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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Let's Make A Wedding Cake


I made a wedding cake but not just any wedding cake.  This one never went to a wedding but to a fundraiser for the town's Mural Arts Society.  If you click on the link it will take you to the mural page where you can click on the map to see where the murals are painted.  This is a beautification project as well as a recognition of the history of the town.  It is hoped in time the town will become a renowned mural arts tourist destination.  If you are ever in the area make sure you visit and see the murals that are scattered around town on the sides of buildings.   But aside from that, you might be wondering what a wedding cake has to do with the fundraising.

The Mural Arts Society held a Wedding Gown Fashion Show, with gowns going as far back as 1919!  My own gown was modeled from 1978 and a host of other women lent their gowns for the evening's event.  This was ticketed event that includes the fashion show, memorabilia, door prizes and, of course, refreshments to follow.   (You're in Newfoundland and we don't go home without a lunch!)  I thought it would be nice and fitting if there was a wedding cake to serve at this gala event so I volunteered to make one. So I was in the midst of all kinds and flavours of cakes. 

Years ago most wedding cakes were dark fruit cakes but not any more.  The fruit cake is seldom seen at weddings and it seems as if anything goes when it comes to cake flavours and kinds.  The cake I made had a different kind of cake for each tier.  I chose cakes that I successfully made many times before and I knew people enjoyed. (The making of a wedding cake is not the time to experiment with new recipes!) The bottom tier was a Hot Milk Sponge Cake with a strawberry filling.  The middle tier was a Fabulous Fudge Cake with a cherry filling and the top tier was an Apricot Raisin Pound Cake with a Cream Cheese Frosting filling.  I think that satisfied everyone's taste buds.

The making and assembling of a wedding cake takes time and patience, especially if you're not a professional baker.  Don't start the day before the wedding or you'll find yourself stressed and worried--maybe pulling your hair out in anxiety.  Make the cakes at least a week before and freeze them until you're ready to fill and decorate.  If you make a mistake or the cakes fall in the oven you'll have plenty of time to remake and bake them.  I made the cakes about two weeks in advance.  Any decorations that have to be piped or moulded ahead of time can also be done well in advance.  Buttercream or Royal Icing roses and other flowers can be made and frozen or air dried.  Fondant or Candy Clay figures or flowers can also be made in advance and left to air dry and then packed in containers ready for Decorating Day. With the cakes baked and  much of the decorations made you can concentrate on the fillings and frostings closer to the wedding day.  

A wedding cake does not have to be elaborately decorated to be admired and enjoyed by the guests.  Sometimes "less is more" especially if one is not an expert cake decorator.  A few simple borders with fresh flowers makes a lovely presentation.  That's how I decorated my own wedding cake in 1978.  I'd show you a picture but I don't have one photo of my wedding cake.  (Oh for a digital camera way back then.)  I've attended a few functions where the cake was almost too pretty to cut with fantastic art work on the outside but inside the cake was as dry as sawdust and totally flavourless.  Ideally, the cake should be pretty on the outside and delicious on the inside.  Happily, most cakes are that way.

A few days before the wedding make the frosting and keep it in the refrigerator or room temperature if recommended.  Most frostings will keep for days.  Just remember to remove it from the fridge the night before so it can come to room temperature.  The day before Decoration Day, make the fillings if they are different from the frosting that will be used on the outside of the cake.  That will give them time to cool and set.  The fillings should be firm enough so they don't squish out the sides of the cake.

Are you ready?  This is going to be long and detailed.  Click on the links for the recipes.


Three Tier Wedding Cake
4 recipes Hot Milk Sponge Cake
1 recipe, 3 layer Fabulous Fudge Cake
½ recipe Apricot Raisin Pound Cake
½ recipe Cream Cheese Frosting
3 recipes The World's Best Swiss Buttercream Frosting
Simple Syrup for moisture, recipe below
Strawberry Cream Cheese Mousse Fillling, recipe below
Sweet Cherry Cream Cheese Ganache Filling, recipe below
Candy Clay Roses, optional.  You can find recipe and directions at Wilton here and here

 These are my makeshift wedding cake pans. 

10-inch cake pan(s)
8-inch cake pan(s)
6-inch cake pan(s)


Cake boards to fit each cake tier.  You may buy these or make them from cardboard or foam 
      core board covered in aluminum foil
Large round cake plate or stand
Large heavy duty straws or doweling 
1 long dowel the height of the cake
Cake topper, ribbons and any other decorations needed, optional


Make the cakes according to the recipes.  Make sure you grease and line each pan for easy removal.

