Archive for April, 2011


Monday, April 25th, 2011 | Uncategorized | No Comments


The three components of happiness are:
* something to do
* someone to love
* something to look forward to


Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now ” – Gordon Livingstone, MD

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princess bride

Monday, April 18th, 2011 | etiquette, trends | No Comments


Over the last six weeks I’ve been interviewed on multiple occasions by writers and radio hosts from across Canada with questions relating to the impending royal nuptials of William & Kate. We don’t have any clients getting married on “that” day – but even if we did it would never occur to me to compare their wedding to the royal wedding.

There’s enough pressure on brides to feel like a princess, lose weight, look perfect, etc. I think the pressures for a wedding spectacle get bigger all the time. Even if a couple has a $25,000 budget they still feel a certain expectation to have their wedding look like all the six- and seven-figure celebrity weddings.


I received an email this morning from someone concerned that royal wedding comparisons can overshadow a bride…and she speaks from experience:

Dear Lisa 


I had the misfortune of getting married two weeks after the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.  My wedding was always being compared to the fairytale wedding and beautiful bride.  No one spoke of my dress as they couldn’t stop talking about Lady Diana and how beautiful she was.  If people only knew what a bummer that was to an already stressed out bride!


During my ceremony the preacher stated, “We know this can’t be as beautiful a site as the wedding of the royals, but the love is still there!”


Every bride should feel like a princess on her wedding day – just don’t worry about competing with “the” princess (unless the Queen is planning to pay for your wedding too). And to all you Officiants out there with weddings on April 29th – DON’T MENTION WILLIAM & KATE during the ceremony!


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where they take the cake (pt 2)

Monday, April 18th, 2011 | media, trends | No Comments

The two women met in 2005 while studying at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts School. Pellegrino founded Cake Opera Co. soon after. “All my instructors said, ‘You should be making showpieces in Vegas,’” she says. The timing dovetailed with a growing cultural fixation on cake, evident in the emergence of the golden age of cake TV – a spawn of shows including Ace of Cakes, Wedding Cake Wars, Cake Boss, and Ultimate Cake Off. In 2009, Pellegrino asked Smith, then head pastry chef at Toronto’s Truffles restaurant, for help on a Food Network cake challenge. Within months, they were in a partnership. Grace Ormonde, editor-in-chief of the US magazine Wedding Style, was an early supporter. “I had worked with the best and thought I’d seen everything,” she says. “And here come these two women who blew me away.” Their cakes taste as delicious as they look, she notes: “That’s not always the case.”

Their custom design work, which begins at $300 and rises to $6,000, tends to focus on weddings, which isn’t surprising. Once cakes only had to be pretty, says Ormonde: “Now everyone wants their wedding to be unique. They want sculpture.”

When consulting with brides, Pellegrino asks for visuals – the dress, flowers, a brooch – then brings her imagination to bear. An opulent three-tiered, chocolate, 24K-gold and burgundy cake created for a Venetian-themed wedding last year took its cue from the invitation. “I was drawn to the envelope’s lining; it had a beautiful pattern,” she says. For the top, she created a sugar replica of the masks worn by the bride and groom.

They’ve made black and purple cakes, but Pellegrino says she loves all-white cakes, with a twist: “I like to recall that traditional wedding feeling and then there will be something on it like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’” Given the work required, their cakes can exist as a metaphor for the marriage to come: under the showy surface, there’s a carefully constructed infrastructure necessary to keep it all aloft. A black-and-white pirate-themed cake took 150 hours to build, says Pellegrino: “It requires the mind of an engineer.”

Creating fantasy can be a slog. Fourteen-hour workdays are common; Pellegrino and Smith do all of their own deliveries. “Street-car tracks are the bane of our existence,” says Smith, the driver. “She’s crapping her pants,” says Pellegrino, the navigator. They’re more laid-back about marketing. “We’ve taken a very non-aggressive approach,” says Smith. “The work speaks for itself.”

“Alexandria is brilliant,” says Catherine Lash, creative director of Toronto’s The Wedding Co., a wedding show producer. “You will not see anything recognizable in her designs – it’s not Martha Stewart magazine. She’s going to the opera, she’s going to art galleries.” Researching Madden’s tattoos in the tabloids offered rare lowbrow trolling, Pellegrino says: “I got to read all of these wonderful, smutty magazines.” Her favourite period is 17th century northern European still life “vanitas” paintings, whose shadowy compositions warn the viewer not to invest too much importance in mortal wealth and pleasures, a message that might be lost on people planning $100,000-plus weddings.

A playful irony percolates through Cake Opera Co.’s rococo-chic website and shop, one reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, the 2006 movie that reinforced the link between sumptuous pastel pastries and the woman who never actually said “Let them eat cake.” Gilt abounds. In the front window, a French guillotine slices through a retro wedding cake bleeding edible 24-karat gold. Inside the shop, antique glass cabinets are filled with macarons, meringues, marshmallows and cupcakes with names like “The Lady Pompadour” and “The Musetta.” Pellegrino laughs at the mention of Coppola’s movie. “Never seen it,” she jokes. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.” That movie fuelled the macaron trend – and resultant backlash – “a tragic story,” says Pellegrino. “It’s such a beautiful confection,” Smith explains. “But now wedding planners are saying, ‘We’re so over that.’ It’s a slap in the face.” “They’ve been around hundreds of years,” says Pellegrino. “Cupcakes have been around 50 years. So throw them to the curb!”

