Project Wedding Cake Part II

Now that all the cake layers were done and baked (see Part I), it was time to put it all together. I started with the chocolate cake, and in between the layers was chocolate ganache with sliced strawberries. The bottom cake was a huge 16″ in diameter, and that thing alone was pretty heavy, which made me a little worried about what the weight of the entire cake would be after it was frosted. Once the chocolate cake was done, it was wrapped up nice and tight in plastic wrap, and stuck in the fridge. The top two tiers of red velvet each had a thick coat of cream cheese frosting in between:

And then came the crumb coat. I used a buttercream frosting that was made out of vegetable shortening–some people grimace at the thought of using shortening, but it was advice given to me by a trusted cake decorator. She recommended it just because it’s easy to make, easy to use, and lasts longer than butter, which is a dairy product that needs to be refrigerated at all times. This was all done the day before the wedding, and by now my feet were starting to hurt from standing so long in the kitchen barefoot, and the dirty dishes just kept coming. If only I had a dishwasher, but nope, not in apartment 303. That’d be too easy. I had no room left in the sink and I had to step over the pans and bowls that were lining the floor of my tiny kitchen. That’s when bf came to the rescue and washed an entire round of dishes! And to throw some enouragement at me too, which I desperately needed. My Kitchenaid mixer bowl had already been washed and dried about 15 times by now, no joke. Even clearing out my refrigerator to store the cakes was a huge task at hand–we didn’t buy groceries for an entire week because it was crammed with cake.

Yes, that’s a jar of pickles in the back of my refrigerator, if you were wondering about that. I made a couple more batches of buttercream, and now the delirium began to set in from an entire week of baking–whoa, what am I doing making a wedding cake!? Panic set in, and things started to go awry. My spatula snapped in half when I was scraping the side of the bowl (can’t do much in the frosting world without a rubber spatula), and there was an entire cup of powdered sugar that somehow flew out of my hands when I was scooping too vigorously and it ended up spraying all over the kitchen. I stood there for about 10 seconds staring at everything in the kitchen dusted in white, resisted the urge to clean up, regained composure, and went back to making buttercream. There was no turning back now.

For the final coating, I laid it on thick and then smoothed it out, thanks again to lessons by Edna on “How to Ice a Cake”:

Then I used a decorating comb to add texture to the side of the cake:

Stacking all three cakes took place Saturday morning, a couple hours before the wedding. The bottom cake had 8 wooden dowels put in for support, the middle cake had 6 wooden dowels, and once the stacking was done, I hammered in one long dowel into all 3 of the cakes.  All of it was done on my cake turntable, and once all three cakes were on, I added ribbon to the cakeboard and piped a beaded border between the layers. My friend helped me put the flowers in, which had stems wrapped with floral wire so they’d be able to go through the cake and stay in place. Ta-da! The cake was done!

I almost couldn’t believe it–now it just had to be transported to church, and that’s when things got scary. I tried doing all this research on whether or not to drive with the cake assembled, and there were too many mixed reviews. Some people stacked the cake when they got on location (which I thought would take too much time, be too messy, and I didn’t want people staring at me), while others travel with it fully assembled and on television you see them carrying an entire cake straight out the back of the van. By the way, those are professionals. I should have known.

The cake was placed on a wooden board and was extremely heavy now, I’m guessing at almost 40 pounds, and it took 2 people to carry it. We drove with it in the back of a friend’s hatchback, and took a local route to avoid the bumps and potholes on the freeway. That’s when I realized one skinny dowel going through the entire cake was not enough to hold it together. With every brake and acceleration, the cake wobbled like crazy, the buttercream jiggled, and at one light it even slid off the board and hit the back of the car door. Luckily it didn’t damage the frosting, but I released a piercing scream which made the driver super nervous. Oops, I couldn’t help it. I covered my mouth with my hand the rest of the way. We drove about 15 mph the whole time, and it was a huge relief to finally get there,  unload the cake, and center it on the cake table. I don’t think I’ll be travelling with a stacked cake again, but it’s ok. This cake has reached it’s final destination.

It was a huge hit! Bride and groom were thrilled, which made it all worthwhile, and everyone enjoyed the cake. I was happy with the results, and as a wedding gift, this beats buying them a blender, right? It was a terrific feeling of accomplishment, and now I’m ready to go into the wedding cake business. Ha. Not.

Congratulations to James and Renee! That night when I came home after the wedding, I tore my heels off, got out of my dress, and slept peacefully without having any dreams about the wedding cake (yes, I even thought about it in my sleep). I vowed not to step in the kitchen again for two weeks, but three days later, there I was, baking a cherry cheesecake. Guess you can’t hold me back.

– Ai

Chocolate Ganache

8oz chocolate (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, 8oz is about 1 1/3 cups)
1 cup heavy cream

Heat cream in a saucepan until it comes to a boil, then remove from heat. Place the chocolate in a large bowl, and immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Stir with a whisk until everything is combined. Now you can use it as a glaze! Or let it cool a bit and it will thicken, so you can spread it on brownies.

For my chocolate cake filling, I let it cool, stuck it in the fridge for a little bit, and then beat it with an electric mixer until it becomes fluffy. You can’t go wrong with this, it’s basically equal amounts of chocolate and cream. You can also add in a tablespoon or two of flavoring as well, vanilla, liquor, up to you!

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 block cream cheese (8oz), at room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Beat the cream cheese until smooth and not lumpy. Add in the butter, beat until smooth. Add in vanilla. Add the sugar 1 cup at a time, until desired sweetness, and beat until smooth.

The key to smooth cream cheese frosting is making sure both cream cheese and butter are soft and at room temperature (just let it sit on the counter for a couple hours) and beat it before adding anything else in. Instead of vanilla, you can even add orange zest, lemon zest, or a little juice too. I always make my cream cheese frosting with a 2:1 ratio of cream cheese and butter. That’s double the cream cheese compared to the butter. Yum.

Buttercream Icing, Medium Consistency

Adapted from Wilton – Makes about 3 cups Frosting

1 cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk or water

In large bowl, cream shortening with mixer and add vanilla. 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 milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

And yes, Edna also teaches you How to Make Buttercream too. What a lady.

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