D I - why? Wedding Cake!
So there was this one time.....that I decided I could make a wedding cake!
Okay - so there was A LITTLE more to it than that! My BESTIE and her hubby decided to celebrate being married for 15 GLORIOUS years with a renewal ceremony and celebration and I decided that I wanted to make them a cake, as a gift. (Afterall - what do you buy a couple who have been married 15 years and already have a full house and WAY too many wine glasses?!) I LOVE to bake so I thought - why not take my love to the next level and actually try and make a wedding cake - and wouldn't it make a GREAT blog? Afterall - if I can find the time to make a wedding cake while juggling two businesses, a social life and my other maid of honour duties - surely it can't be THAT difficult for a bride and her tribe to do it too?
Now - before I get into this I feel I should be completley honest - as I said before I LOVE to bake and over the last couple of years have actually acquired some relatively good baking skills making me a reasonably accomplished baker - I, however, am NOT a cake decorator. Not by the widest stretch of anyones imagination....so I decided to keep it rather simple by sticking to what I know I can bake and bake well, and to stick with a cream cheese frosting instead of fiddling about with fondant and the likes..... (so if you're hoping to see a 5 tier fondant master piece.....stop reading now to avoid further disappointment). With this in mind - I was VERY relieved when the Bride-to-be requested my personal favourite (and totally within my comfort zone) - my Red Velvet cake.
I should also add that I planned to complete this over the course of 3 days.....Day 1 - bake, day 2 - frost, day 3 - decorate and stack.
So - lets kick this thing off with the list of things I needed to create this cake (I'm not going to include the ingredients right now - I'll pop the recipe at the bottom).
- An Electric Mixer - honestly, it's not even WORTH considering making this without one - it won't be the same and your arms will never forgive you!
- Various spoons and spatulas (for obvious reasons)
- Two round springform cake tins - 1 x 9" diametre and 1 x 8" diametre
- Greaseproof Paper
- Measuring Spoons (Teaspoon to Cup at least)
- Measuring Jug
- Three cake Boards - 1 thick 10inch, 1 thin 8 inch, 1 thick 7 inch
- 1 Large Mixing Bowl (2 if your mixer doesn't have one of it's own)
- 2 small bowls
- Offset Spatula for icing
- Piping Bag with small round nozzle
- Patterened Edge Side Scraper
- Turntable Cake Stand (don't under estimate how much you'll need this - I wouldn't even ATTEMPT this again without one)
- Stacking Rods/dowling
- 2 cooling Racks
- Bread Knife
- SUPER sharp and strong scissors or wire cutters.
Now - as a relatively keen baker - I already had quite a lot of what was required but for everything else I paid a visit to Midway Catering Equipment and they sorted me out with everything else I needed. They have EVERYTHING on my list and SO MUCH MORE so if you haven't got it - you can get it there.
At this point I really feel I should add - if you DON'T already have the majority of the things on the above list - scrap the entire plan and hire a professional (we can recommend ANY of the AWESOME Cake Makers in our directory - we've tried ALL their cakes and they are ALL DELICIOUS!) because quite frankly - all of the above, plus the ingredients will probably set you back WAY more than a wedding cake would AND if you don't already own baking tins and a mixing bowl - chances are you're not a seasoned baker and therefore PLEASE don't even ATTEMPT to make a wedding cake! (for your own sanity!!!!)
Anyway - now it's time to tell you ALL about the cake making journey. I call it a journey because it actually took me quite some time, I learned some things about myself along the way, I cried, I screamed a little bit, I talked to myself, I made a mess, I cleaned it up, I made another mess, and another.....
My cake has to serve approximately 40 people a small slice. If you want to serve more people you'll have to double or triple the recipe. My cake would be two tiers, with two layers on each tier. Because I only have 2 tins (1 of each size) I made my cakes in two batches and split the batter between each pan.
All in, it took me about 3 hours to prepare and bake all 4 cakes. I won't bore you with HOW to make the cake (like I said - I'll share the recipe below) - but I will tell you what I learned WHILE I was baking the cakes!
- Raw cake mixture does NOT taste as good as cake. Not even close!
- Don't get complacent when you're "comfortable" with a recipe - my first batch I TOTALLY forgot one key ingredient - meaning I had to scrape ALL the batter out the tins, back into the mixer, re-line the tins etc etc.....this added time and stress that I really could have done without.
- Give yourself twice as much time as you think you'll need.
