To try Regina's recipe for easy wedding cake cupcakes with almond buttercream, click here.
I know this will sound incredibly weird, but during wedding season, especially in June, I cannot help but think about monkey stories. I have a friend, Ritchie Montgomery, who is a Southern actor and such a great storyteller that one night when he was sharing his monkey story with my dinner guests, my husband literally fell out of his chair laughing. I cannot share his story as it would be considered "x-rated" or at a minimum incredibly inappropriate for a food article, but he should write it, as it is one of the most entertaining stories I have ever heard. I have a monkey story of my own. I do not pretend that is as funny as Ritchie's, but it is true and it is my monkey story.
In the summer of 1973, I was home from college for the summer and it was mandatory that we worked. I chose to work for my dad, at the bakery and deli that he owned. One of my most colorful aunts, Mae Mae, worked as a hostess at the bakery part-time. She was the aunt who turned us on to blue eye shadow in the '60s, the first to teach us to "twist," and she often encouraged the padding of bras to create a bit more cleavage. One of my favorite memories of her was when she played Mae West in a yearly production at our Catholic school to raise money for the athletic association; it was made to order for her. We were more mortified that our mother played Gypsy Rose Lee and did a striptease. Even though it was to a tasteful level, still very embarrassing when you are in junior high.
I have always had an interest in food, and I enjoyed watching Mr. Labouef, the pastry chef, decorate wedding cakes, something I have never conquered as a true craft. I can get by, but it is a gift you must have and you are hard-pressed to learn without that natural artistic ability. It was a Saturday in June, warm as June can be, and I arrived to start my daily duties before opening: brewing coffee, filling the cases with fresh baked goods, writing the lunch specials on the chalk board. As I went in and out of the kitchen, I would take a closer look at the four finished wedding cakes for the three Natchez June weddings that day.
One cake in particular caught my attention because it had a scalloped bottom layer and the decorative icing was just a shade creamier than the base frosting, and it was separated into four tiers, whereas the other three cakes were quite a bit smaller, but still lovely. I remember taking orders for wedding cakes, and I was always amazed at how ugly the plastic bride and grooms were. Some even had smeared facial features if you looked closely. I always tried to talk people into fresh flowers on top or even unrealistic doves over ugly figurines. Wedding cakes have come a long way in 37 years; I am so pleased to say. There were conversations with Miss Mamie, the head lunch cook, about how many covers we thought we would do that day, and everything seemed business as usual.
There were two young men in Natchez, Leslie and Harold, who loved animals and wanted to start a zoo. If my memory is at all correct, I do remember a rather mangy black bear in a cage, a couple of bobcats, and a spider monkey. That June Saturday morning, the spider monkey escaped from Leslie's front yard, which was the birthplace of the Natchez zoo that never came to be. It did not take long before a posse of young boys started chasing the monkey through the bayou between the Homochitto addition and the back of Trosclair's bakery.