Project Wedding Cake – Dave and Mel
Crafting this rather large wedding cake was hard work but so much fun that I would do it again and again. I thought I would share a few details of the adventure so here it goes! Let’s start with the final result:
I know you might be thinking ‘it’s only 12 inches, that’s the size of a pizza’, but it’s not like a pizza at all. I have never seen such a large cake tin in my life. You could practically bath an infant in it, though of course I wouldn’t recommend this multipurpose use! The depth feels like an abyss that ingredients might disappear into. If you’ve ever made a cake you might understand the anxiety…
It fit in my oven by some miracle and by one even greater it cooked through. I can’t express the fear felt as you take a cake out of the oven that is four times an original recipe with lots of expensive ingredients. If doing this at home I recommend classical music, camomile tea and maybe a tranquilliser. Phew!
But oh the bliss when it comes out perfect. BLISS. Only 5 more layers to go…
Frosting is another adventure. I can’t tell you the grief of finding that your go-to icing sugar company had switched to a new emulsifier that doesn’t do its job, yielding grainy buttercream no matter the method. 2 kilos of sugar later and I finally decide to switch from a classic to a Swiss-style buttercream. The result was ace! Soft, cloud-like and sturdy all at the same time. Perhaps the sugar gods had a plan for me after all. I’ll never use another frosting again!
Essentially, you start with a Swiss meringue, where you heat caster sugar and egg whites over a bain-marie until the sugar dissolves, then whisk to stiff peaks, add flavour and a ton of butter. It turns into a lumpy mess at first but with more whisking you end up with heaven.
It takes more frosting than you would imagine to cover a wedding cake. I try to go for enough to cover a VW Beetle – I think I might just make it…
The next step is to level the cakes, which means to cut off that pesky dome from the top to create a level layer and straight edge. Moisten the cake by brushing on quite a lot of appropriately flavoured sugar syrup, in this case apricot, and then brush on a layer of jam to seal it in. Wrap each later in plastic to keep moist. Very important! The reason for all of this moistening is that often catering companies cut the cake a bit to early and it is left to dry out, which can ruin a previously perfect crumb texture, making it taste stale. No one want’s that! Some might like to cut each layer into two, then brush with more sugar syrup and apricot jam. Naturally, it depends on what the client wants.
Now you see why I made the icing first don’t you? ‘Chef’s perks’ and just in time for tea are some bits of cake ready to test. Next time I might use the scraps to make cake bonbons to decorate with too. Very cute.
It is important to check that the jam and sugar syrup has absorbed mostly into the cake, as above, before piping the frosting. This is to avoid slipping. If the frosting sits atop masses of jam, one might find a layer sliding from side to side.
Next load piping bags with frosting and, layer by layer, stack using thick piping in between, coiling from the outside into the middle to creat an even layer. Here is the bottom layer to show the outer circle first and the top layer to show the coiling. Gives a good idea of the difference in size. If cutting an extra layer between, make a border as below and fill with jam. The border stops any slipping mentioned before.
Personally, I think I’ll always start with putting together the top layer first. The bottom layer is such a beast so it’s nice to work on something more manageable first. The beast is pictured below, by the way. 12″ pizza indeed! Hah!
Spread a crumb layer of frosting, i.e. a thin layer as smooth as possible, and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes or until the frosting goes stiff. The crumb layer ensures an even surface for the final layer and, as suggested by the name of the step, stops any crumbs showing up on the finished cake. No matter how ‘rustic’ a style the bride and groom are looking for, it needs to be perfect as can be.
The trick to the next step is to apply the frosting liberally first. Start by piping on the top using with the same method used with sandwiching layers. This creates stability between the tiers. Then use a palette knife to take big scoops of and smear them all over the outside of the tier.
After the cake is covered with swathes of frosting, start to smooth it by using the flat of the straight edge of a frosting paddle and turning the cake stand against it. So in this case, don’t move the paddle, move the stand. It helps to make a smoother, more evenly spread layer. Then to make it extra smooth, heat a palette knife in boiling water and wipe it dry before tidying up.Top tip – as with the paddle, it’s best to float the flat of the palette knife for smoothing rather than use the edge.
To be continued…. (It’s a long one, I know. Big cake = long post!)[SHARE]