Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I'm Making a Wedding Cake!

It's a Special One

It's a 50th Anniversary cake, and I'm making it for my parents.  They've been hoping I'd make the cake for their party and dropping broad hints to that effect for probably five years. "Evelyn - you still have all of your cake decorating stuff, right?"  It makes me smile.  How could I not make their cake?

I know how.

Years ago, I worked as a cake decorator at a bakery - and I made lots of wedding cakes.  I probably made one a week during the spring and summer, sometimes more.  I always enjoyed making wedding cakes, they allow a fair amount of creativity in their decorations.

Some Cakes Were Downright Weird...

...like the wedding cake that the bride wanted done in rainbow colors.  And I don't mean scattered roses in rainbow colors - I mean each tier was frosted in glaring colors: yellow, green, and blue.  And the borders of each were different: orange, red, purple.  Then, at her direction (she insisted in standing right next to me to show me exactly what she wanted), I added roses in turquoise and pink... and oh! I don't even remember all of it, but it made me shudder and I didn't want any of her guests to associate that thing with me.  Ugh.

I ought to have taken a picture of the monstrosity!

And Some Were Lovely...

One bride requested a cake in all-white.  White frosting, white borders, white flowers, white leaves. I'd never seen such a thing, and it was enchanting.  I did take a picture of that particular cake...but, sadly, I've since lost it.

Another cake was flat-iced and sent to the bride as-is.  She put fresh flowers from her garden all over it (she sent me a picture) and when I saw it, I thought, If I ever get married again, that is what I'll do. (But I didn't. I mean, I did get married again, but we didn't have a wedding cake!)

And Now, It's Time For a Cake For My Parents

I kept all of my stuff.  In a box.  Deep in the basement where it never saw the light of day.  A couple of weeks ago, I realized I'd better start the wedding cake in motion, so I rummaged through the box and found I needed to buy a couple of pans.

The box of wedding cake supplies

I bought the pans.  I ended up with a nice set of 12-inch, 9-inch, and 6-inch pans.  They'll make a cake that will hopefully serve 60-70 people.  I used Pillsbury Supreme Collection Red Velvet cake mixes - six of them.  I'm a fan of these delicious, beautifully textured cakes. Usually I make cupcakes from this recipe and use the creamy filling that's included in the box, but for the wedding cake I set the filling aside for later use.

My Favorite Cake Mix

The First Day's Work

Baking!  I baked for two straight days.  The 12-inch pan used a box-and-a-half of mix, so I made two boxes, filled the big pan 2/3 full, and used the rest of the batter for the tiny 6-inch cake.  It worked perfectly.  I did that twice, then moved on to the 9-inch pans. I did a double run of them, also.  For a couple of days my kitchen looked like a disaster zone (not that it usually doesn't!)

 The Cakes, All Baked and Ready For Splitting

Making Them Pretty

I have a long, thin Cutco knife that's made especially for splitting cakes into layers - and- hey! - who cares if I only use it once every six years? - it's perfect for the job.  I'd refrigerated the layers overnight, to make them easier to deal with, a trick I learned in the bakery.  Freezing works also, but there isn't enough room in my freezer for so many cakes.

First, I trimmed the domed tops from the cakes to make them flat.  Then I split every cake with the long knife, and filled them with my own Strawberry Chiffon Filling.  (Recipe to follow.) Then, I stacked each tier.  At this point, I made sure that each tier was roughly the same height as the others, and that their edges were pretty even with no filling leakage.

And now, a confession: I forgot to take a picture of the cakes at this stage, and now it's too late. Dang it all!

Icing The Tiers

I have a heavy-duty, expensive professional-grade cake decorator's turntable.  I love the story behind my turntable: a good friend asked me to make a wedding cake for his friend, who unfortunately didn't have the money to pay for it.  Between us, my friend and I worked out a deal where I would buy, make, and decorate the cake - and he would buy me this turntable as a way of saying thanks. We were both supremely happy with our little arrangement.

The Turntable, a Decorator's Spatula, a Cake Comb, and a Piping Bag

The Flat-Iced Cakes


Some people love it, some people hate it.  I pretty much fall in the "hate it" category - if I'm served cake at an event, I usually push the stuff to the side of the plate instead of eating it.  But buttercream works perfectly for frosting and decorating a fancy cake which must stand up to being moved and to being set up on display for hours.  Which is why I suppose it's been used forever. When I worked at the bakery, we made buckets of the stuff at a time, with enormous blocks of shortening (that make my stomach turn in memory...)

However, at some point during the past twenty years, I'd lost my recipe for Buttercream. My neice Heather came to the rescue with her own favorite recipe.  I made three batches of frosting for the basic flat-icing step, modifying the recipe a bit.  (Recipe to follow)  I set each tier on the turntable and flat iced it, using my serrated cake comb to texture the sides.  Then I set the iced cakes on prepared cardboard circles.

I made the golden ruffle under the biggest tier.  I cut a long...long...long two-inch strip from gold foil, pleated it, and taped it to the edge of a circle of heavy cardboard I'd cut out of a box.

So...That's it For Now!

The cakes have gone back into the refrigerator, awaiting their big day.  On Friday (three days from now), I'll put each tier in a box and drive them to my parent's home.  By then, I'll have made two or three more batches of Buttercream (a stiffer version this time, for making flowers and piped borders), which I'll take along to my parents.

I plan to tint the Buttercream at their home, and do the finishing decorations just before the party.  I'll have my camera with me...I just hope I won't be too distracted by curious relatives to snap a few shots as the cake progresses.

Thank you for reading!

Recipe:  Buttercream Cake Icing

Recipe makes about 3 cups of icing.  

·         1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (use fresh shortening)
·         1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
·         1 teaspoon almond extract
·         4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
·         2 tablespoons extra heavy cream
1.    In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add almond extract. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add cream and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, about ten minutes. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
2.    For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.

4.    For Pure White Icing (stiff consistency), omit butter; substitute an additional 1/2 cup shortening for butter and add 1/2 teaspoon No-Color Butter Flavor. Add up to 4 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk to thin for icing cakes.

Strawberry Chiffon Filling


·         1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (use fresh shortening)
·         1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
·         Juice of one large lemon
·         4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
·         1/2 jar strawberry preserves (approximately 6.5 oz.)
To prepare: follow above instructions, leaving out the strawberry jam.  After the ten-minute whipping, add in the strawberry jam and mix well. 

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