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An Odyssey Begins… My First Wedding Cake
Posted: 16 February 2008 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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MaryMS - 13 February 2008 01:43 AM

The dulce de leche sounds perfect!
Mary M-S

I tried it… didn’t have a strong taste of caramel.  I might add a touch of vanilla to the mix next time.  It also gave the mousseline buttercream a slightly reddish hue rather than the ivory I was hoping for.

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Posted: 20 February 2008 12:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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I run a thin spatula around the pan immediately after taking the cake pans out of the oven without any problems.  Whether you do this step immediately or after 10 minutes, I would caution you to be sure to press the spatula or knife against the pan sides so as not to cut into the cake layer.  I’ve rushed a bit and have accidentally cut into the layer slightly, causing some problems when it came time to frost the cake.

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Posted: 24 February 2008 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Another baking project today.  I decided to try baking one 12inch layer, so I could try the marbeling on that size cake and also try using a heating core which I’ve never had occasion to use before.

I’ve been working on a set of spreadsheets to use, based on Rose’s formulas in the Cake Bible.  This has been very helpful, as it allows me to keep track of the adjustments I’ve been making to accommodate the addition of the chocolate for the marbeling.  I shot myself in the foot, though.  Since (2) 12inch layers has a Rose Factor of 7, I decided to use the figures for the 8inch layer (which has a Rose Factor of 3.5).  Unfortunately, I goofed and used the baking powder measurement from the 8inch layer instead of 1/2 the baking powder for the 12inch recipe.  Crap.

I also used 72% cocoa bittersweet chocolate which I got in a 500g block from Trader Joe’s instead of the 60% Ghirardelli chocolate from my previous attempts.  This proved to be problematic, too.  The quantity of chocolate I’d added to the base (25g per base incorporated into one-fifth of the batter) was WAY too much of the 72% chocolate.  After mixing in the chocolate, the batter got kind of solid and fudgy instead of staying pourable.

Undaunted, I went ahead and sprayed the heating core inside and out with Pam for Baking, poured the unchocolated batter into the greased and floured pan, then dolloped the chocolate batter and tried to swirl in the blobs of chocolate, which by now had the consistency of ganache.  Per the instructions with the heating core, I filled it 1/2 way with batter (I even used a bit of chocolate batter to keep the swirling effect throughout).  I didn’t have bake-even strips big enough, so I didn’t use them.  Into the oven @ 325F w/ convection.  The layer baked in about 35 minutes, rather than the 45-50 minutes listed in The Cake Bible with a 180 degree turn at 18 minutes when it looked like the front was browning a little sooner than the back.  I assume the reduced cooking time is due to the heating core.

As you can see from the pictures, a dollop of batter in the middle of the heating core would probably have been enough.  The cooked batter rose to the top of the heating core, much taller than the rest of the cake.  I assume one fixes this by trimming the top of the plug.

I had thought of using this as the bottom layer of a 12inch round cake that I could bring up to Massachusetts with me next weekend for the “Jack and Jill” shower, but given the problems, I’ll probably do it over (I’m glad I only did the one layer and not both).  I want to make a good impression, as it’ll be the first time my cousin, the bride, (and her mother and a couple dozen other relaties and future in-laws—gulp!) will have tried something along the way to being her wedding cake.

But there’s no pressure.

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Posted: 24 February 2008 08:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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Hi Dan - I’ve had the same issue with the heating core rising up much higher than the cake layer.  I’ve decided placing an upside down flower nail in the center of the pan is a bit neater, with no hole to fill, and no need to trim.   

Have you read about making homemade insulated baking strips?  You can make them as long as you like, just wrap folded layers of wet paper towels in a length of foil that is long enough to go around the circumference of your cake pan.  I’ve also read that years ago bakers would place wet, twisted towels around the baking pans during baking (foil seems a bit safer to me).

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Posted: 24 February 2008 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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I did see the flower nail trick (on the blog, I think)... I may have to try that, too.  I will say I was a bit dubious about how well the heating cores would work, but they seemed absolutely to do the trick.  The batter around the core rose and set more quickly and the cooking time was quite a bit shorter—I almost overcooked the cake.

I just wrapped it up and put it in the fridge. I’m very curious to see how it came out, given the several errors I made. That’s why the call it practice, though.  I’ll probably slice into it tomorrow and pawn the rest off on some poor unsuspecting soul who thought he’d be keeping his diet this week.

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Posted: 24 February 2008 10:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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Some more rambling… in case anyone’s interested, or interested in checking my math.

