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An Old-Fashioned Wedding Cake of Great Sentiment

Sep 24, 2011 | From the kitchen of Rose

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Many years ago, while going to school at night, I worked as a medical secretary for a wonderful internist--Dr. Maurice F. Goodbody. He and his family became good friends and I was invited to their weekend farm outside of Hope, NJ (near where we now live) he referred to as "the beyond Hope farm"!

I used to make lunch for him every day, cooking in the tiny lab on a tripod set over a bunsen burner until he informed me that his wife was complaining that he was gaining weight, never hungry for dinner, and the whole office was smelling like a short order joint.

So you can imagine what a turn around it was about 15 years later, when I received a photo of Dr. Goodbody mixing a cake from my recipe in his eldest daughter Mary's magazine. Yes: Mary Goodbody was a founder of Cooks Magazine.

Here it is, 46 years later, and Mary's daughter Laura was getting married at the farm and wanted to have a wedding cake just like her grandparents' cake back in 1944. I don't think I knew that the date was scheduled for August, the hottest and most humid month, when sight unseen, out of my mouth popped: "I'll make the cake"!

So many of you have written on the blog asking about what kind of cake and buttercream to make under adverse temperature conditions. Now it was my turn.

Laura wanted a buttermilk cake--that was easy--my favorite is in The Cake Bible. But when I saw the above photo of the original cake I went into a panic. Such elaborate decorations that have to taste good yet hold up with little to no airconditioning plus I haven't piped roses or much of anything else for years. I switched over to marzipan roses and simple borders.

My biggest fear was should anything go massively wrong the poor bride would be without a cake. It's not like I have a bakery with lots of extra layers and buttercream in the walk in.

I called my dear friend Betty Van Nostrand, the brilliant cake artist and teacher, for advice. She also doesn't pipe flowers but opts for gumpaste. She recommended that I keep the side decorations minimal to prevent them from falling off the cake. The most important suggestion, however, was that for piping I use vegetable shortening instead of butter.

I wanted to use my favorite mousseline buttercream because though a little tricky to emulsify, once achieved it holds up the best at hot temperatures. So Woody to the rescue to run some tests. We both thought it would be a no brainer as vegetable shortening is so much more forgiving than butter but to our surprise it refused to incorporate smoothly. "Try adding some liqueur--that always does the trick" said I. Nope! In a total leap I suggested adding butter and eureka, smooth as silk.

The day before the wedding, so it would be as fresh as possible, I baked the cake. I had already made the two mousselines (all butter and part Spectrum shortening) and had them chilling in the cooler back room. I composed the cake layers, frosted them, and would like to have chilled them before stacking but no room in the frig so carefully I placed the layers on top of each other and, breathing a major but temporary sigh of relief, refrigerated the entire cake. I had a bowl of lemon peels saved from some lemon curd I had made a few days earlier to sweeten the smell of the frig.

Piping the roses was like bicycle riding, i.e. one never forgets. But I had to move the operation into the cooler back room, setting the buttercream and a bowl of ice water on the ironing board. Dipping my piping hand in the ice water helped immeasurably. I left each rose on the rose nail and set it in an egg crate in the freezer. I didn't put them in place until the cake was at its final destination so that I could place the cake topper on first.

I decided to transport the cake from NY to our fridge in Hope that afternoon instead of waiting til the following morning. Thankfully the usual tie ups on route 80 were minimal however, I did not factor in the setting sun! Realizing at the last moment that the large styrofoam container was not tall enough for the cake, I used a large cardboard box set on my lap. The car's air conditioner has been failing for months. I used my back pillow to shield the cake from the sun, shifting it as the direction changed and grasping it firmly to ensure that it would not topple onto the cake.

Three quarters of the way there, horror of horrors, i saw that the bottom tier was beginning to slip off it's silver foil base separating it from the bottom buttercream border. Quickly I tilted the box the opposite direction swearing to myself that if I ever transport another tiered cake I will impale it with a stake all the way through to the bottom base.

Once in Hope I discovered that in my departure anxiety I had forgotten my piping bag, extra straw supports for the top tier and piping tube. The tube wasn't a problem as I have a few in my Hope kitchen along with a coupler to keep it in place. I resorted to using my recommendation of a quart size freezer weight zipseal bag which worked perfectly to restore the border. Into the refrigerator with the cake and then we drove over to the local gas station where they kindly gave me two large plastic straws.

The next day, after lunch, we drove over with the cake, again shielding it against the mid-day sun. Mary showed us into the one air conditioned room of the house with a table set up for the cake. I had to laugh at my fears of refrigerator off-odors when I smelled the faint mustiness of the old farmhouse in mid humidity august. I loved the cake topper Mary's sister had found for the cake. The frozen roses behaved perfectly. And we went back to our house for a few hours until wedding time.

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The wedding was amazingly fun and joyful reconnecting with old friends and enjoying the excellent cuisine of chef Andre from Newton, NJ. The ceremony was held in the meadow with dramatic bursts of thunder in the background. Reverend Susan M. Craig, cousin of the bride, officiated (and I had the honor of sitting next to her at the dinner).

The rain held out until the very end and then poured down on the wedding and catering tent with a vengeance the entire rest of the evening. Toward the end of the dinner the caterers had to hold up umbrellas over the servers and pitchers over the food! Clearly mine was not the major challenge of the day. When I saw Laura feed her new husband, Brian Cook, the first piece of cake tears came to my eyes.

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If you would like to read more about the wedding, beautifully written from the mother of the bride, click here!

