Project Wedding Cake (ii)

5 Aug

Happy birthday to my absolutely BEAUTIFUL sister. We had an amazing time celebrating last night with a bit of comedy, a good old boogie and …cake. Red velvet cake. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

I woke up late yesterday, and for some reason instead of having a nice relaxing brunch with PD and then spending some time getting ready for a lovely night out with my sis, I decided that instead I would make tiers 10″ and 8″. I had 5 hours to buy the ingredients, figure out the recipe for two tiers I didn’t have recipes for, experiment with cooking times, cool, make frosting, frost, ice, stack and decorate a two tier cake. I do sometimes wonder whether I am a sucker for punishment, or whether God perhaps momentarily lost his screwdriver when He was putting my final screws together.

Anyway, I have done a lot of reading about this whole wedding cake business, I’ve watched countless videos, been to numerous shops and spoken to a lot of people. Ultimately however, it was me, the flour, and the kitchen. One of the recipes which comes closest to what I’m looking for is Lorraine Pascale’s three-tier red velvet cake. I decided to double the recipe for the 9″ and then fill the 8″/10″ tins to equal heights. The quantities all went okay really, although I added more red food colouring to get the colour I wanted (I used 3x38ml Dr Oetker).

Temperatures and cooking times were a bit more tricky, and this is when the explanations temporarily become a bit more complicated. I cooked the 10″ at 180C (fan) for 1hr 18 minutes, reducing the temperature to 170C at 43 minutes. My concern was that the edges were cooking faster than the centre was. The 8″ also went in at 180C, reducing to 170C at the same time. The 8″ was in for around 1hr 5 minutes. Unfortunately, I think that the temperature was too high for the 8″ as the outside was overdone (this may have had something to do with the oven of course – I’m using two different ovens), so I’m going to try cooking the 8″ at around 160C next time. Although I’ve not eaten the 8″ yet, despite the outside being slightly overdone, the middle appeared absolutely fine when I was levelling the top off. Fingers crossed, at a lower temperature it might cook a bit more evenly. Still figuring out the best temperatures and timings, but I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve got it to as near perfect as I can.

Timing and temperatures aside, I let both cool slightly in the tins for about ten minutes and then turned them out onto a cooling rack. I was in quite a hurry to get everything done, so I popped them both into the fridge to try and get them to cool quicker. I have heard often that refrigerating cakes for a couple of hours makes them a lot easier to cut, and also less crumbly for applying frosting. Regardless of whether you’re waiting for it to cool, or it’s been cool for a few hours, it might be worth sticking it in the fridge anyway to make frosting and decorating easier.

In the meantime I made the cream cheese frosting. Not necessarily a disaster, but I made the rookie error of substituting margarine for butter and it was much too runny to work as a proper frosting. I used the recipe from ‘Hummingbird Bakery: Cake Days’ which I’ve used many times before for cupcakes, so it must have been a hurried brief lapse of concentration. Next time I’ll definitely use the butter, and also add the cream cheese a lot more slowly to make sure that I get the consistency I want.

The cakes came out of the fridge and I cut the 10″ in half (next time I’ll do three layers instead) and the 8″ into three a layers. They were still warm in the middle so I stuck them in the freezer briefly to get them down to the right temperature. Icing was a piece of cake (sorry), apart from the fact that it was that little bit too runny for my liking. A couple of tips – put some frosting on the cake board and stick it onto the top of the cake, then turn the cake upside down. By using the bottom of the cake as the top, in theory it gives you a smoother and cleaner edge to work with on the top of your cake. Another learning for me was to make sure there’s some time to put the frosted cakes into the fridge for a few hours before covering in the fondant icing. This helps firm up the frosting, giving the icing a bit more support. There are some fantastic videos on youtube about covering cakes with fondant icing (this one is great) Whenever I’ve iced round cakes in the past I’ve never quite worked out how to get rid of any stray corners and folds. It turns out it’s really quite easy! A massive learning from this practise round of icing was that I think I really need a thick cake board under every cake, not a thin one. By using a thick cake board I’m hoping to ensure that the fondant drapes down vertically instead of sloping slightly inwards where it looks like it’s being tucked under the cake, and I can also use royal icing to stick the fondant to the sides of the cake board to create a better seal and a much cleaner edge. Although ribbons can cover a multitude of sins here, the ribbon which the bride-to-be has chosen is sheer and won’t hide any faults, so this is something I really need to get right. I’m going to do some more research on that one.

