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Hector's Labor of Brotherly Love

Apr 15, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose

Hector_Cake2.jpg

A wedding cake is a huge production, and if you don't have a bakery to work in, or at least your own home kitchen with reliable equipment, it is a true labor of love and demands meticulous orchestration. Come to think of it, it is always a labor of love. Hector has chronicled his year long process preparing and executing a wedding cake for his brother an ocean away. Here is how he pulled it off (brilliantly):

(Written by Hector on Tuesday April 4th, 2017)

Sometime ago, my brother Miguel asked me to make his wedding cake. 16 months later, and 10 hours flying from Honolulu to Pasco, Washington, I am arriving to his house to make his cake. I have made many big cakes, and traveled near and far, but this is the first time I will do so on location! All my cakes are always made at my home kitchen! The initial plan was to assemble a passion fruit tiramisu style dessert as the cake, with store bought ladyfingers. But since so much time was available, the project started to walk on its own. A new refrigerator, 2 stand mixers, a chocolate melter, an upgraded turn table, were ordered and arrived! The very best passion fruit syrup, and the ultimate best chocolate were purchased and sent!

During the last 3 weeks, I shipped by USPS flat rate everything I need, literally everything. No piece of equipment has been was shorted. No ingredient quality has been shorted. The project is a 6 tier Génoise with ganache. The wedding is Saturday, and I am writing to you on Tuesday, from Seattle airport, during my connection to my final destination!

(Written by Hector on Friday April 14th, 2017)

Normally, I bake everything at my home kitchen, and travel with a partly finished product. I was on house lock down from 5 am until midnight on Wednesday, to bake all the 12 layers. And on Thursday, I was on a similar schedule to torte and frost all 6 tiers. On Friday, I took a baking break and did family things pre-wedding. I delivered the cake at noon on Saturday, the day of the wedding, and spent 2 hours arranging the gum paste rose petals. The petals were purchased at Etsy, and individually luster glitter dusted in bronze and yellow by the bride and bridesmaid.

Hector_&Sister.jpg

Hector and his sister

The finished cake made me happy. The taste, the chocolate aroma, and the floral design surpassed my expectations. I did all the cake cutting myself, and the moment when I started to disassemble the cake, a line of hungry wedding guests mobbed me. The catering staff was awaiting with carts and serving trays to pass the cake, however they had to step away, and just let the mob throw themselves on me! Literally, people were panhandling for cake, and cake serving went very fast. 300 slices and all.

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I am home on my island now, and I have many memories to share about the cake, the wedding, and the family gatherings. The only word of wisdom I have for everyone, including myself, and my brother is: You only get married once (or twice), in reference to what I believe is true: no groom or bride will ever ask you to make their wedding cake at their house more than once. The experience is so intense, almost traumatic, yet when love is abundant, I will always say yes.

Note from Rose: here's how we differ slightly: I always say "never again" and then, when the occasion presents, I say "yes"!

Comments

Thank you! The recipe for the Genoise cake is on the Cake Bible. The recipe for the ganache is on Rose's Heavenly Cakes. That is all to it.

REPLY

Absolutely beautiful wedding cake, are you going to share the recipe 😎 💕

REPLY

Hi Jenn, thank you. The kitchen at my brother's house was very large. Had 2 ovens, which I had my brother check if these were level, months ahead, and he did adjust the legs of the stoves to make these level.

Temperature wise, I purchased 4 large pizza stones, placed 2 stones per oven, one stone on the middle rack where the cake pan sat directly, and the second stone on a rack above, and preheated the ovens for 45 minutes. Using stones, preheated this long, made the ovens PERFECT and EVEN temperature.

We also purchase a brand new refrigerator, this is the best investment ever, when making a cake in someone else's kitchen. I can't stand fighting for refrigerator space, nor dealing with odors, it is just a very touchy sensitive subject.

I also had 2 scales, and 2 mixers, so truly, each genoise layer was made one by one, and no loss of volume nor texture was compromised. The same care went to the 5" as well as the 15" pans. For the 15" pans, both mixers became 1 pan, the eggs/sugar where heated together in 1 mixer bowl (big enough, these are 5 qt artisans), then divided in the 2 mixers and whipped at the same time. Then when folding the rest of the ingredients, I used a very wok!!!!! which is short for saying I forgot to bring a large mixing bowl, but worked perfectly. For the 15", since the eggs were mixed in 2 mixers, was just perfect to fold the rest of the ingredients as the eggs are now already in 2 parts.

The stones worked really well, as each of my cakes baked evenly, and no burn spots. I brought Rose's silicone cake strips, which 4 fits a 15" using metal clamps to patch them together, but ended up not having to use them. Saved me some time and fumble.

I did spray all the pans with Bakers Joy, as well as lining with parchment. Genoise prefers an ungreased pan for maximum baked height, but I must be doing everything else right (whipping eggs long enough, providing a blast of even and constant heat in the oven), that my layers were actually so tall, they filled the 4" tall cake stand spacers. If I didn't grease my pans, then I would had used more time unmolding the layers.