Comments

a friend of mine loaned me your book and i really love the recipes... i live in Venezuela and we rarely have cooler weather, only hot and hotter... the prefered frosting for wedding cakes here is a Colonade icing - ( 7 minute with powdered sugar beaten in) it doesn't melt and keeps its shape when piped...and of course, fondant... first time on your page and i really like it! saludos!

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Your Mousseline is my favorite wedding cake icing and I was able to use it for a 50th wedding anniversary cake http://www.cafe-arc-de-larctique.com/weddings9.htm#50
It was 106 degrees when I delivered the cake and set it up in the kitchen. By the time the cake needed to be served it was cool enough outside and the pillars which go all the way into the cake made it easy for it to be separated and moved tier by tier.
Now I make an American Buttercream (butter, powdered sugar and a little milk) and mix that into the Mousseline. It has an excellent flavor and retains most of the texture of the Mousseline and is more stable in warm weather.

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make no miSTAKE about that!!!

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staking is the ultimate!

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hector, your assumption that i put the cake directly on the board is incorrect. in fact, i use the very thin gold cardboard rounds from france i ordered years ago with my rose logo on them under each tier. i prefer them to the cardboard rounds that are corrugated as they need less decoration to hide the separation of the tiers. they are, however, much more slippery than the plain cardboard rounds and therefore i mentioned that i should have staked the cake.

i would love to have refrigerated the cake for longer before transporting it but ran out of time due to rush hour consideration. in any event, this is almost without question the last wedding cake i will ever transport! heart in mouth is not my favorite posture.

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how refreshing to see a retro cake!  i love it Rose!

my weather is in the upper 80s or low 90s and I never have a problem with mousseline.  I chill the completed cake overnight and transport it cold inside a cooler or box with ice packs or with some loose dry ice.  I deliver it cold and tell everyone that it can't be cut till 4 hours from now.

the cold of the well refrigerated cake is sufficient to keep the mousseline pipings from falling off!  once the cake has reached 75-85 oF it should not be moved!  I tell everyone that pass the 2 hours from cake delivery, do not move the cake because the frosting will have softened and could fall off.  I believe, 90 is the limit.  if ur wedding is indoors
and air conditioned, then mousseline will hold for days!

watching the monster slip from the cake board is a very common mistake.   wedding display cake boards are shiny and slippery!  what I do is never place the bottom cake directly on the board.  instead, place the bottom cake on its own plain cardboard cake circle (the same as the top tiers), then put a slip matt or glue on the cake board and then the bottom cake tier.  it won't slip!

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Rose, sorry to hear your travels left you with a cold, hope it is mild and short-lived!

The Navan mousseline sounds wonderful, a very elegant and complex vanilla.

While I was learning to bake, I received so much help from you and from everyone on the forums. I'm very happy to be able to give back a little and answer a few questions.

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julie, first thank you so much for answering so many questions while i was away. back now but with one of those nasty caught in the plane head colds and in catch up mode!

i filled and frosted it with mousseline with navan vanilla liqueur after consulting with the bride and groom as to their favorite flavor.

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Rose, what a beautiful story! Your vintage-inspired buttermilk cake is just perfect, of course, and I loved following the story of its creation and transport. What did you fill and frost it with?

Thanks so much for sharing your special connection with the Goodbody family with us.

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I was holding my breath through the account of the car ride, Rose! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. I love these posts of yours. And it's lovely to see some of your piped roses, I don't believe I've seen them in any of your cake books!!

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Gloria, this is so very lovely to hear. yes--it was at the Blue Goose and I was ordering a standing rib roast when the butcher told me that unforgettable line that did nothing to dissuade me from what i had intended! I even invited Dr. G's mother for the Sunday dinner.

Dr. Goodbody and I used to sit at lunch talking about everything under the sun--we even competed over who had more Rhode scholars in the family. We also talked about the patients. He was so much more than just a doctor of the body--he treated the whole person and cared about each one. I felt like I could tell him just about anything without being judged.

When I left to go back to college at NYU and got a job at NYU Medical Center which also paid all my tuition I cried when we said goodbye and when I apologized he said: "All Gods have clay feet." I never got to see his.

I also adored Katie and wanted to be just like her. Though instead of getting 8 children I got 9 books (and a 10th soon to be on the way). They were such a fine example of timeless love and devotion. I feel certain that Laura and Brian will follow in their footsteps.

I am so fortunate to still be part of the greater Goodbody family.

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Hi Rose:
I was Mary's high school roommate and although we've
never met, I feel like we have. The Goodbodys told stories about you cooking for the kids and that the
butcher said, when you went to buy some meat, that
"Mrs. Goodbody usually bought less expensive cuts."

You've provided them with many happy memories, not the least of which was the beautiful cake at Laura and Brian's wedding. Thanks for looking out for one of the world's truly great families.
Aloha Nhi Loa, Gloria Garvey

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What a great story, Rose. It brought tears to my eyes. You did a fantastic job with the cake. It could not have been more beautiful.

I must add that you made wedding cakes for two of my sisters, too. And they were equally magnificent. Of course, Laura's, a picture-perfect replica of my parents' cake and made with such care for my daughter, is my favorite.

Thanks again for your loving participation and exceptional artistry. See you in Hope!

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What a beautiful cake with such crisp piping considering the circumstances. Summer wedding cakes always scare me especially when the bride insists on butter cream - I always nudge the couple towards white chocolate fondant! I hope the next wedding cake trend is away from cupcakes and towards timeless elegance like the Goodbody's cake. We can call it the "Goodbody Cake Revolution!" Love your books and blog!

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