Bottom Layer:  Double the Hot Milk Sponge Cake recipe for each 10-inch cake pan.  You will make the recipe four times altogether.  Each cake will take 50-60 minutes to bake.  Check with a toothpick or cake tester to make sure the cake is baked in the middle.  You may have to lower the temperature the last 15 minutes if the cake is turning too brown.  Cool 15 minutes before turning cake out on wire cake rack.  You will have two 10-inch sponge cakes when finished.  Each cake will be sliced in half to make four layers. You may do this the day you decorate.

Middle Layer:  Make 1 recipe, 3 layer Fabulous Fudge Cake divided into three 8-inch cake pans.  Follow the directions in the recipe.  Check with a toothpick or cake tester to make sure the cake is baked in the middle. Cool 15 minutes before turning cake out on wire cake rack.

Top Layer:  Make ½ recipe Apricot Raisin Pound Cake.  Bake in two 6-inch cake pans or in one deep pan. You can cut a deep cake in two layers after it is cool.  You may not use all the batter.  Bake  two or three cupcakes with the leftover batter.  The two layers will take about 30 minutes.  One deep cake will take at least 45 minutes to bake.  Check with a toothpick or cake tester to make sure the cake is baked in the middle.

When cakes are baked and cooled place on the appropriate cake board.  Divide each layer with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Freeze cakes if not decorating immediately.   Wrap in several layers of plastic wrap before freezing.  Remove cakes from freezer shortly before decorating.  Cakes can be decorated while still partially frozen. 


Simple Syrup
½ cup white sugar
½ cup water

In a small saucepan bring the sugar and water to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer for 3 minutes.  Cool and store in covered container.  Spread over cake layers before adding the filling.  This will ensure the cakes will remain moist. 


Strawberry Cream Cheese Mousse
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen strawberries
¾ cup white sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 packet plain gelatin
2 tablespoon cold water

Place the strawberries and sugar in a medium sauce pan over medium low heat and bring to a simmer.  Lower heat to low and continue barely simmering until the strawberries are reduced in half.   This will take about 1 hour or more.  Do not rush this process as you want to reduce the mixture, not caramelize or burn it. 

In a small bowl, sprinkle the plain gelatin over the cold water.  Let it bloom.  This will take 3 or 4 minutes.  Add the bloomed gelatin into the hot strawberries, mixing well.  Let the strawberries cool and then place in the refrigerator to become cold but not set.

When the strawberries are cold whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks.  DO NOT whip it into butter.  Remove the cream from the mixer bowl and set aside.  Add the room temperature cream cheese and beat until fluffy.  Fold in the whipped cream. Blend well.  Fold in the cold strawberries into the cream cheese mixture.  Mix until well blended. 

Makes enough to fill a four layer 10-inch cake.  

Cook the strawberries and sugar until they have reduced to half.  Stir the gelatin into the hot mixture and chill.


Beat the cream until it holds stiff peaks.  Beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  Combine the whipped cream and cream cheese.  Fold in the strawberry mixture and blend well.


Refrigerate the Strawberry Cream Cheese Mousse until ready to use.


While you are making the strawberry filling you can also start the cherry filling. 

Sweet Cherry Cream Cheese Ganache Filling
1 cup sweet cherries, fresh or frozen, chopped
¼ cup white sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1⅓ cups chopped dark chocolate bars (I used two 100-gram bars)
½ cup whipping cream
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (half 8 oz package)

Place the cherries and sugar in a medium sauce pan over medium low heat and bring to a simmer.  Lower heat to low and continue barely simmering until the cherries are reduced in half.   This will take about 1 hour or more.  Do not rush this process as you want to reduce the mixture, not caramelize or burn it. Remove from heat and add the almond extract.  Let cool to room temperature. 

While the cherries are cooking and cooling make the ganache.  Make sure the chocolate is well chopped into fairly fine pieces.  Place in a heat proof bowl.  Over medium heat, in a small sauce pan, heat the cream until it just starts to boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand until the chocolate has melted.  Stir until smooth.  This is a very thick ganache and will cool almost solid.  Let cool to room temperature.  It should have solidified and be quite thick and almost solid. 

Beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  Add the cooled ganache and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the cherry mixture and beat until well blended. 

Makes enough to fill a three layer 8-inch cake.

Cook the cherries and sugar together until reduced to less than half.  You want a thick jam.  Cool to room temperature.

Chop the chocolate fairly fine.  Heat the cream to just boiling and pour over the chocolate.  Let the chocolate melt in the hot cream and then stir until combined.


Whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Beat in the cooled ganache.  When well mixed add the cold cherry mixture.


Refrigerate the Sweet Cherry Cream Cheese Ganache until ready to use.

