Hello, my darling readers. Are any of you still there? Yes? Oh good, I’m so glad. I know I’ve been a Very Bad Blogger as of late. *wrist slap* I’ve given you virtually nothing to gnaw on with this blog in the past few months, but I honestly truly kinda sorta feel like I might have a bonafide excuse… I’m a gettin’ hitched in less than a month! Yes, it’s true, and I’m soooooo excited. I’m happier than a piglet floatin’ a warm bath bucket. (Click the link. No, really, do it. You’ll thank me once you’re done “squeeeee”ing from the epic cuteness).
Getting married! So what exactly does this mean? It means I’m throwing the awesome party to end all awesome parties (I’m talking even better than my infamous 29th birthday Pirates a-Go-Go! party. Yeah, epic, I know.) and y’all are invited (through the magic of the intertubes, that is). What else does this mean? Besides wearing a purty dress and lookin’ all fancy, it means I have a legitimate reason to make a BIG HUGE FREAKIN’ FRACKIN’ CAKE!
I’ve gotten pretty much the same reaction each time I tell someone new about my wedding-cake-making experiments so far. They inevitably get a queer look on their face and ask, “You’re not making your own wedding cake, are you?!” When they encounter my enthusiastic affirmative response, the next question is always the same: “Are you crazy???” I’m still not sure if they mean this rhetorically or not… hmm… regardless, it is true: I AM CRAZY. Crazy like a fox (one covered liberally in buttercream, of course). In truth, I am crazy for a number of reasons, but not this one. If anybody has eaten one of my cakes, they’ll understand. I will be that bride, the one wearing a plastic poncho over her dress while she touches up the decorations one last time. Because my cake is worth it! It is made of butter, sugar, love, fairydust, magic, rainbows and EPIC WIN, and I won’t put up with anything less for my own wedding.
I even got to do a trial run, if you can believe it! My darling friend Anne, upon hearing my wedding cake plans, asked how much I would charge for such a cake and if I would consider making HER cake in late April. I said HOLY CRAP OF COURSE I WILL! duh. And don’t bother with the payment, as this is my wedding gift to you, silly girl. She gratefully purchased the materials (butter. lots and lots of butter.) but the labor of love was my gift to them. It also served as a perfect trial run for our own cake in June, and they had no problem whatsoever with being my guinea pigs. ;-)
So where to begin? How to go about this epic task? Like the good librarian that I am, I read a bunch of books! While I gleaned tips from all of them, one in particular stuck out as the ultimate DIY reference book: Wedding Cakes You Can Make, by Dede Wilson. The instructions were spot on, with great tips, tricks, and the recipes are SLAMMIN. Unlike many similar books, she spells out to you how many cups of cake batter, filling, frosting, etc. you need for every shape and size of pan you would possibly use. Each of the cake recipes is SCALED FOR YOU, to fit a variety of pan sizes. Seriously, this book saved my ass from doing a lot of math. I cannot recommend this book highly enough! Also of much help (and encouragement) was Deb from Smitten Kitchen’s Project Wedding Cake posts from 2008. It’s one of my ultimate favorite blogs, and reading through those posts truly gave me the courage I needed to tackle this momentous project!
What came next was about a month and a half of lists, spreadsheets, sourcing, shopping, baking, filling, frosting, decorating and EATING. Because I’m ME, and couldn’t think of doing only one cake flavor, each of the three tiers was completely different. All told, I made and baked 5 batches of cake batter, 4 batches of Italian buttercream, 1 saucepan of dark-chocolate-mint ganache and 2 quarts of strawberry-balsamic filling. The final tally of ingredients included 10 pounds of butter, 9 pounds of sugar, 5 dozen eggs, 3 boxes of cake flour, a pound of chocolate, and nearly a whole bottle of vanilla. Yes, you read that right, TEN POUNDS OF BUTTER. I don’t mess around when it comes to cake, this stuff is SERIOUS.
The final masterpiece was three stacked tiers (12, 10 and 8 inches), each of which was split into 4 layers of cake and 3 layers of filling, plus a good 60 or so cupcakes:
Top tier: “Dreamsicle” Cake – Golden butter cake with orange zest and orange/vanilla buttercream.
Middle tier: Chocolate-mint cake with minty dark chocolate ganache and creme de menthe buttercream.
Bottom tier: Golden butter cake with a fresh strawberry-balsamic filling and vanilla buttercream.
Cupcakes: Golden butter cake with strawberry cream inside, topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles.
Upon reaching the reception location, unloading my gear and stacking the cake layers, I made a horrific realization: The batch of buttercream I’d made the night before, intending to use for piped decorations, had separated into a globby mess of FAILcream! After a moment of intense freaking out, I came up with a solution that I’m just gonna go ahead and call BRILLIANT, since it turned out prettier than my original plan. I took the organic roses I’d bought to decorate the top of the cake (Why organic? Because nobody likes pesticides in their buttercream!) and ruthlessly tore half of them apart into a pile of petals. Using the FAILcream as a sort of glue, I stuck petals along the base of each tier in a crown/halo sort of effect, which hid the cardboard cake-boards beneath each layer while simultaneously LOOKING GORGEOUS. There were even still enough flowers left over to make a pretty cake topper!
You may have noticed, dear readers, that there is no fondant in sight. That is because I don’t believe in fondant. Why? Because 99% of the time it tastes like a nasty, sugary mess! Also, call me crazy (we’ve already established that I am), but I want my cakes to look like CAKE, not playdough or plastic. Seriously! I want my cakes to be liberally smothered with luscious, dreamy buttercream. I want you to look at the cake and KNOW it’s gonna taste good under there, not wonder what’s hiding behind the sugar-dough curtain.
Luckily, Anne and Brett – the happy couple – fully agreed with me! :-) All in all, they LOVED the cake, as did all the guests, apparently, judging by how fast that sucker went! I, of course, had to try all the flavors. Multiple times. You know, for science. I went home that night exhausted, but ecstatic – the tiers stayed stacked, nothing fell down, no major catastrophes (other than the buttercream FAIL), and most importantly, it tasted awesome! Not bad for my first wedding cake, eh?
Because I’m lazy, and feel like I’ve already written a ton, I’m just going to paste some pictures here of the process. You’ll be hearing more in part 2, when I start baking my own wedding cake in the coming weeks!