The Wedding Cake

Is there a modest way to declare when you have successfully baked the first wedding cake? I don’t know one yet, but I will try..I BAKED A WEDDING CAKE!!!!!!!!

WP_20160710_16_26_12_Pro (2)-001Baking a wedding cake had been my desire for quite some time. But they are not very popular where I live. So, when my dear friend Anitha requested me to do one for her childhood friends, I didn’t know how to react! To jump with joy or be full of self-doubt as I had never done a wedding cake before. After seven seconds of solemn silence I agreed to take the plunge.

Camera360_2016_7_11_121500The bigger surprise came when I was given a free hand to do the cake, right from choosing the flavors to the decoration. Believe me, it was dilemma overload. Dwindling between vanilla and chocolate, I decided the cake to have both the flavors with a vanilla bottom tier and chocolate middle tier. As for the top tier, I chose Red Velvet Cake because here, it happens to be the current flavor of love.

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I would have loved to do “ wedding cake” chronicle like some most awesome people have done, but my schedule didn’t permit me that. (See, I decided to do the wedding cake right from scratch in two days flat. And since that was insane enough, I resisted from typing away to glory while still slathered in sugar, butter, white chocolate, dark chocolate, cocoa, colors and all that cake jazz!)

(That difference in color of the two cakes is the sunlight. The one with satin was clicked in artificial light.)

Since I do not have step-by-step tutorial, I would love to share with you what I learnt in the cake baking and assembling process. It’s a long write-up so you may skip. For those who still wish to know, shall we start with the cakes I baked and their fillings?

Base layer: Vanilla double layered cake– Each layer 12 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick.

I had at least three recipes to choose from, all with rave reviews. But when you are baking the bottom layer which is going to bear the weight of the cake for close to ten-twelve hours, you do not want to choose a sponge cake no matter how ambrosial it sounds. Instead, you want a wedding worthy cake which should have a rich taste and a firm texture. With those considerations in mind, I turned to my all-time favorite vanilla cake recipe.
Filling: Each cake was leveled, then cut into two layers. The layers were brushed with sweetened vanilla syrup and the lower layer was smeared with a layer of my current favorite white chocolate buttercream. On top of that, I added a layer of mixed berry marmalade heated with a dollop of cream before placing the other layer on top. Steps were repeated for the second cake.

Middle layer: Chocolate double layered cake: Each layer 8 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick.

I decided the middle layer to be a Chocolate cake. There is no dearth of chocolate cake recipes but not every chocolate cake is worth of making it to a wedding cake. But, this one is. Made of butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder AND melted chocolate, this is one of the best chocolate cakes I have come across and is just perfect for the middle layer of a multi-tier cake.
Filling: Each cake was leveled, then cut into two layers. The layers were brushed with sweetened vanilla syrup and the lower layer was smeared with thick silky dark chocolate version of this ganache mixed with orange compote before placing the other layer on top. Steps were repeated for the second cake.

Top layer: Double layered red velvet cake: Each layer 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick.

After all that fuss of baking a red velvet cake with nothing but beet root, it was time to soften the stand. Nothing wrong with that recipe, but no harm in increasing the repertoire either! Found this awesome recipe here which yields a cake so fluffy that it can just melt in your mouth. This now belongs to the “must bake again” cake list.
Filling: Each cake was leveled, and then cut into two layers. The layers were brushed with sweetened vanilla syrup and filled with white chocolate buttercream thinned with a dollop of cream. Chocolate chips were generously sprinkled on the filling before placing the other layer on top. Steps were repeated for the second cake.

(See that pic below? It was clicked at ungodly 2 am when a chocolate and a vanilla cake were yet to go inside my tiny oven which can bake just one at a time.)

IMG-20160707-WA0001The cakes are leveled best when they are chilled, or frozen. I freeze my cakes in triple layers of clear wrap.

Truth be told, cake baking and filling were the easiest part of the whole exercise. The real deal was to assemble the cake which weighed close to eight kgs in toto. Luckily there is abundant information available online and in books that should make you comfortable before you start turning those layers into tiers of beauty and flavor. But remember, devil is in the details, so pay close attention to every aspect of a step before embarking on it. Here is what I learnt in the process:

1. Assemble each layer separately on its own cake board which should be of same diameter as the cake. This will help you to move the cake around and during cutting and distributing the cake. The lowermost cake board should have an extra 2 inch margin that will give you enough room to lift and move the assembled cake.
2. Dowels are a must if you are doing a three tiered cake. They help to support the structure and prevent the lower layers from collapsing under the sheer weight of the layers above.
3. If an assembled cake is to be transported to the venue as in my case, then I highly recommend using a central dowel which should traverse the entire length of the cake right from the top layer to the bottom of the base layer. It will help to keep the layers in place during the ride. However, you may not need it if you are assembling the cake at the venue.
4. It helps to moisten the layers by brushing them with vanilla syrup or plain sweetened water as the cake would be in fridge for quite some time during and in between decorating steps and you do not want layers to dry up. However, adding too much syrup would make them soggy and tear prone. So be moderate.
5. If coloring the buttercream, it is always a good idea to make in a single large batch even if that leaves you with a bowl full of it at the end of the entire process. That will hurt less than dealing with a second batch of buttercream in a different shade when giving those final touches!
6. Practice the design you are going to make. Spontaneous decorating ideas can be detrimental and will give you tough time if you want to undo and restart. Do your homework about the design you wish to put on the cake and stick to the plan.
7. If planning to decorate with real flowers, make sure that you wrap the stems in aluminum foil before poking in. Also, not all flowers are suitable for placing on cakes so be careful about what you choose.
8. If decorating with satin ribbon, remember that it may get greasy on a buttercream covered cake. It is always a better idea to buy a thick grease proof double sided ribbon. If you can’t find one, use darker colors which would not show grease marks as prominently. Also, place the ribbon right before display or transportation.