- Cover your mixer with a tea towel when mixing flour or powdered sugar......
- If you're using food colouring cover everything. And I do mean EVERTHING - there are red spots up my wall and all over my window and I won't even talk about what it did to my hands......
(this took approx 4 days to totally wash off - can you IMAGINE if it was the week before your wedding and you did this!?!?!?!)
Now I should warn you - my Red Velvet cake is a very soft cake. For the next stage in the process - it REALLY helps things if you refrigerate the cake overnight.....
DAY 2 - FROSTING
This is where things start to get a LITTLE bit more complex. As I've said (several times) before - I'm a seasoned baker - I do NOT decorate my cakes...therefore THIS PART was the challenging part for me.
I had to make the HUGEST batch of icing - and I mean HUGE. My mixing bowl was actually overflowing at one point and lets not even talk about the mess that icing sugar makes....
The GOOD news is - this frosting tastes AMAZING and so it really wasn't the worst disaster in the world when I got it ALL over me!
So frosting made, I was faced with the daunting task of icing my cakes. Right away - I knew I needed to do something about the shape of my cakes - they have taken on a slighly lopsided dome shape on baking.....
So first things first - I had to break out the bread knife and even all my layers up. The GOOD news about this is - OFFCUTS....offcuts are EXCELLENT for cleaning out the frosting bowl when you're done (or be a smart cookie and save them and make cake pops with them later).....
Once they were all level - time to slather them with frosting and sandwich them together.
Now - Red Velvet is quite a soft cake and if you stack one tier on top of another it will sink and fall apart....SO - you need to insert some support thingys..... (see what white stick thing - thats one of them). They come in a standard length and so you need to cut them to size (and if you're like me and a bit weak in the arm region - you might need some help with this. Scissors DON'T cut it - I had to use wire cutters). I decided to measure mine before I frosted the whole cake because otherwise it would just be too messy for me!
I figured the more support the better so I went with one in the middle and 8 in a circle around. I put one in and marked it with a pencil (don't worry - I washed the pencil off) and then cut the rest to match.
With the rods in place I set about "dirty icing" each layer. (Dirty icing is applying a thin coat of frosting to the entire cake and then refrigerating before applying the outer decorative layer. This stops the crumbs getting mixed into the frosting giving you a smoother finish).
(Now if I'm TOTALLY honest - I'm actually rather in love the with the finish on this second picture - I think I've actually NAILED the "Semi Naked" cake look - and SHOULD I be crazy enough to ever attempt another wedding cake - I think I might go for this finish).
I let my tiers set in the fridge for while before applying the second layer of frosting and going about making it look pretty. Sadly there are no photos of this process because, as it turns out - it's actually quite hard to photograph yourself frosting a cake....but step 1....slather on HEAPS of frosting....
Step 2 - use AWESOME little decorative scraper tool to create beautiful sides...
I popped both Tiers into the fridge overnight to set.
DAY 3 - Stacking and Decorating
I decided to keep my decorating RELATIVELY simply....okay VERY simple. Fresh flowers and a little piping was about the limit of my decorating (oh - and I hand cut the word "Love" out of purple foil card and mounted on two skewars to use as a topper. This was a bit of an afterthought).
I also decided that I wanted to elevate the top tier a little above the lower one so I used a smaller thick cake board between the tiers. This also made it easier for me to stack the cake and lift the tiers off for cutting.
For decorating I decided to pipe small dots around some of the edges of the cake. This was partly because my edges where honestly CRAP and partly because I thought it might look pretty.
Had I thought ahead I would have contacted a florist and asked them to do a few little flower posies for me....but I didn't actually think ahead and so I made a dash to the supermarket on Sunday morning and got a selection of gorgeous blooms to adorn my tiers.
There was no real method to my placing the flowers in the cake. I wrapped a little clingwrap on their stems and plonked them where I thought they would look best.....
I'm going to be a bit smug here - when I stood back and looked at this MASTERPIECE - I was just a LITTLE BIT impressed with myself! I mean COME ON....I can't quite believe I made THIS!!!
BUT THEN REALITY KICKED IN.......
HOW THE HELL am I going to get this to the Venue?!??!?! It's gorgeous but OH MY GOSH it's delicate. I inlisted the help of a VERY obliging friend and together we embarked on the MOST STRESSFUL JOURNEY of my life. I separated the two layers and placed them in a huge plastic storage box with a lid. I was also smart enough to take a piping bag filled with extra frosting incase I had to make any minor repairs when I got there.