I didn’t have whole milk, but I did have heavy cream and skim milk (I had half and half, too, but it’s too important for my coffee to play with).  I came up with this substitution based on info found in the USDA’s Nutritional Information Database:

Whole milk is 3.25% milkfat
Skim milk is 0% fat
Heavy cream is about 37% fat

So, to end up with 3.25g of fat in a mixture of skim milk and heavy cream, you need about 9g of heavy cream and 91g of skim milk.

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Posted: 27 February 2008 07:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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For the record, the largest “Rose Factor” that should be attempted by any sane human being with a KitchenAid 4.5qt stand mixer is probably a 5.  If you are VERY determined, you can do 7, but kids, do NOT try this at home.

There is a thick, green fog of profanity, obscenity and blasphemy lingering in my kitchen, but I just wrestled (2) 12inch cake layers into the oven.  And, DAMMIT, I forgot to put on the cake strips.

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Posted: 27 February 2008 07:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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So I take it your mixer is working?

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Posted: 27 February 2008 08:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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Patrincia - 27 February 2008 11:14 PM

So I take it your mixer is working?

It’s working, just seems to be straining a bit and developing odd creaks and groans.  Maybe I’m panicking, but we in the technology fields ALWAYS account for Murphy’s Laws.

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Posted: 01 March 2008 05:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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*sigh*

I ran out of time on Wednesday night after baking (2) 12inch layers of marble cake, so I didn’t get to make the (3) batches of Mousseline buttercream that I was to bring with me to MA the next day.  I threw about 20% of my kitchen in the trunk of my Beetle and drove up with the frozen cake layers and everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) I needed to make the buttercream and decorate the cake at my Aunt’s house.  She was a little nuts with all the stuff I brought, but she was kind enough to let me use her kitchen to make the buttercream and decorate the cake.  *MY* plan was to do a bit of a “dress rehearsal” for the wedding in April, decorating the cake with dulce de leche buttercream, ribbon and fresh flowers, but my aunt read me the riot act and said that it would ruin the surprise if I brought something that approximated the wedding cake to the bridal shower. “Can’t you make flowers out of frosting?” she barked. This, after running all around town to find those little spikes to hold fresh flowers in the cake, and buying a few stems of different flowers to try with the blue ribbon.

*grumble*

So, for the next 3 hours, we played with buttercream: piping buttercream roses until there were enough for a big enough mound on the top to satisfy my aunt; mixing up a blue that was close enough to the color of the bridesmaid dresses to use for some accents and the shell border at the bottom of the cake; making various drop flowers with almost every decorating tip I own to accent the white roses, although she ultimately decided that the blue wouldn’t look as good as an all-ivory cake.

Did I mention that this aunt isn’t the mother of the bride-to-be, nor even from the same side of the family, nor is she even invited to the shower?

My cousin—the one getting married April 19—didn’t even know who her florist was (“Dee something in Somerset”) when I called her.  Am I taking this too seriously when I’m more freaked out about the wedding cake than the bride, the mother of the bride, the maid of honor and the rest of the bridal party?

Anyhow… I hope there’s a lot of people at the shower, because there’s a hell of a lot of cake.  For those who by now can’t stand the suspense anymore, skip down to the picture.  For anyone interested, a few notes follow:

When they say to fill the heating cores 1/2 full, follow the directions.  I filled them to match the level of the batter in the rest of the pan, thinking I was being clever, but the resulting “plug” wasn’t big enough to fill the gap left by the core after the cake had cooled and shrunk.  The truly resourceful may use some of the cake left over after you level it to make up the difference.  On the subject of leveling, the hole in the middle left by the heating cores allows you to use the small, (and inexpensive) wire leveler, eliminating or delaying the purchase of the bigger “cake saw.”  Put one foot of the leveler in the hole and turn the cake as you saw off the top.

The 8th, 9th and 10th buttercream rose go much faster than the first two.  Definitely keep 2 piping bags going as you (read: “I”) can only do at most 2 roses before the buttercream in the bag is too soft to work with.  Also, making the little cone of frosting with the No. 12 tip is a pain.  Through trial and error, I figured out how to build up a base with the No. 104 tip by the time I was done. Also, put the bags in the fridge, not the freezer to cool them down again.  The icing in the metal tip gets too hard in the freezer and you experience “bag blow” with the plastic disposable decorating bags when you try to sqeeze it through.

My aunt (that I’m staying with, not MOTB) and I both agree that the icing with the dulce de leche is leaning a little too much away from ivory and toward “latte.”  I use about 2 Tbsp of the caramel to one batch of mousseline buttercream.  I found the taste and smell of caramel much more pronounced than the last time—it’s a fantastic addition to buttercream, but might not be what I go with for the real deal in April.

