Monday, August 19, 2013

What I Learned From Baking a Wedding Cake

Red Velvet Wedding Cake in process 
Recently my brother-in-law got married. The bride and groom took care to add all sorts of personal touches to their special day which made for an intimate and beautiful wedding. The reception was held at my in-laws and everyone pitched in to help with the big day. I baked the cake. I still can’t quite believe it, but yes, I baked the wedding cake. I learned a lot in the process and I’ve compiled some advice for those of you who might want to bake a huge cake for a very special occasion…

For starters, to my great relief the cake turned out wonderfully. Sadly, I didn’t get very many pictures of the cake. Between all the hustle and bustle of the wedding day there wasn’t much time for process shots and I was putting Lil B down for bed when the cake made its appearance for cutting. You’ll just have to trust me that it was beautiful and tasty. Now on to the advice. As with anything in life, practice makes perfect. If you’re attempting a wedding cake for the first time, even if you’re an experienced baker, you’ll want to do at least one full test run of your recipe to make sure you’re ready to go when the big day comes around. I made this recipe four times, including a full sized version, before the real cake. Here are some lessons I learned along the way…

If you haven’t done large scale cake decorating start here with this great “how to decorate a wedding cake” tutorial from America’s Test Kitchen.

You may need some new tools. Here are some that I found invaluable:

Rotating cake stand: This will help you get a nice smooth finish on the sides. Ateco makes a good one for under $20. They also make a much fancier one that I’m sure is lovely and gets the job done, too, but having read this review, I decided to go with the cheaper, almost as good stand, instead of the fancier one.

Large off set spatula: This is great for spreading the frosting and making those edges look lovely.

Wedding cake pans: If you’re making a tiered cake, you’ll need a set of pans. I used these 3 inch pans, because that allowed me to slice the cake to make 3 internal layers in each tier. I was a bit worried about doing a 3 layer cake and for a small wedding with 60+ guests a large two tier worked out just fine. We personally felt that a 14 inch cake topped with a 10 inch cake was aesthetically more pleasing than a 14 inch cake topped with a 12 inch one. Not sure if you’ll have enough cake for all of your guests? Check out this cool “cake-ulator” that tells you how many slices you can get AND how many cups of batter and frosting you’ll need.

Piping tips: I’ve had a huge set of Cardboard cake boards: These are essential between the tiers of the cake and are a huge help in getting the cake out of the pan and shifting the interior layers.

Tips and tricks:

*At the request of the bride and groom I made a red velvet. If you’re in the market for a great red velvet recipe, look no further than here. Seriously. This recipe is awesome. We did a three recipe head-to-head and this was BY FAR the winner. Very moist. Nice chocolate flavor with a hint of tang from the sour cream. The batter is easy to work with and bakes up beautifully. I didn’t have any doming issues the many times I tested this cake.

*Bake the cake in advance, freeze it and frost it frozen. I learned this tip from a cake expert friend and it really, really works well. You won’t believe how moist the cake turns out. Trust me. Just trust me.

*Cream cheese frosting isn’t terribly stable. And heat and humidity to the mix and you have the potential for cake disaster. This cream cheese flavored German Buttercream from Bravetart is AMAZING. It’s light yet sturdy. You’ll have a hard time not taking a spoon to the bowl.

*Always overestimate the amount of frosting you need. Frosting is the fix-it-all of cakeland. You definitely don’t want to be short when you’re mid-decorating so make way more than you think you’ll need. Keeps in the freezer up to 6 months, so you’ll have plenty of time to use it. If you’re going to decorate your cake with flowers be sure to buy organic ones so you don’t have to worry about pesticides seeping into your cake. Also, check with your florist to make sure the flowers you want to use are food safe and not poisonous.

*Forget cake dowels, they’re a huge pain to cut and deal with. Bravetart shared the tip the straws make great dowels and they so do. Just stick them in after the final frosting and trim them before adding the tier on top.

*Have extra frosting in a piping bag on hand for when you set up the cake. That way you can cover up any damage or flaws.

Got any wedding cake tips? Feel free to share them in the comments!

1 comment:

Andrea said...

If you get your hands on any pics of the finished cake I would love to see it! I love the idea of homemade wedding cakes!