The journey with this cake in the car was the most intrepid journey EVER! With me driving (at approximately 3kms an hour) and my friend sitting in the back seat with the box suspended in mid air trying to keep it level at all times - every bump, hill and corner had my heart racing and my butt cheeks MAJORLY clenched....with just two hours till the "I Do's" I REALLY couldn't afford for anything bad to happen to this cake..... don't even get me started at the FEAR I felt when I had to turn a corner on a hill OR when I had to turn at 90 degrees and mount the kirb into the venues driveway! That journey shaved about 10 years off my life.
BUT - we made it there with cake in one piece - we didn't even NEED the extra frosting. I stacked the cake, covered it over with the box and went home to get ready.
JOB DONE!.....or so I thought.
I made sure to arrive at the venue 10 minutes or so early.....(as maid of honour I had a few extra little tasks to take care of before the ceremony)....and thank god I did....when I got there DISASTER HAD STRUCK!!!
(I REALLY wish I had photos of this - but everything happened so quickly and I was so stressed - photographing it was the LAST thing on my mind).
All the flowers on the bottom tier had come off and there was a big hole where the frosting should have been! 10 MINUTES BEFORE THE CEREMONY!!! How was I going to fix it?!?!? Why didn't I bring the extra frosting?!? WHY DID I VOLUNTEER TO MAKE A WEDDING CAKE! Another 10 years off my life!!!!
I ransacked the venue kitchen looking for SOME WAY of fixing the cake....cocktail sticks....I'd secure the flowers with cocktail sticks....THERE ARE NO SODDING COCKTAIL STICKS! Okay...this big knife here will help.....I thought if NOTHING else...I'll scoop up and smooth the frosting back onto the cake and turn that part to the back. The top tier isn't fixed - I can turn it around. BUT THEN I spied plastic forks.....YES READERS - I fixed the cake with a plastic fork. I snapped off the handle, jammed the flowers between the prongs and rammed the fork into the cake.....from the front you couldn't even see it. And it only had to last half an hour or so till it could be cut. Talk about a Hail Mary!!!
So....the moral of this blog.....honestly.....I was SO proud of this cake but the stress and chaos of making it - I'm just not sure I'd do it again in a hurry. I can't even begin to imagine this stress if it had been my wedding and I'd had a billion other things to worry about. If you're brave and feel like a challenge, and have enough time and a certain amount of baking knowledge - sure - follow my recipe below and make your own wedding cake BUT in my honest opinion - it's FAR smarter to hire a professional and just relax and enjoy eating the cake!
Just for your enjoyment - here's a picture of the beautiful happy couple cutting their cake (complete with a plastic fork).
And if you're STILL brave enough to attempt this - here's my tried and tested Red Velvet Cake Recipe (serves 40 people in 2 tiers) - reminder - I split and prepped my batter in two batches because I only have two tins. If you have 4 (and a big enough mixer) you can make it all in one.
- 5 Cups plain flour - sifted
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 100mls red food colouring
- 240g unsalted butter
- 3 cups sugar
- 4 eggs - at room temp.
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups buttermilk - at room temp.
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- Preheat your oven to 180 - BAKE (don't use fan assist). Line your cake tins.
- Sift together the flour, baking POWDER and salt into a bowl and set aside.
- Mix together food colouring and cocoa powder into a paste in another bowl and set aside.
- Using a mixer - beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add Eggs in one at a time and beat, then add vanilla and beat again.
- Add red cocoa mix and beat.
- Beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk, then 1/3 flour, then the remaining buttermilk, then remaining flour (when you add the buttermilk - it will look like your mixture is splitting - it will come together again when you add the flour).
- In a separate small bowl mix your vinegar and baking SODA - working quickly add to the mixture and stir well to combine.
- Split between your baking tins and bake for approx 40 mins (or until a skewar inserted comes out clean).
- Allow to cool in the tins for 15 minutes before removing and cooling on a rack. Allow to cool completley before frosting.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 1kg Cream Cheese
- 250g unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 8 cups of icing sugar
- pinch of salt
- Cream together butter and cream cheese in a mixer until smooth and light.
- Beat in Vanilla Extract.
- Add icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time (start tasting after adding 5 - for a stronger cream cheese flavour and softer frosting stop at 5 or add more for a stiffer, sweeter frosting).
- Beat until light and fluffy.
- Frost cake and enjoy!