Dawn Doyle: She takes the cake
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor mud shall keep the wedding cake creator from making her delivery.
Dawn Doyle of Easton has kept this promise to area brides and grooms for the past 39 years as she has baked, decorated, delivered and set-up her tasty and elaborate creations in readiness for their wedding receptions.
Pregnant with her second child, the young Doyle was a hairdresser doing Ruth Hanke’s hair one day when, during the course of their conversation, Doyle stated she had always liked to bake.
Recalls Doyle, “Ruth told me to ‘come on out’ as she was teaching an adult cake decorating class at her rural Blue Earth home and thought I might enjoy it.”
Enjoy it she did, because she then went to Good Counsel in Mankato and took advanced cake decorating lessons from one of the Catholic Sisters there.
“The rest is history,” says Doyle.
She has made and decorated hundreds of cakes in the intervening years.
“The first wedding cakes I made were very gaudy and heavily decorated,” she says. “Now couples are selecting fondant cakes. These are very pretty but horrible tasting,” says Doyle.
She explains fondant is a covering one rolls out similar to a pie crust then molds it around the cake. It is a very time consuming process and one she has chosen to discontinue in her offerings to wedding customers.
All of Doyle’s cakes are baked from scratch. Among the types she makes are white, chocolate, marble, lemon, carrot, cherry marble and a cake with a lemon-filling. When making one of these cakes, she always has two mixers going, one with just egg whites and the other with the batter mixture.
During her busy season from March through June, it is not unusual for her to purchase 50 pounds of cake flour at a time, 25-50 pounds of sugar and ten dozen eggs.
“I start getting busy in March when the confirmation season begins,” says Doyle. “Then it builds. Graduation is the busiest time for me. It is common now to have five weeks of graduation receptions then I go right into the busy wedding season.”
She also makes-to-order birthday, anniversary, baptismal, open house, banquet and ‘surprise for teacher’ cakes.
“People bring me a picture or explain what they want on their cake and I go with that,” says Doyle.
Some of the special order cakes she has made have featured Alice in Wonderland figures, Mickey Mouse, Strawberry Shortcake, the Ninja Turtles, Transformers and Sesame Street characters.
“I don’t make mock angel food cakes,” she says. “I can make three regular cakes in the time it takes me to make just one mock angel food.”
Over the years, Doyle has seen fads and color schemes come and go in the wedding cake business.
“When I first started, brides would select toppers. Now many use flowers which make a cake very elegant,” she says.
“One couple asked me to make them a barb-wire topper shaped like a heart,” she recalls. Supposedly, the bridal couple worked with animals and the barb-wire was symbolic to them.
Doyle’s personal favorite wedding cake to create is a white on white one with real flowers positioned here and there about the cake.
“I have created and set-up some pretty unusual wedding cakes over the years,” admits Doyle.
The most unique was one she made for a bride who was a lawyer and the groom who was a chef.
“This couple had me set-up their cake on seven limbs of an apple tree. I put one cake on each limb then covered them with flowers. It was pretty scary putting the cakes on the limbs, because it was quite a windy day,” she says.
Another story she relates is of a woman wanting her to design, with frosting, a boar pig on the back side of the wedding cake. Pigs were significant to the couple and the bride wanted it positioned so just she and the groom could see it.
Baking custom cakes requires lots of supplies. Because of this, Doyle admits she has about every cake gadget you can imagine, lots of columns and pans, pans and more pans. She also keeps on hand foils, pillars and paste colors for frosting.
Doyle says the average wedding cake she makes is for 200 servings.
“When I first got in the business I charged 35 cents per serving. Now it’s about $1.60,” she says.
“I try to do everything I possibly can at home,” explains Doyle. “The actual cake assembly for the wedding usually takes me about one hour. I have set-up in about every place imaginable from garages to parks, churches to VFW halls.”
Doyle confesses she has worked many a Friday night, over the years, until 1 or 2 a.m. in order to completely finish a cake before going to bed.
In 39 years, she has been challenged many times by the elements to get her cakes to church on time.
“In April 1986, I had worked for two days on three wedding and anniversary cakes,” she says. “That night, we had a tornado go through and all I could think of were my cakes. That was pretty nerve-wracking.”
Another incident she recalls was the time her husband drove her to the Torchlight Supper Club to set-up a cake. She says the road they were on was so bumpy that an entire side of the cake she was transporting fell off.
“I always take materials along for repair,” she says in case a disaster should occur.
Steps are scary when transporting wedding cakes says Doyle.
“I always make sure all the strings are tied on my tennis shoes when going down stairs with a cake,” she confesses. She explains a 16-inch based cake consists of eight cake batters and weighs about 25 pounds. It not only is heavy, but very awkward to handle when going down stairs.
She has plowed through snowdrifts and ventured out many times in snowstorms to deliver a precious wedding cake she has created.
But the ‘icing on the cake,’ so to speak, was the year construction workers were widening her rural road.
“It had rained and rained, so there was a lot of mud,” she says. “My husband had to pull my car, which I had loaded with a wedding cake, to the intersection so I could deliver and set up the cake.”
Indeed, neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor mud shall keep the wedding cake creator, Dawn Doyle, from making her special delivery for a bridal couple.