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An Odyssey Begins… My First Wedding Cake
Posted: 03 January 2008 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]
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[quote author=“Dan O’B - 30 December 2007 01:48 PM”]Kathy,
OK… I had a few drinks Christmas Eve and remember talking to you about your wedding cake.

[quote author=“Kathy - 03 January 2008 07:25 AM”]Yes, I remember too. Unfortunately, I was sober. I’ll look into some cake ideas and send them your way and see what you think. I will keep it as simple as possible.

That’ll teach me to show off digital photos of my cake decorating exploits.  It’s not quite a year since I took a class through Arlington (VA) County’s Adult Education program—a total of 4 sessions—and I’m hoisted on my own petard.  I’ll never touch another drop again.

I’m starting this thread to document this process from the very beginning, in the hopes that it will be informative, educational and amusing to SOMEBODY—if for no other purpose than a “Just Say No” campaign about the evils of drinking and decorating.

Keep watching this space… my copy of The Cake Bible is bound to be dog-eared and covered in batter and buttercream before I’m done.  Did I mention the wedding is April 19th of THIS YEAR, and I have a full-time job running my own computer consulting business?

In the meantime… I’d love to hear some stories about other people’s “first time.”  Er, first time making a wedding cake. Any words of encouragement, suggestions of things to do or warnings things to avoid would be greatly appreciated.

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Posted: 03 January 2008 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Is it your wedding?  Are you wishing to stay married long?  Do you have the names/nos. of back-up bakeries?

Basics out of the way, you sound like a brave and daring guy. To be a computer guy, you really have to be. I’m married to one, I know. The way he has patched up computers, even the dead, still amazes me. I’m typing on frankenputer right now - his [reall] old, deceased, lap top, with beaucoup wires and boxes and my old hard drive - kinda like a benign growth sticking out by the wires - and a fan underneath, and it works. Go figure.

So if you can do the computer stuff, you’ll do a great cake. [And if not, you’ll have the no. of a back up bakery - who’s to know? Right? Of course, right!]

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Posted: 03 January 2008 01:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Wow - unless you have absolutely no other wedding responsibilities, there is not way I would ever suggest you take on such a task - I is Monumental!!!  Much more difficult than simply stacking 3 cakes together.

Check out the first one I ever made on Rose’s blog thread entitled “Patrincia’s Wedding Cake”.  My second one also has a thread entitled “Mousseline the magic buttercream”.  Actually, there is a category listed in the red box at the upper left and side of the blog page just for weddings - check it out.

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Posted: 03 January 2008 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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MaryMS - 03 January 2008 03:30 PM

Is it your wedding?

No.  It’s my cousin’s.

MaryMS - 03 January 2008 03:30 PM

Are you wishing to stay married long?

See above.

MaryMS - 03 January 2008 03:30 PM

Do you have the names/nos. of back-up bakeries?

Working on it!

I won’t have any other responsibilities, and this will be her wedding present, which removes some of the questions of who’s paying for what.  I’ve started to create a shopping list of all the things I’ll need but don’t already have.  I’ve got quite a collection of kitchen equipment (can you believe I have friends that don’t even own a rubber spatula?), but there are quite a few things I’ll need (12in cake pans, the cake leveling saw). I see many AC Moore and Michael’s discount coupons in my future.

I’m just starting to realize the logistical implications:
- Bake here (VA) and transport (to MA), or find someplace in MA to bake?
- Where to decorate/assemble?
- I’m going to have to bring a TON of stuff with me.
- What about refrigerator/freezer space in MA?
- Can I use this as an excuse to buy the Cuisinart 7qt stand mixer?

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Posted: 03 January 2008 03:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Oh, your cousins wedding… glad to hear you’re not completely nuts smile

I would suggest making the cake in MA if possible, or at least transport the cake components seperately and finish them in MA.  If you do it this way, plan to pack an entire suitcase or two full of your equipment.  And make plenty of extra buttercream - I always use way more than I think originally think I will need (piping used sooooooo much). 

Would you be flying or driving?  If driving, how many hours?  I’m happy to hear the wedding won’t be in August!

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Posted: 03 January 2008 04:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dan, YOU CAN DO IT!

How about practicing some cake and frosting types?  Choose the recipes carefully, and pay attention to Rose’s tips for success and storage guidelines, they work!

