Wedding Day Wonder: A Mississippi groom's cake is a mom's labor of love -- and a viral sensation

April 17, 2013 9:20:03 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


When Shaye Rawson daydreamed about her son Tristan's April 13th wedding day, she no doubt envisioned several happy scenarios. They probably didn't include applying green fondant "grass" and "yard line" white piping to the groom's cake at 2:30 a.m., 15 and a half hours before the ceremony. But for the determined Winona mom, it was a labor of love -- finishing an elaborate replica of Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium she began more than three months ago. 


Shaye Rawson isn't a professional baker, or even a devoted dessert maker. She's simply a gifted do-it-yourselfer who wanted to create something uniquely special for Tristan and his bride, Kim Ashley.  


Tristan Rawson graduated from Delta State University, where he received a scholarship to play football. But he's been a diehard Bulldog fan since childhood.  


"I'd found a picture on the Internet of a simple little (stadium) cake someone had made and put an MSU emblem in the middle," he explained by phone Monday from Grenada, where he is finance manager of the Kirk Toyota dealership. (Kim is a registered nurse who works in Winona.) When, months in advance, Tristan asked his mother if she could make something similar for his groom's cake, he had no idea what was coming. 




Getting under way 


"I started in January, and it grew and grew and grew -- until it got to be what it was," Shaye said, a wry chuckle drifting down the phone line. Once committed to the project, the finishing designer of lamps and accessories launched her detective work. Diving into the Internet, she pulled every picture of Davis Wade Stadium she could find. When stumped for a particular view, she enlisted friends' children who are MSU students to take pictures.  


For the structural design, she applied some hard-earned construction know-how. 


"My husband, Tom, and I built our house ourselves so we know about construction, plus I had some very talented grandparents who taught me ... I just miniaturized everything," said the cake-maker who was often assisted by her younger son, 19-year-old Michael.  


Shaye had never worked with gum paste or fondant before, so she again turned to the computer. 


Fondant is a dough-like paste containing confectioners' sugar, gelatin, corn syrup and glycerine that can be rolled out to cover cakes and sweets. It can be painted, piped, stamped and even quilted. Gum paste is similar and can be rolled very thin. "We cleaned out Winona, Grenada and Greenwood of gum paste," the culinary "engineer" laughed. 


The stands are made of lightweight foam core, covered in gum paste. Football fans filling the stadium are edible candy pearls which -- go figure -- don't come in maroon. Shaye dyed her own by mixing colors and adding a pinch of vodka, to speed up the dye drying process.  


With Photoshop, she recreated banners of Coach Dan Mullen and players that hang on the stadium ends. 


The actual portion of the cake served to guests Saturday? The tasty "concrete" under one of the stands.  


If all that isn't enough, Shaye personally wired the stadium to brilliant effect, with a Jumbo Tron that lit up around an image of Tristan and Kim. The ribbon billboard contained a chaser light to make it look as though it was scrolling. Wiring works were hidden underneath. 




Delightful surprise 


One challenge during the months-long process of putting the stadium together was keeping the developing project out of sight from the bride and groom.  


"If they were coming to the house, they had to let me know beforehand," said Shaye, who was successful in keeping everything under wraps until the unveiling at Saturday night's reception at Grenada's Emmanuel Baptist Church. 


"It was a huge surprise! We had people standing in front of it so they couldn't see, and when they got ready, we turned out the lights on that side and had the cake lit up," the groom's mother explained. The reaction, she said, was "unbelievable." 


From Tristan: "You can't plan for that kind of cake. I don't think there is any way to thank her for all she did. You can't imagine having somebody do that much work for you with your wedding ... I can't even explain to my mom how blown away I am." 


A cake photo Tristan tweeted from the reception is making the rounds, drawing attention from ESPN and comments from as far away as Canada. It appeared on The Huffington Post Monday. 


"It's unreal for a town of 10,000 to 15,000 to have something blow up like this nation-wide," said the newlywed. 


For the groom's mom (who also created floral arrangements for the ceremony and did some of the cooking for the reception), the effort was worth it. "But it was really strange Sunday, after working on the cake every day for three months," she admitted. "My younger son and I looked at each other and said, 'What do we do now?'"

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.