September 27, 2012

Nothing Says Romance Like a Pterodactyl
(+ Key Lime Cupcakes)

I suspected my wedding was doomed long before the pterodactyls showed up.

When Mr. Bear and I pulled up at the venue (read: Local Park) that morning in a U-Haul, I had been awake for 27 hours.  I would not sleep for another 14.  In the time since I had last felt the soothing coolness of a pillow, I had frosted three types of cupcakes and a host of initialed sugar cookies; violated countless unsuspecting dates with wedges of good Parmesan; topped mini cheesecakes; suspended blueberries in delicate single cups of matching gelatin; Cajunized a mountain of popcorn; and made gougeres, two batches of caramel corn, a vat of tabbouleh, a swimming pool's worth of chilled cucumber-mango soup, and a batch of whimsically heart-shaped soft pretzels.  In retrospect, this sounds suspiciously like madness.

Contrary to appearances, we didn't decide to cater our own wedding because ritualistic self-mutilation was too tame for us.  It was really just about the money.  But by the time I arrived at that park to begin laying tablecloths and arranging the toppings for the finger-sandwich PB&J bar, money was the last thing on my mind.  In fact, there wasn't much of anything on my mind.  I was burnt out and woozy - which might explain my reactions to the pterodactyls.  And to everything else.

That's our cake topper - they're honey badgers.  Because, as Mr. Bear likes to say: "Honey Badgers aren't afraid of anything - not even commitment."

  The first major thing to go wrong had been the flowers.  They'd arrived precisely on time, pristine and fresh in their cellophane wrappers and ready to be arranged - except, of course, the ones for the bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres.  Those, somehow, had been left out of the shipment.

Then there was the tent company.  In a fit of extreme enthusiasm, they'd arrived well before the agreed-upon time, long before we got to the park.  Not having any instructions for placement, they did the logical thing and winged it.  They erected the tent in the middle of nowhere and left, apparently assuming that our plan was to seat our guests under the tent and then speak our vows either from twenty feet back in the undergrowth or from midair on the swingset.  Neither option thrilled.

The chair vendor, clearly in league with the tent company, arrived and asked where we'd like the chairs.  After pointing to the tent and explaining the number of rows and the aisle placement, we went back to spreading tablecloths and unpacking cake stands.  We looked up shortly afterward, in some alarm, to the sound of the truck driving away.  This is when we discovered that "setup included" meant "we will remove the chairs from the truck."  It did not include the actual "setting up" of the chairs.  100 white wooden chairs lounged insouciantly on pallets under the tent.


Still, we were calm.  We'd hired a staff of four able-bodied young people to help with exactly this kind of last-minute situation.  Except, of course, for how they never showed up.  And when I say "never showed up," what I mean is "weren't even at their house when the ride that had been arranged for them arrived to pick them up."  That's a whole new level of flaking.

Did I mention that, what with everything else going on, we forgot to pick up the ice?

At this point, Mr. Bear and I considered having a breakdown.  We stood frozen, staring at the antisocial tent, the indolent chairs, and the U-Haul full of food, decorations and table settings.  We had an hour before we were supposed to meet the photographers and get dressed.

And then the pterodactyls began to scream.

They were huge, dark, sweeping down from the sky like the Furies.  It was hard to be sure in the glare of the morning sun, but their beaks looked razor-sharp.  And the screaming...metallic, piercing, raw.  I'd heard that sound before.  The morning woods echoed with the angry shrieks of velociraptors.  Or something pretty damn similar.

In retrospect, they were probably just Sandhill Cranes, which are large, to be sure, and shriek like banshees, but are substantially less prehistoric.  But we didn't know that, and since we were highly sleep-deprived and three or four seconds away from a panic attack, the thought that a pair of extinct leatherbirds had been sent to put the finishing touches on the destruction of our wedding seemed very nearly logical.

I've since been told that cranes are lucky, and their presence at a wedding is a sign of a long and happy marriage.  I can't speak for longevity, but as for luck - the shock of that pterodactyl scream knocked the paralysis right out of us.  Pulling back from the emotional abyss, we gritted our teeth and started hauling things out of the truck.  Ten minutes later, family showed up unannounced to lend a hand.  Bunting was hung.  Chairs were forced into submission.  And if the key lime cupcakes had somehow slid wildly to the left during the drive and looked a bit Picasso-esque - well, they were delicious nonetheless.  We dressed, we vowed, and we welcomed our guests who, at the end of the day, were more than happy to take home an armful of those flowers, which never had gotten arranged.   

And that was our wedding, one year ago: a bit of luck, a bit of help, and a bit of prehistoric terror - roughly the same mix that marks our marriage today.  May yours be just as lucky. 

Key Lime Cupcakes
very slightly adapted from Sara

Cake Flour  [ 1 ¾ cups ]
Baking Powder  [ ½ teaspoon ]
Baking Soda  [ ½ teaspoon ]
Salt  [ ½ teaspoon ]
Unsalted Butter  [ ½ cup, cool, cut into 8 pieces ]
Sugar  [ 1 ¼ cups ]
Eggs  [ 2 ]
Key Lime Juice  [ 2 ½ tablespoons ]
Lime Zest  [ 1 tablespoon ]
Green Food Coloring
Buttermilk  [ ¾ cup, room  temperature ]

Unsalted Butter  [ ½ cup, cool, cut into 8 pieces ]
Cream Cheese  [ 8 ounces, room temperature, cut into 8 pieces ]
Powdered Sugar  [ 2 ¼ cups ]
Lime Zest  [ 1 tablespoon ]

Make Cupcakes:
1.    Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2.    Place cupcake liners in muffin tins.
3.    Sift together Cake Flour, Baking Soda, and Salt.  Set aside until later.
4.    With a mixer, beat Butter at Medium for 1 minute.
5.    Add Sugar to Butter and beat at Medium for 4 minutes.  Mixture should be fluffy.
6.    Add Eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
7.    Add Lime Juice, Lime Zest, and desired amount of Food Coloring.   Beat until mixed; the mixture will 
          grainy and curdled.  Don’t  panic.
8.    Add Flour Mixture and Buttermilk incrementally at Low speed in this order: Flour, Buttermilk, Flour, 
          Buttermilk, Flour.  During the process, periodically scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.  After last 
          flour addition, mix just until combined.
9.    Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full.
10.  Bake 18-20 minutes.  If baking both pans at the same time, rotate pans front to back halfway through cooking 
11.  Place cupcake pan on rack and cool completely.

Make Frosting:
1.    In a mixer, beat Butter at Medium speed until softened. 
2.    Add Cream Cheese to Butter, 1 piece at a time.
3.    Add Powdered Sugar.  Beat at Low speed until combined.  Add more powdered sugar as desired if a firmer 
      frosting is needed. 
4.    Add Lime Zest to frosting.
5.    Frost cupcakes as desired.

Makes about 16 cupcakes.


  1. 1. I absolutely love your wedding story. If I didn't know you at all, I would be ashamed to say I laughed at it. But you know that from the first time you told it to us German folks.
    2.Love the Honey Badgers.
    3.Now I want more cupcakes.

    1. It's your birthday! You should be having an all-cupcake diet anyway. Go for it. Oh - and the story should be laughed at. It was the most ridiculous day in the history of human endeavors. :)

  2. I just tried this recipe it turned out good , even though i over filled my cupcake molds but , all is well , I granished with some blueberry compote and toasted coconut to make it pretty ~ I Love this and I hope your eventful and special wedding story leads on to many better anniversaries filled with laughs and giggles when you look back at that day . Thanks!