Monday, April 08, 2013

Wedding cake: a really long post about a really special cake

This past weekend I had the pleasure of making a wedding cake for our dear friends Cam & Caitlin. Their wedding was so beautiful and our whole group was fighting back tears during the ceremony. I well up just thinking about it! It was such a beautiful day. 

So that cake...

I've made several cupcakes in my lifetime. In fact, this past weekend I opened a box of 500 cupcake liners... the 3rd box of that size in less than a year. It's Monday morning so I'll do that math for you: that's 1000 cupcakes in 10 months. 100 cupcakes per month. More than 3 cupcakes per day. 20 pounds of butter for the icing alone. At least 80 eggs. 200 cups of icing sugar/25 kg/55 lbs.

This weekend marked the first time that I've prepared a cake for a wedding. Specifically I made 72 cupcakes (24 oreo, 24 red velvet, 24 raspberry-lemon) and one 4 layer, 6 inch cake. As it was my first time doing this there were a few lessons to be learned and so here comes a really thorough (read: wordy) detailing of the process. 

Wednesday (3 days before wedding): shop. 
I made my master grocery and supply list and picked up everything I needed so that I could get to baking right away on Thursday and Friday. 

Thursday (2 days before wedding): bake cakes. 
The cake was going to be two chocolate layers and two Italian cream layers. As the cake was small (only 6") I used half recipes for each type of cake, divided into two layers. I used these 6"x3" round cake pans from Wilton. They have straight sides and bake evenly. I used this chocolate cake recipe and this Italian Cream cake recipe (omitting the coconut). After both cakes were complete I wrapped them and placed them in the freezer. Baking these cakes took about 3 hours as I prepared and baked them separately (and did dishes in between). 

4 layers of cake... ready for freezer!

Friday (1 day before wedding): bake cupcakes. 
This was the part I was least worried about. I'd made these cupcakes countless times and wasn't expecting any issues (which I thankfully didn't have). The worst part was washing my mixer bowl too many times. I had a small hiccup when I realized I had forgotten to purchase the lemon and raspberries for the lemon-raspberry cupcakes... d'oh. Superstar Rob to the rescue! Total baking time was 5 hours for 72 cupcakes. I saved time by trying to streamline as much as possible... reusing dishes when appropriate and keeping all ingredients readily available. It was a regular assembly line in my kitchen. Can you tell I'm an engineer? All cupcakes were put in their boxes and into the fridge for the night. By 11pm I was done and ready for bed. 

Cupcake prep

4 dozen cupcakes complete (Oreo on top)

Final cupcakes complete. 

Saturday (wedding day!): decorate, transport, and set-up.
Decorate: This was the most stressful part and included the most 'firsts' for me. At the last minute I decided to change the icing I was using on the cake to an icing I'd never used before. After reading this article regarding the very technique I was going to use I changed my icing from standard butter-based 'American Buttercream' to a shortening based icing. I estimated that the cake would be sitting out from 4pm until 10pm and was concerned about the icing melting. The shortening based icing 'crusts' at room temperature and holds up better to heat and humidity. It also produces a much whiter icing compared to butter. I took the cakes out of the freezer, leveled them (easier to level when slightly stiff) and started on my icing. My plan was to crumb coat in white and then do the rose design with three rose layers in varying colours (dark purple, light purple, and white). 

The icing came together well and the piping was also really easy. The whole process of making the icing and piping the cake took 1.5 hours. I was done by 10:30am!

The cake! 

Transportation: Transporting cupcakes is NBD. they are all in boxes and travel well. Transporting that cake... not so simple. I MacGyver'd a shoe box into a cake box with one side open which I held in my lap in the back seat of the car. The worst part was making turns as I had to hold the cake plate still to avoid disaster. My fingers were seriously cramped after the 40 minute drive... but we made it! 

Set-up: upon arrival all the groomsmen lent a hand and we got the 6 cupcake boxes, 2 cake stands, and the cake down the (many flights of) stairs. I brought flat shoes to avoid tripping! I was happy to see that the cake table was not near a window so no threat of hot sun beating down. 

The whole set-up... including the precariously balanced cake... (I was so nervous it would get knocked down)

Post-cut (sorry for shitty phone pics)

Lessons & Tips:
- I kept the kitchen clean through the whole process and I'm so glad I did this. I find my work starts to get sloppy the messier my kitchen gets. 
- Planning out the days beforehand made a big difference - being prepared FTW!
- I could have made the cakes at any time during the week and frozen until Saturday. I wouldn't have frozen for longer than a week. 
- Seeing pictures of the cake I wish I'd make the icing a bit smoother. Add more milk next time!
- Transportation was the worst part. I'm not sure how to make it any easier... 

And that's it! For my first time doing this whole thing it went really smoothly and I'm happy with the results. I get to do it all over again in 5 weeks! 

Thanks Cam & Caitlin for letting me take part in your special day!!

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