Another advantage of having the stones, is that since I needed to eye ball the baking time (big differences between a 5" to a 15", I could open the oven door to check the cakes without having the cakes collapse. The stones keep the heat so very well. Note, I never check doneness with a cake pick, for my genoise, I do it by smell and color of the top crust. I think if you poke the genoise, while in the oven, it DOES NOT do a thing of good! It will deflate the bubbles, and really, i can't tell the difference between a clean cake pick vs a one with the batter still sticking on. To make sure, after I remove the cake and immediately unmold it and invert it to its final cooling shape, I insert my thermapen and check that the temperature is about 190 oF, which indeed means cooked.

Melting 13 lbs of Valrhona Illanka 63% was a dream using the Brod & Taylor. I set it to 110 oF, and took overnight. This was for a very large ganache batch, which I don't use the food processor for, can you imagine how many times the food processor will need to run? To make large ganache batched, i melt the chocolate, and again, I was not gonna slave using a double water bath and stir 13 lbs!!!!!!!! So the $150 Brod & Taylor investment was a requirement to make this cake. I told my brother, a few things will need to be required, else there will be no cake. To heat the cream, I scald it until bubbling, then I let the cream cool to 120 oF, not higher, then stir it on the chocolate. It is safe for the cream to be at this temp, as higher may burn the chocolate. Stir with a large spatula gently a few times, then use an immersion blender to finish it. It really was perfect, when I strained the ganache, there was nothing caught.

I plan on making this exact same cake again, locally, since I am in love with the chocolate, and since I have no cake right now in my freezer of this cake I made. Usually, for every cake I make, I save a few slices in the freezer and enjoy it thru the months, but this time, since this cake was an ocean away, I could not bring any back. I could had, but instead, I brought back 5 luggage!

REPLY

Hector, what a gorgeous cake! Absolutely breathtaking! Your brother is so lucky to have a home made cake. 3 days to bake a cake that size doesn't seem like a lot of time to me - you are such a pro, baking all the layers in 1 day! Thank you for sharing the story and the preparation!

REPLY

Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from hector
04/18/2017 01:59 PM

OMG Hector--that is too sad about the floods.

re the 40%, i have to admit that since 40% is available in the supermarket, that's what we use. and we do add more cream when using the higher % cacao as indicated.

You probably already know this but for anyone else reading this: To determine the fat content, on the side of the container 40% cream will be listed as 6 grams total fat. Organic Valley, and Stonyfield are two brands, which contain 40 percent butterfat.

REPLY

I do remember Nathan Fong's wedding cake and you needing to add more cream "of the low butterfat type!). I assumed if using a high butterfat cream, such as 40%, i will need to add no more, but maybe less, so I left it as your recipe on Rose's Heavenly Cakes for the Deep Passion Chocolate Wedding Cake. I will need to test it myself, hopefully no time soon lol.

BTW, I ordered A LOT of valrhona illanka, to stock up. It is possible due to the floods in Peru, there will be no more! Christopher enjoyed this chocolate, even he doesn't like dark "bitter" chocolate. Illanka is remarkably non-bitter and fruity indeed.

I've read a lot about the Blanco Cacao (white varietal), most of the cacao beans are violet in color, and the white variety was thought to be extinct. Usually native from Ecuador, but it disappeared decades ago due to disease. Ecuador is near Piura, Peru. So... this Blanco was found in Piura in the early 2010s and now it is in production......

REPLY

hi old friend. thx u. i wonder if i can do the same giant rose with mango slices? i think i can! for next time.

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A truly stunning cake Hector! Wow

REPLY

Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from hector
04/18/2017 09:27 AM

hi Hector!

yes--higher % cacao chocolate needs more heavy cream if using the ganache to frost the cake so that it doesn't separate from the cake. also if a room is cold it is a good idea to add more cream.

when Woody and i were making Nathan Fong's wedding cake in Vancouver, the heavy cream was lower than 36% and the ganache broke. the pastry chef at the hotel told us we needed to add more heavy cream and added it with an immersion blender. apparently in Vancouver the heavy cream is lower in % even in commercial venues. anyway the ganache came together perfectly. he heated it first in the microwave and then added the cream.

and yes--we are all still learning. things change, especially ingredients.

REPLY

thank you Rose! i am still recovering from this record breaking cake. i have a question regarding Ganache. i used Valrhona ILLANKA 63% which i absolutely adored. the cream was a 40%, and it is the first time I was able to buy some. my usual local cream is 36%. the proportion of chocoalate to cream was the same as your Rose's Heavenly Cakes, for the Deep Passion Chocolate Wedding Cake. Reading more about the chocolate chapter on the book, I realize I should had used "more" cream, since my chocolate % was above what you recommend.

The ganache frosted very well, and stuck on the cake. The only issue I had, and it is perhaps the wedding venue was colder than what I am used to (Hawaii vs Washington!!!), when I served the cake, some ganache pieces were falling off the cake! it is possible too because the cake was a genoise, and that means: fragile.

Also, does it matter for ganache if using a 36% vs a 40% cream?

thx.... i am still learning.

REPLY

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