summer’s day and this may not be ideal for buttercream. So I held off until just before the wedding party arrived for their meal from the church and their cocktails on the Chateau lawn. The bride and groom looked sensational and my table was set just in time, Johann and I looked at each other and felt very proud indeed. The cakes looked great. Now our holiday could truly begin. We stuck around and had a lovely meal provided by the bride & groom and the kids had a good run around on the grounds of the chateau. It was lovely to meet all the other suppliers, including Vervain flowers and Rik Pennington Photography. It felt like great teamwork!
Day 7 - Our time was up in Beynac-et-Cazenac with the Chase family. Time to head off on the next part of our road trip: Royan, a bustling seaside town near Bordeaux, where Johann’s uncle lives. As ever tonton Gerard and tata Dominique provided great food, drink and conversation to help us wind down.
Day 8 till home- So I am writing this from the wonderful Ile d'Oleron whilst visiting friends. So far we have had the best bike rides around the island and visited golden sandy beaches that seem to go on and on. Today we leave for our final destination, St Malo in Brittany, to see Johann’s parents, sister and little nieces. Can’t wait… LOVE FRANCE.
3 top tips for creating an Idyllic French wedding