By Susan Brierly Bush
Olivia Porada and Josh Kestenbaum, both now 29, met when they were undergrads at The College of New Jersey. Like so many couples, they started out as friends. “Josh was friends with my roommate, so he was always hanging around the freshman dorm,” Olivia says. It wasn’t until after he joined the school’s Ultimate Frisbee team, and asked her to the Frisbee Formal, that things took a turn toward romance. They started dating in 2011 and they were engaged in Boston nine years later.
On October 9, 2022, the couple was married at the Asbury Hotel. The bride stunned at the ceremony in a romantic Truvelle A-line gown with lace, sparkles and a cathedral veil. Later, she changed into a long Alyssa Kristin dress for the reception. Maids wore classic dove-gray gowns from Revelry, each in a different style. The groom and his groomsmen were dapper in denim-blue tuxedos.
“So many elements of the day were memorable, but my favorite part was the 18 cakes my mom created,” Olivia says. That’s right—18.
While most mothers of the bride are preoccupied by a million little details on their daughter’s day, Lisa Porada had a truly big finish in mind. As the owner of one of New Jersey’s busiest wedding cake bakeries—Chocolate Carousel in Wall—she spared no detail in creating a spectacular memory for the bride, groom and their 150 guests.
Although Lisa had been expecting a wedding announcement, given the couple’s nine years of dating, she and her daughter had never discussed a cake idea in detail. “We began with a clean slate,” she says. “I always knew I would make her a special cake, but Olivia has very sophisticated, simple tastes. My work was cut out for me.”
Having grown up spending time at Chocolate Carousel, Olivia had seen it all. “She likes what she likes,” Lisa says. “I knew her style leaned toward a simple two-tiered cake with fresh flowers on top. She wouldn’t like an over-the-top statement cake, so we compromised a bit.”
That compromise? Go with the simple theme, but do it 17 times. Rather than decorating the dinner tables with traditional floral centerpieces, the mother-daughter team decided to outfit each one with its own simple, two-tiered cake adorned with fresh blossoms as well as hops, imported from Oregon, as a nod to the groom’s work at Harpoon Brewery in Boston. Cake number 18 was more elaborate, allowing Lisa to show off her unique marbling technique. “We marbled and remarbled various shades of fondant in a show-stopping gray color to create a random pattern, she says.
As guests walked into cocktail hour, they were greeted with doowop music, both in memory of Olivia’s grandfather who was a doowop singer, and for the bride herself, a lifelong music lover who works for the New England Conservatory of Music. Hors d’oeuvre stations and a Mediterranean display were followed by a sit-down dinner, catered by Falco’s.
For dessert, the cake centerpieces were moved to the kitchen for slicing. Mini brownies, cannoli and mini ice-cream sandwiches were also on offer to satisfy every sweet tooth. A farewell station sent guests home with a late-night snack of pork-roll sandwiches and hot pretzels.
“Our wedding was even better than I had hoped,” Olivia says. “One of the best decisions we made was to create a ‘hype’ video that got our guests excited about the wedding months in advance. Of course, Mom’s cakes weren’t in the video. We saved that surprise for our big day.”
The couple enjoyed a mini-moon in Belmar, with a honeymoon in Italy planned for May 2023.
When Lisa Porada set out to create 18 cakes for her daughter Olivia’s wedding, it required creativity, skill and sheer endurance.
“If you do the math, each of our 17 table centerpiece cakes had two tiers with four layers plus filling, so that’s 68 layers. Plus, the main wedding cake was five tiers with 10 layers, so we baked a total of 78 cake layers,” Lisa says. (Add in the rehearsal dinner’s beer-and-sports-themed groom’s cake, and that’s 19 cakes in all!)
There were five flavors of cake served in all: Funfetti with traditional black-and-white fudge filling; chocolate chip with black-and-white fudge; chocolate chunk with vanilla mousse; devil’s food with cookies and cream; and golden cake with vanilla custard and fresh strawberries.
As it happened, the weekend of the wedding wound up being one of the busiest cake-baking weekends of the year at Chocolate Carousel. “We handled 67 weddings that weekend, plus Olivia’s cakes. To make sure it all went smoothly, we brought in former employees for extra support, so we had a team of 17 bakers and eight pastry chefs,” Lisa says. “By working with a large, experienced team, I was able to be more relaxed and fully present at my daughter’s wedding.” Lisa started all of Olivia’s cakes the day before the wedding, except for the main fondant cake which required an extra day to achieve a unique marbling effect.
“I knew my Mom is amazing, so that was no surprise. But I was so impressed and grateful for her vision,” says Olivia. “All those cakes, and especially our five-tiered marbled wedding cake, were gorgeous and I made it my mission to try every flavor.”
When the cakes were cut, they yielded 450 slices. So after the 150 guests enjoyed sampling as many flavors as they liked at the reception, there was still plenty left over for the next morning’s 100-guest “hangover breakfast.” The meal, a three-hour rolling breakfast at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park, consisted of a full buffet with omelet station and mimosa bar. And cake, of course. “Cake for breakfast is always a good thing,” Olivia says.
The whole weekend offered a professional bonus for Lisa, too. “It was a really fun learning experience, having the opportunity to work closely with Olivia’s vendors as a client rather than a fellow vendor,” she explains. “It allowed me to see the wedding business from a different perspective.”