Finally, I need to start making myself a checklist, as I seem to forget 1 (sometimes important) thing each time I go through one of these drills.  After I leveled the cake, I forgot to put on the syrup, even though I had poured some into a small bowl and set out the pastry brush next to where I was working. (Ask me about my first attempt at genoise au chocolate. I got it all the way into the oven when I realized I hadn’t taken the sugar out of the cupboard.)  I think it should still be moist enough as it was frozen within a few hours of coming out of the oven, and only stayed frozen from Wednesday night until Friday night when it was allowed to defrost in the fridge overnight.  In any case, it’s only the shower.

That’s all for now.  Shower starts in a little more than an hour.  I’m getting help bringing the cake to the hall beforehand and need to get it all ready.  Will try and get a picture after it’s cut.

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Posted: 01 March 2008 05:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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Fantastic photo - great piping, and I love the white on white look.  Very elegant!

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Posted: 01 March 2008 07:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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Gorgeous! The bride-to-be may not like the “mocha” look of the buttercream, but I love it. What was your “recipe?” Just add 2 Tablespoons of canned Dulce de Leche to one batch of Mousseline Buttercream? Or was there more?

I suspect I speak for many of us when I say that I wish I were invited to the shower or the wedding. The guests are fortunate to have such a lovely and delicious cake!

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Posted: 02 March 2008 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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Your cake looks beautiful. I wish I could do work like that! tongue wink

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Posted: 02 March 2008 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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Barbara A. - 01 March 2008 11:45 PM

What was your “recipe?” Just add 2 Tablespoons of canned Dulce de Leche to one batch of Mousseline Buttercream?

That’s basically it.  I also add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. [Corrected 3/7/2008 DO’B] The brand I’m fond of is La Salamandra.  I’ve seen it at Williams-Sonoma, but a local wine and gourmet food shop (The Curious Grape, Arlington, VA) has it cheaper.  I’ve used as much as 1/4 cup in 1 recipe of mousseline buttercream with good results.  I do think that 2 tablespoons darkens the buttercream a bit past ivory for this particular wedding cake.  Anybody used frosting whitener?  I’ve seen it at stores that carry cake supplies and don’t know if it’s worth trying so I can keep the caramel flavor, which is already pretty subtle at 2T.

I did get generally good feedback from my cousin, her betrothed and my Aunt Sue (MOTB) about the cake.  I even felt a little bad for the woman who brought the bakery cake that was right next to mine.  One of the hosts finally cut into it and started giving pieces to the kids so that it wouldn’t look like nobody liked it.

On the “needs improvement” side of the ledger:

The cake was a touch dry—just.  I did forget the syrup, though, until it was too late.  So I think that problem will resolve itself.

I also wasn’t all that happy with the way the batter was marbled.  I might need to dial back the amount of 73% chocolate a bit further.  Or maybe I’m doing something wrong with my swirling.  The consistency of the chocolate parts was very consistent with the yellow parts, so I was happy with that, just not so much with the mostly lack of a “swirled” appearance.  I think I’m going to go back to reserving 1/4 of the batter to mix with the melted chocolate instead of 1/5.

The bride’s brother said the frosting—get this—“was too buttery”.  I’m not sure how you make 2.5lbs of butter less “buttery,” but in his defense, my Aunt Margaret (who let me use her kitchen—do I need to post a family tree so you all can keep track?) thought the buttercream could have been a bit sweeter, too.  Far be it from me to dis Rose’s numbers, but has anyone increased the amount of sugar in mousseline buttercream?  Can I go to 1/2 cup in the meringue?  I’m loathe to mess with the syrup quantities as I find it difficult enough to work with without it being any softer.

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Posted: 02 March 2008 10:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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By the way: 

Patrincia, Barbara, Jeanette - Thanks for your compliments.  Buttercream roses aren’t really my specialty and I hadn’t planned on doing ANY until my aunt totally redesigned the concept of the cake for the shower.  She’s very much a subscriber to the the “less is more” philosophy, so we (read: “she”) nixed the accent colors, although I think the blue shell border would have been fine..  After the fact she did say that the roses could have been pale pink.  I didn’t get any close-up pictures of the roses as I don’t feel they would have held up to close scrutiny and the placement was a bit haphazard.

Thank God she didn’t make me do a basket weave.

OK… I’m barely able to think I’m so tired.  I was up until midnight winding down after the shower, my brother and another of my cousins bought shots for the table towards the end of the evening, and I was up at 5:30am to get everything in the car for the 9-or-so-hour drive (with breaks) back from MA to Arlington, VA.

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