On to stacking the tiers, and this is when it all started to go a little bit pear shaped. I’d made myself a DIY cake board from an old box, a lot of masking tape and some silver foil (blue peter eat your heart out), and put the big cake on the board. I put four dowels in and cut them to size. Unfortunately in my haste, I hadn’t cut the dowel rods to exactly the same length. Never, ever, ever do this. It’s setting yourself up for the same outcome as serving soup in a sieve – it’s never in a million years going to work and it’s all going to end up on the floor. 

Okay, so it wasn’t that bad, but it was still a bit wonky. When there are four tiers to be stacked on top of each other, the tiniest bit of ‘wonk’ is going to set the whole thing off-kilter (cue nightmares about cake falling on newly married couple). They say baking is all about precision – well, decorating is when it really counts! I’m actually in two minds as to whether or not to actually include the picture because it looks so amateur-ish, but I have promised to document start to finish of my journey, so I’ve included it. Please, please don’t be too harsh, it was my first ever attempt, and I’m a sensitive soul. You might be able to see what I mean about the ‘tucked-in’ look of the icing, which is what I am going to focus on getting rid of next time.

I’ve left the 8″ for a few days to see how the cake keeps, as I’ll have to do this for the actual wedding cake. I’ve put this one in the fridge, as I’m not entirely happy about leaving cream cheese frosting out (despite being covered in fondant) – I’ll do some more reading up about just how long a frosted cake can be left unrefrigerated without the risk of poisoning my friends. Hopefully the cake will cope okay with the refrigeration, fingers crossed.

All things considered, I’m pleased to report that the twenty odd people at my sister’s party seemed to be pretty happy with the flavour. There were many compliments, many second helpings (thirds in my case – when will I learn?), and absolutely nothing left on the cake board. Even the nice lady who brought the cake out with the candles had some and said I ought to consider professional baking after she had tried some. She was either trying to butter me up to spend lots of money on drinks, or she genuinely liked my cake. For the sake of my nerves and confidence, today I’m going to convince myself its the latter.

Major learnings from round 1:

  • Thick cake boards to be used as separator boards instead of the thin ones, to ensure smoother, cleaner fondant edge;
  • Thicker cream cheese frosting needed;
  • Identical lengths of dowel rods essential;
  • The fridge is my cake friend, not my cake foe;
  • Refrigerate the frosted cakes before icing with the fondant;
  • Timings and temperatures really need to be worked out – I’ve been looking at the use of ‘cake strips’ to put around the edges of the pan. This supposedly slows the cooking on the outside to prevent overcooked edges/undercooked middle, and apparently can make the cake top more level too. They’re expensive though, so I’m trying to work out whether I can get away with using an old tea towel without setting the kitchen on fire;
  • A leveller is a good investment to make sure of even, level edges;
  • Must find a dedicated tea-maker/moral-support-giver/washer-upper/hand-holder to get me through the next few weeks.

If anyone stumbles across these posts and has any experience, please leave some comments and advice, it would be much appreciated. Not only will you be contributing to a really special day, you’ll also help to keep me sane. You’d be doing the world a favour!


2 Responses to “Project Wedding Cake (ii)”

  1. mydearbakes August 6, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    This is a great post! I had a good read =)

    • DrinksAndNibbles August 6, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      😀 great to hear, I’ve just had a nosey at your blog and your cakes look amazing! You don’t happen to know whether it’s possible to get the smooth edges of a wedding cake with fondant icing over the top of a cream cheese crumb layer do you? Any tips?

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