These are some of the suggestions that should help your cake assembly and decoration a little easy though there would still be quite a few “I skipped a heartbeat!” moments. Some of the resources I found extremely helpful are listed below and I suggest you to explore more:

  1. http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/category/wedding-cake/
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpQ278VwwL4
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N4HTmU5F5g
  4. http://joythebaker.com/2010/06/fact-i-made-a-wedding-cake/

Also, a short list of tools and supplies I found invaluable:
• A sturdy mixer
• Aluminum cake pans
• Parchment paper
• Cake boards
• Food grade plastic wrap
• Sharp knife to slice the layers
• Cake decorating stand/Turntable
• Frosting bags & tips
• Icing spatulas

Are you still with me? Thank you for your time! Really. I would like to know you.

So wanna know how I think I fared? I am quite happy the way cake turned out. The newlyweds gave thumbs up to the cake. The taste was impeccable and I am so glad about choosing those flavors. I kept the decoration to minimum and tried floral as well as satin decoration (the final version was with the satin ribbon) but would like to get more experimental in future. Yes, baking and assembling a wedding cake is taxing but I would certainly do it again for the sheer joy of it!

Red Velvet Cake.

It was one of the best moments. It was like Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) moment! I will tell you all about it, but first let’s have the cake!WP_20160511_12_12_54_ProSo, remember my last attempt for a Red Velvet Cake which turned into a one of the best chocolate cakes ever? But I wanted a Red Velvet Cake right? No, not just another Red Velvet Cake. I wanted one naturally colored with beetroot, not with synthetic food color. WP_20160511_11_12_29_Pro.jpgWhen I started to read about it, it came as a surprise that Red Velvet Cake is actually a chocolate cake. But the kind in which chocolate flavor floats just very lightly without showing up the color. The actual color comes either from beetroots or from red food color, but I had my own reasons for insisting on beetroots. There is no dearth of the recipes which use beets and truth be told, I tried at least three recipes but every time I had a chocolate-colored-chocolate-cake on hands. Something was surely not right and that something had to be fixed. And that something happened to be the pH of the cake batter which is very important if you are baking a Red Velvet Cake with beets. WP_20160511_15_08_49_Pro.jpgSo, to keep it short and simple, you need to provide lots of acidic ingredients when you are baking a Red Velvet Cake with beets. Vinegar, buttermilk, lemon juice, or even orange juice AND you should use just the baking powder and NOT BAKING SODA. The alkalinity of the baking soda turns the beautiful red color of beets to brown, while acidity helps to brighten up the red color. The roasted beets make the cake extremely moist, impart the beautiful red color and a rustic flavor to the cake. This cake is slightly on  a denser side. I opted for raspberry flavor to infuse the batter and some color coordination. Just joking, but it worked really well. Its different from a vanilla flavored cake in a pleasant way.WP_20160511_14_56_44_Pro.jpgI didnt want the usual cream cheese frosting for this cake, because I dont like it. Instead, I frosted the cake with the white chocolate buttercream and this combination is my current favorite thing.

Red Velvet Cake
(Yields one 8 inches round cake)
(Adapted from here)

Ingredients:
1 medium beetroot
1 ¼ cup cake flour
1 ½ tablespoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
110 gram unsalted butter
1 teaspoon raspberry extract
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
1 ½ tablespoon white wine vinegar (or regular vinegar)
½ cup roasted beetroot puree

1. Preheat the oven to 176 degrees Celsius. Wash and wrap a medium whole beetroot in an aluminium foil and roast for about an hour or till a knife easily cuts through. Cool, peel and puree. This can done upto a day in advance
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.
3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, beet puree,and vinegar.
4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and raspberry flavor. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add a third of the liquid ingredients, followed by a third of the dry ingredients, alternating wet and dry and mixing well after each addition.
5. Pour into your prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops look firm. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting

White Chocolate Buttercream:
(Adapted from here)

170 gram white chocolate
230 gram unsalted butter
240 grams confectioner’s sugar
2 table spoon light cream
½ tsp raspberry flavor
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Prepare a bain marie with barely simmering water.
2. Finely chop the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over bain marie such that the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. The bowl should fit snugly to avoid any steam escaping and getting into the chocolate bowl. Take the bowl off heat when about 30% of the chocolate is still not melted and keep whisking gently. The chocolate will keep melting as you whisk. Cool it till it is still at pouring consistency.
3. In a medium bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Switch the mixer to low speed and slowly add the confectioners’ sugar.
4. Stir in the cooled white chocolate. Switch the mixer to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes until combined and creamy.
5. Add the cream, raspberry extract, and salt. Beat for 1 minute until combined.
6. Frost the cake as desired.
7. Excess buttercream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Before using, bring it to room temperature and whisk well.