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!

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Eggless Vanilla Cake with Rich Vanilla Buttercream

When I thought that I knew American buttercream like the back of my hand, this happened:

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You see those tiny bubbles in the buttercream? I don’t like them there. Its true that this buttercream still pipes well, tastes divine and is devoured by kids and grown ups alike,  but truth be told, I was a bit disappointed when they appeared. But more than success, its failure that makes us strive to learn further. It urges us to find ways we wouldn’t have otherwise known. So, it was back to reading about bubbles in buttercream. There are many reasons bubbles are formed in the buttercream and I would love to compile them in another post. There is nothing wrong with the buttercream recipe. Its just the technique, a point that I have missed. I would update as soon as I find out.

As for this cake, its an eggless vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. I bake with eggs all the time, so this one made me push the envelope and the result was a moist cake bursting with vanilla flavor. Dress it up with buttercream or chocolate ganache and sandwich with cream and fruits for celebrations. Or sprinkle it with tutti-fruity if you aren’t feeling too fancy. Either way, this cake will make you happy, and that’s what a good cake is supposed to do.

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Eggless vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting
(I made 2.5 times of the recipe to make a two tier cake)

1.5 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
½ cup water
½ cup oil
¾ cup fine sugar
5 tbsp yogurt/curd
1 tbsp white vinegar
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
• Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line an 7 inches pan.
• Sift the cake flour with the baking powder. Add a pinch of salt to the sifted flour.
• Add the sugar to the oil and mix well and keep aside.
• Whisk the yogurt till smooth. Add 1 tbsp vinegar. Then add baking soda into the yogurt and stir.
• Now pour the oil-sugar mixture, ½ cup water and the frothing yogurt-vinegar-baking soda into the sieved flour. Add vanilla extract.
• Fold quickly to make a lump free batter, Avoid over-mixing.
• Pour the batter in the prepared pan. Tap the pan a number of times to release the trapped air bubbles.
• Bake at 180 degrees C for 30-35 minutes or till a tooth pick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
• If the cake starts browning too quickly, cover the top with an aluminium foil tent.
• Once baked, let the cake cool at room temperature before frosting.
• The cake can be baked a day before and frosted the next day.

Rich Vanilla Buttercream
(I made 1.5 times of this recipe to fill and frost the two tier cake)
1 cup unsalted butter
3 teaspoon of pure vanilla essence
4 cups of icing sugar
3-4 tablespoons of fresh cream

• Whip the butter till its light and fluffy, for about 2-3 minutes
• Carefully sift the icing sugar over it. It helps to remove any lumps and gives a better texture to the buttercream. It is also important to use fresh icing sugar as it really builds the taste.
• Start adding the cream, one table spoon at a time, and whip it well before adding further. Once the desired consistency is reached, add in the color and whip well before frosting the cake.

Barbie princess cake

It didn’t come a surprise when my daughter demanded a Barbie princess cake for her fifth birthday. But I was totally taken aback when she said that she wanted it to be a vanilla cake. I know how crazy she is for chocolates, be it dark or milk. Since it was still a few weeks before the birthday, i was sure she was going to change her mind. But, that didn’t happen. Instead, she added that it would be nice if I could pair the cake with strawberries. That’s when I got down to work.

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I don’t really have to search for a vanilla cake recipe since I found this. It’s my favorite vanilla cake recipe for many reasons. First, its LUXURIOUS, has great structure that withstands weight when you are baking a layered cake and doesn’t dry under refrigeration. This cake took five layers of different diameters, was filled with fresh strawberry cream and frosted with vanilla buttercream.. With loads of vanilla, butter, sugar, strawberries and cream, it was a perfect melange to compliment something as precious as the fifth year of childhood.

The cake per se is not difficult to bake but the assembly and frosting takes time and it is best to do it an evening before and refrigerate the cake. It is equally important to take out the cake at least 45 minutes before serving since both the cake and the frosting have a huge amount of butter. Therefore, it needs to sit at room temperature for sometime to soften the texture.

Rich Vanilla Cake with Strawberry cream:
Yields Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers

(I made 2.5 times of this recipe to yield five layers of different diameters.)

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (Around 525 grams) cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks ( 225 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
400 grams sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
475 ml buttermilk, well-mixed
• Preheat oven to 350° F (176°C). Butter two 9-inches round cake pans and line with buttered parchment paper.
• Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
• In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, (around 3-4 minutes) then beat in vanilla.
• Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
• At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled).
• Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated. It is always good to mix in the last batch with a rubber spatula.
• Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.
• Bake until golden and the cake tester poked in center of the cake comes out clean, (around 35 to 40 minutes).
• Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, and then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment.
• Cool completely before frosting.

Fresh strawberry cream:
500 grams fresh strawberries
300 ml low fat fresh cream
30 ml apple cider vinegar
50 gram sugar
• Wash and clean the strawberries and chop into pieces. Place chopped strawberry into a pan.
• Add sugar and heat the mixture on medium heat till juices start oozing out and strawberries soften.
• Add vinegar and keep mixing till it reaches marmalade consistency.
• Add the fresh cream, whisk well and take off the flame.
• Cool before filling between the layers.

Rich Vanilla buttercream:
I made 5 times of the recipe and it was sufficient to crumb coat as well as frost the cake.

1 cup unsalted butter
3 teaspoon of pure vanilla essence
4 cups of icing sugar
3-4 tablespoons of fresh cream
• Whip the butter till its light and fluffy, for about 2-3 minutes
• Carefully sift the icing sugar over it. It helps to remove any lumps and gives a better texture to the buttercream. It is also important to use fresh icing sugar as it really builds the taste.
• Start adding the cream, one table spoon at a time, and whip it well before adding further. Once the desired consistency is reached, add in the color and whip well before frosting the cake.