Patrincia’s first wedding cake and the mousseline magic posts have extensive discussions on how to stack, logistics, etc.  Also, she was very instrumental on my Hawaii Way cake discussions.

Keep us posted, we love to hear about work in progress, meaning we love to hear all the steps of a project, because I am sure your project will LOOK not-work-in-progress!

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Posted: 03 January 2008 04:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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hectorwong - 03 January 2008 08:05 PM

Dan, YOU CAN DO IT!

Thanks, Hector… coming from you, that’s very reassuring.  I’ve really admired your work.

hectorwong - 03 January 2008 08:05 PM

How about practicing some cake and frosting types?

I’m going to try and steer my cousin towards a yellow or white cake with fondant, because I think there’s a better chance of a clean, professional look when I’m done.  I haven’t worked with fondant on anything as big as a 12in round, though, so there’s a bit of practice needed there. *IF* I were solely working on this project between now and April, I’d love to do a 3-tier cake: 12in chocolate, 9in cheesecake and 6in white cake, all covered with the cream cheese buttercream frosting.  Realistically, I’ll probably do a 2 tier cake and sheetcakes for serving.  (Maybe I’ll bake the 6in so she can freeze it for her anniversary?) By the way, I have NO idea what to do for decorations. I’m hoping my cousin likes the idea of ribbons and real flowers; I’ll have my hands full just baking without having to worry about dotted Swiss.

What do people do with all their “practice” cakes? All my friends are getting sick of cake, especially this close to the holidays. I think I’m going to start foisting them on clients, but I can’t imagine the reaction when I walk in with a 2-tier wedding cake for the break room. I’ve got a friend who’s a willing guinea pig, but one of her kids can’t have dairy, so it’s a bit of a pain.  (Anyone adapted Rose’s mouselline buttercream to use Earth Balance instead of butter? Maybe some water and gelatin for one of the egg whites?)

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Posted: 03 January 2008 05:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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>but one of her kids can?t have dairy, so it?s a bit of a pain.

I can’t have dairy and substitute Earth Balance - I’ve never had a problem, but I haven’t made a buttercream w/it - but I have creamed it with agave syrup [since I can’t have sugar either] and still have gotten great cakes.  Do you know for sure she can’t have eggs?  One can have a dairy, as in milk products, intolerance but still be able to have eggs [case in point.]

Maybe you should start selling your practice cakes, even if at a very reasonable price - or freeze for a fund raiser. Or, I could send you my address wink

There are some really experienced people replying to you, so my 2cents worth is devalued a bit by comparison, howsomever - twere it I - I’d rather bake a cake in familiar surroundings, in an oven whose temperature/quirks I know.  If you’re driving, transporting a naked cake shouldn’t be a problem [famous last words].  Then making the icings/finishing touches elsewhere probably isn’t as sensitive an issue as the baking. But this is conjecture. In any event, it’s fun reading about and I have no doubt you will come up with something terrific - you have a lucky cousin!

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Posted: 03 January 2008 05:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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MaryMS - 03 January 2008 09:19 PM

Do you know for sure she can’t have eggs?

Eggs are absolutely OK, just no cow’s milk products.  Thankfully, she’s also OK with peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat and gluten.  One of her friends is allergic to her shadow, which is why her mom hasn’t asked me to do a birthday cake for her.

Mom’s birthday is coming up, and she’s requested the Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake (no dairy!), and I’d love to do a “rustic” frosted one, and I’m hoping Earth Balance is the way to go. My previous effort w/ regular buttercream came out very well.

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Posted: 03 January 2008 05:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Do let us know how it comes out with Earth Balance - it doesn’t taste nearly as good as butter, but for those of us w/o a choice it’s the best alternative I’ve ever had. The enlarged cake looks heavenly, much like one I made for hubby’s birthday 2 weeks ago [but that came from the hershey’s cocoa box which is very similar in taste to one my mother made when I was growing up - except we add strong coffee and cinnamon.]  My father had a great icing recipe:  1 box confectioner’s sugar, 1 pkg cream cheese [or butter, or combination thereof], vanilla, 1 tsp white vinegar, a little milk if/as needed. It was perfect. He got the recipe from an army buddy in WWII.