Cake Opera’s theatrical flair attracted Beverly Hills wedding planner Mindy Weiss, who organized Richie’s nuptials. She’d heard of them via Ormonde. Their website blew her away, she says. “I would stare at it in awe.” When Weiss learned Richie wanted a Versailles theme, she contacted them with only two weeks’ notice. “Before I knew it I received an email with the most fabulous drawing of the cake,” says Weiss. “I did not change a thing. And I always change something!” The finished cake was “amazing,” she says. “It was an art piece that the guests would walk up to and stare at.”

Gushy coverage of the wedding in People and Hello! resulted in a flurry of requests to ship, which they won’t do. “Most people can’t afford to fly us in,” says Smith.

Weiss, who plans events for people who can afford it, says she can’t wait to work with them again: “They’re perfection.” Predictably, there’s talk of a TV show. “We’re open to it,” says Smith. They’d be naturals – photogenic, funny, and smart enough to know that if Marie Antoinette were alive today, her apocryphal command would be “Let them watch cake.” ANNE KINGSTON


We’re definitely not in the same camp with the wedding planners that are over macarons…we’re a huge fan of the scrumptious French confectionary: they are delicious, come in a gorgeous array of colours, and are gluten free…what more can you ask for?!? Throw the cupcakes to the curb?…why not!

Re-reading this article makes me want to watch Marie Antoinette again…which will inevitably send to the patisserie for a wee box of macarons…YUM!

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where they take the cake (pt 1)

Friday, April 15th, 2011 | media, trends | No Comments

We have long been fans of the amazing design esthetic of the Cake Opera Co. so we were thrilled to see them featured in Maclean’s Magazine.


Nicole Richie could have hired anyone to make her wedding cake. She chose Toronto’s Cake Opera Co.


LAST DECEMBER, business partners Alexandra Pellegrino and Jessica Smith flew from Toronto to Los Angeles with carry-on that was as fragile as it was weird: a sugar-modeling-paste sculpture depicting Nicole Richie, the daughter of singer Lionel, and her musician husband-to-be Joel Madden, as Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI-before the royals’ decadent reign came to its bloody, tumultuous end. Richie was decked out in a white wig, black mask and ruffly gown and splayed on a chaise longue; behind her, Madden, in a white wig and mask, presented his bride with arms out-stretched; through his jacket, the rocker’s famously inked arms could be seen, each tattoo replicated precisely.

The painstakingly detailed tableau could be seen as a biting social commentary on over-the-top celebrity culture, but wasn’t: it was the topper of the extravagant cake served at Richie’s and Madden’s Dec. 11 “Versailles”-themed nuptials.

Smith and Pellegrino, the pastry chef and designer, respectively, at Toronto’s Cake Opera Co., had transported surreal confectionary before. In February 2010, US Customs officials were bemused by a suitcase filled with sugar roses for a cake they’d be making for a Tim Burton-meets-Alice-in Wonderland-themed sweet 16 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

That party they were invited to. The closest they got to the high-security celebration at Lionel Richie’s Beverly Hills estate was the back entrance, where they delivered their five-tiered cake edged in edible 24-karat gold, created at a West Hollywood bakery taken over for the occasion.

The commission was a high point in their two-year collaboration, says the 29-year-old Pellegrino, who attended the Ontario College of Art and Design before turning to making ephemeral art with fondant and cake flour. “We still don’t believe it. It’s like, ‘We were at Lionel Richie’s house! With something that came out of this kitchen.’” It was all really hush-hush, says Smith, 28, who studied culinary arts at Toronto’s George Brown College and has worked at London’s Michelin-starred Yauatcha. “We weren’t even allowed to take pictures of our work.”

Sitting in their uptown Toronto shop in chef jackets and over-the-knee boots, Pellegrino and Smith present as confident patisserie swashbucklers. Samples of their couture cakes line one wall – one looks like blue Wedgwood china; on another, a glittery black lobster adorns an ivory tower festooned with black roses, oysters and pearls; their “ode to Canadiana” features deer and painted “birch bark” on pale green fondant. Inspiration ranges from Christian Lacroix’s 2008 collection to ‘60s chinoiserie wallpaper, which resulted in a cake painted with sumi-e style brushwork and topped with a Japanese crane. Clearly, Richie, a Tinseltown style-setter, played it conservatively.


to be continued…

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destined for a destination….?

Sunday, April 10th, 2011 | etiquette | No Comments


Q. My fiancée and I can’t quite decide what to do about our wedding. She is the youngest of 10 kids and her immediate family alone now numbers about 52 people, not to mention all the cousins and aunts and uncles. I have three siblings (all married with kids), countless aunts, uncles and cousins, and my parents are both re-married. By the time we actually start inviting all of our friends our guest list will be huge. We’re actually considering a destination wedding because we know very few of them could afford to attend, but we’re not sure we’d be happy with this decision. What should we do?


A. The guest list can be one of the most stressful parts of planning a wedding – even without such an expansive family tree.  Destination weddings are increasingly popular for many reasons. Although thinning out the guest list often falls near the top of the list, it’s not the best reason to run off to the islands to get married.


“Is there really a bad reason to get married barefoot on the beach at sunset?” you ask… Actually there is. It really depends on what you want to remember from your wedding day – the pool boy bringing you a Mai Tai in a coconut as soon as you say “I do,” or that your family was there to share it with you.


Destination weddings can be wonderful if you choose a place that has particular meaning to you as a couple. Many resorts do a lovely job with weddings, however most of the time it’s a crap shoot what kind of officiant, flowers and photographer you’ll end up with, so do lots of research before you choose a location. You also want to look into residency requirements – some islands require you to be there several days before you can get a marriage license.


If you do decide to opt for a destination wedding to avoid feeding all 52 of your fiancée’s immediate family (yikes!), just make sure you do a good job of selling them on your penchant for fruity umbrella drinks so no one gets offended. Aloha!



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