Assembling and Decorating the Wedding Cake
If you are a gifted and/or a professional baker you may be confident decorating and assembling the cake the morning of the wedding but I wouldn't do that.  I almost had a panic attack trying to finish Peter and Vicki's wedding cake the morning of their wedding.  I now aim to have as much done the day before.  If the cake is large you may have to stack the cake and add a few connecting borders when you get to the reception venue but you should have the main assembly finished the day before.  A completely assembled cake can be very heavy to lift and move so unless the cake is a small one you will have to put the layers together at the hall. So plan accordingly, especially if you are also attending the wedding. 

So let's put this cake together:

If you made the icing several days in advance, Smooth it to remove any air bubbles by remixing it in the stand mixer using the paddle attachment.  Fit a pastry bag with a large star or round tip and fill with icing.  You will use this to made a dam around the layers.

Remove the cakes from the freezer about an hour before filling and frosting.  You don't need the cakes completely thawed to start. The bottom layer of each cake should be positioned on the appropriate sized cake board.  Glue the cake to the board with a small amount of icing. 

Split the large sponge cake into 4 layers.  Use a long thin serrated knife or a cake leveler to cut each layer into two thin layers.  Brush or spread simple syrup over each layer.  This ensures you will have a moist cake.  If you have made one deep apricot cake for the top, split that one into two layers.  The chocolate cake recipe is baked in three separate layers. Spread a thin layer of Swiss Butter cream on each layer.  Build up an icing dam around the edge of  the bottom layer.  It should be high enough to hold in any filling. 


Fill the bottom layer with filling. Place the second layer on top and repeat with the dam and filling.  Repeat for each layer, leaving the top layer unfilled.  This is the topping of the cake. The sponge cake will have the strawberry filling, the chocolate cake will have the chocolate filling and the apricot cake will have the cream cheese filling.   Check the cake to make sure it is level.  Hopefully you won't have to do any trimming at this point.  Give the whole cake a thin crumb coat of icing.  This seals in any crumbs that could come loose and show through the finished cake.  Lay the cake in the refrigerator to set the coating.  If you do not have room in the refrigerator place it in the coldest room of your house. (But not the bathroom!)

You will not have to use a dam for the top cake as the cream cheese frosting will not run.  I split the top cake and filled it with the cream cheese frosting before it was frozen.  I also crumb coated with the cream cheese frosting but I gave it a thin layer of the Swiss Buttercream as well. 

When the crumb coat is set proceed to give each layer a nice smooth coating of icing.  Start with the bottom layer.  It may take a little time to get the sides and top smooth but take your time. (I'm not very good at smoothing the icing.)  Don't worry too much about the top of the cake because it won't show.  Use an off-set spatula to smooth the icing.  Place the iced bottom layer on the serving plate and set aside.  Repeat with each cake tier and refrigerate until needed.

This is a cake drum.  Not the stand but the round board with the ribbon.  It is an extra thick cake board.  I made this one with two layers of foam core board with corrugated cardboard sandwiched in between.  I glued the layers together and covered everything with aluminum foil.   The cake drum was placed on the serving plate and the bottom layer of the cake was placed on top of that.

A turntable is an invaluable tool when frosting and decorating a cake.  I make do with a lazy susan.  A damp paper towel or tea towel placed between the turntable and the cake will prevent the cake from slipping about when decorating.

Each cake sits upon the other and needs support so it will not crumble or sink.  To give support I use heavy duty straws to hold up the layers. That way the weight of  each cake is sitting on top of the straws and not on the cake below.  For a three layer cake I use 4 straws in the bottom tier and 3 in the middle tier.  Push the straws into the cake and cut off level with the top of the cake.  Wooden dowels can also be used. 
 
Once the cakes have the straws inserted they may be stacked and decorated. You will also need a wooden dowel to keep the whole cake together.   A sharpened dowel is pushed through the cakes and boards and into the cake drum on the bottom.  I cut the dowel just a little longer than the height of the cake so it will dig into the drum and secure the whole cake.  Finish decorating the sides and top of the cake.

You can find recipe and directions for candy clay roses at Wilton here and here.

 I used a few simple scrolls and and dots for the sides.

A few candy clay roses on top finished the cake nicely.

The cake is ready to transport to the reception.
I hope I don't trip. 

 

6 comments:

  1. You are a MARVEL, and I so much enjoy this blog! thanks!!

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  2. I am getting married next month at Lincoln park wedding venues and I am done with planning everything. So I am thinking to bake cake for myself. Thanks for this post; it will be really helpful for me.

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    Replies
    1. Congratulations on the wedding! Make your cakes ahead of time and freeze them. That will take some of the pressure off you when you are ready to start decorating.

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