May I digress.  When someone has a major food intolerance, and don’t know it, they can be overly sensitive to ‘everything’ else till they eliminate the 1 or 2 intolerant items.  Also, doing a good cleanse can reduce, even eliminate, one’s reactions to foods.

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Posted: 04 January 2008 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dan - you could donate your practice cakes to local shelters. 

Also, are you planning on purchasing ready made fondant, or will you make your own?  If you make your own, have you done so using the new Crisco formulation (no trans fats)?  If not, the blog suggests substituting “Spectrum Organic Vegetable Shortening” for the shortening called for in Rose’s recipe (available from health food stores). 

I will say this though, fondant is really tricky stuff - so hard to get it to look good on cakes larger than 8” (and the diffuculty increases substancially as the cake diameter gets bigger).

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Posted: 04 January 2008 06:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Dan, your combination of cake flavors different per tier is similar to my thinking.  Sorry to hear you need to experiment with butter/dairy substitution, it isn’t my expertise.  I belong to the thinking group that claims not having allergies but instead eat less, it works on the most part.

Keep us posted.

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Posted: 04 January 2008 07:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Dan - didn’t you mention that the food allergy person was the child of the person who offered to take your practice cakes?  I wouldn’t try making any substitutions for the actual wedding cake, unless you’re specifically asked to.  I’ve read a lot on the subject and most people who try to change things so drastically end up being sorry they did.  For the best results and the least amount of stress, it’s better to use tried and true recipes for a wedding cake.

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Posted: 04 January 2008 07:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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A few things:

re: Fondant:  I’ll probably try making my own with a fallback plan of purchasing.  I did read the entries on the blog/forum about the Spectrum shortening.  I was going to try and look for some at Whole Foods. Thanks for the heads up on the fondant for larger cakes.  It’s definitely something I was going to try before the “real” thing.

re: Substitutions: the “real” wedding cake will be absolutely by-the-book (the book being The Cake Bible).  I doubt I’ll do different flavors for the tiers this go, though.  I’m shooting for as simple as possible.

The substitutions were some thoughts/questions I’ve been mulling around given that I’ve been asked to or volunteered to make cakes for different people with different dietary requirements, the biggest challenge being dairy-free.  My friends swears by Earth Balance in lieu of butter for baking and pastry crusts.  I really like her kids (who call me “Uncle Dan”), so I’m willing to give it a shot.  Not to sound heartless, but if you’re allergic to eggs or vegan for ethical reasons, you’ll have to find someone else to make you a cake.

I’ll have to see about giving cakes to a shelter.  They’re kinda fussy in Virginia about foods prepared at home for sanitary reasons, but I think the law forbidding it outright has been repealed.

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Posted: 05 January 2008 12:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Dan, absoutelly.  Rose has decades of work on her recipes.  It is well explained that cake baking is not just ingredients put together, but the result of the physical and chemical interaction between ingredients, the type of ingredient and the exact quantity of each down to the ingredient itself and the molecular structure of each ingredient!

Try not using cake flour for example and you see a texture difference.  The amount of fat, in yolks, in butter, or in oil, is vital critical, a gram more or less will change the cake results; also the quality of the fat and the composition of the fat plus other ingredients.  Even the size of each grain of sugar makes a difference.

But I look forward for your experimentation, I am sure many of us find it interesting.

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Posted: 05 January 2008 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Heretical as this may sound, I have had no difficulty whatever substituting Earth Balance for butter. For the discriminating palate, and depending on what is being made, the flavor may not be quite as wonderful - but only to the truly discriminating palate, one that can tell the grain size of the sugar wasn’t small enough - there’s not a lot of those people, though Cake Bible people are amongst them. 

While I agree using the age old basics, butter, sugar, milk etc. are the super bestest - howsomever, for those who can’t and have to get creative, I have even found using agave instead of sugar, creaming it with Earth Balance, then beating in eggs individually, creates a very wonderful cake w/excellent crumb and flavor.

So, Uncle Dan, I hope you give it a shot for your ‘adoptive’ niece/nephew [don’t remember if you said which.]  Btw, EB softens much more quickly in room temp. than butter. 

Also, we’ve used EB’s stick shortening for pies and were impressed - but that was in comparison to oil [phhtt!] - regular EB is tastier in pie crusts.

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