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Making my own wedding cakes…timing help, advice?
Posted: 26 February 2008 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi everyone!  I’m new here.  Not new to baking, but kind of new to bigger, fancier cakes for weddings.  I’m getting married on April 19th, and due to a very low (read: nonexistent) wedding budget, I’m making my own cakes.  Luckily, I don’t expect more than 70-90 people at most.  It’s an 1860s style wedding, so we’re trying to make cakes similar to what they might have had back then.  There were 3 cakes: a large wedding cake (a dark, rich, fruit cake flavored with bourbon or brandy), and two smaller cakes for the bride’s cake (a “light” cake) and groom’s cake (a “dark” cake).

I’m not doing tiers—just regular, round 2-layer cakes.  (Maybe I should do 4 and cut the layers in 1/2?)  I’m thinking about a 12” for the fruit cake, and maybe 9-10” for the two smaller cakes.  I believe I’ll just do a white butter cake and a chocolate butter cake for each of the smaller ones.  I’m also figuring on doing a simple basketweave icing design so I won’t have to worry about my “design” skills.

Another factoid: we will be staying in a hotel the day before the wedding (the wedding is 2 hours away from where I live), so I’ll have an air conditioned place to store the cakes—but not a refrigerator.  The weather is usually nice in April—breezy, about 80 degrees, but in Texas, it’s also possible to get rain and humidity.  The cakes would be set up before the wedding so they’ll be sitting there for about 45 minutes before everyone dug in.

Now I have to figure out recipes, what to make, what to fill it with, and what will be the easiest (as if any of it is easy!) to make, transport, and hold-up…..and TASTE GOOD….considering I’m also the bride and there will be a lot to do the day before the wedding—traveling, decorating, setting-up, rehearsing—and I won’t be able to be decorating cakes that day.

So…any advice on the following:

1 - Does anyone know a good recipe for a dark, rich, fruitcake that will be fairly easy for a beginner?  I have TCB, but I don’t recall seeing a fruitcake that works for a wedding cake.  I’d heard the Martha Washington Cake was pretty good.  Any advice?

2 - What will be the easiest way to time the baking/icing?  I don’t have a large freezer, but even if I emptied it out for cake layers, I’d be mortified if my layers tasted like old pork chops.  wink  The wedding is on Saturday noon, and I have to be at the site by noon on Friday, so I’ll be traveling that morning - no time to frost cakes.  Should I bake on Tuesday, crumb-coat Wednesday, and ice on Thursday?  And if so….will the cakes still be good 2 days later on Saturday?  I won’t have a refrigerator…and I heard you shouldn’t refrigerate a frosted cake anyway….

3 - I’m not looking for fancy fillings or frostings, but I’d like something that doesn’t taste like it’s out of a jar or box.  Any ideas on elegant but simple fillings/frostings?  I’d heard Mousseline BC is really great and holds up well in heat, but I’ve also seen countless people agonizing over it.  What about ganache for the chocolate cake?  I’m open to advice.  Just looking for simple simple simple.

4 - How do I transport them?  I have 2 caddies that may work for the smaller cakes, but I don’t have one for a 12” cake.  Can you buy those that big?  I haven’t seen them.

Thank you!

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Posted: 26 February 2008 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Firstly, congratulations!  Secondly, are you crazy? smile

Oh my… where to begin???  ...I can’t imagine making and transporting cakes to my own wedding - way too stressful.

Have you decorated with a basket weave designs before?  It’s time consuming and can be rather difficult on your hand (nuts, or coconut pressed into buttercream is much faster and will show NO imperfections). 

Have you thought about making dummy cakes for presentation, and have some loved ones bake sheet cakes for you?  How about the idea of doing a cupcake tower (it’s a modern approach, but you could maybe display them with an 1860 theme).

How far from your home is the hotel?

Here’s a serious question - are you the type of person who is always running late, or are you the kind of person who is super organized and is always on time?

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Posted: 26 February 2008 12:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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First…Thank you!  I’m so excited!
Second…Am I crazy?  Why, yes…yes I am.  grin

I’m beginning to think I’m a special breed of crazy, considering I also made the bridesmaid’s dress, my dress (which is a replica of an 1865 Worth gown: http://www.realcivilwarwedding.com/?page_id=4), all of our hoops, corsets, and other underpinnings, the groom’s Confederate frock coat, trowsers, and vest, and the bouquets.  The good news?  All of the above is pretty much done, with exception of little details.  grin

As for the cakes, I would love someone to make them for me, but I just don’t have the $$ that my local bakers want.  And I don’t know anyone who 1) knows much about baking, or 2) would be willing to take on wedding cakes, or 3) be willing to transport them 2 hours away.  But the good thing about this being an 1860s wedding is that weddings back then were not near as formal as today’s weddings.  Everything (unless you were a member of the wealthy elite) was homemade and the event was more of a picnic than anything else.  Our wedding will be similar to what a simple, home wedding might have been back then.

I have decorated w/ basketweave…a long time ago…and you’re probably right—after several cakes I’d probably never regain the use of my hand.  A plus is that the cakes shown/discussed in period literature are very simple, with just some swags and swirls.  White frost, it says, with pretty swags and swirls.  I’m just not good at swags.  grin

I was going to do the sheet-cake idea until I saw just how many people a standard 10-12” cake would serve.  3 relatively small cakes should feed everyone there and then some.  So 3 simple, 2-layer cakes seemed like it would be pretty easy.  I have made a number of cakes…but haven’t experimented a great deal w/ icing yet, so that’s the part that really scares me.

The hotel is right near the wedding site, which is 2 hours away from home.  As for organized…well, I’ve been pretty organized with this event.  I can sometimes be lazy, but too much depends on timing and accuracy for me to be lazy.  grin  So I guess I’d say I’m fairly organized and am usually on time.  I have to be at the site by 2pm on Friday to take delivery of the chairs, so I really can’t be late.  grin

-Amy

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Posted: 26 February 2008 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I can’t open the link, but wow…. the attire sounds amazing.

I can’t help you with a fruitcake recipe, but Rose’s white, yellow and chocolate cakes are all wonderful.  Her Mousseline buttercream is safe at room temp for up to 2 days, and her ganache is safe at room temp for 3 days - I’d stick with those for your fillings too (stay away from anything perishable).  You can make all your cake layers, buttercreams, and/or ganaches long in advance and store in the freezer (I would highly suggest purchasing one of the new Reynold’s Handi-Vacs and the accompanying 1 gallon sized bags to store your components completely airtight in the freezer).  Then assemble the day or night before you need them and store in the fridge until it’s time to go (I like to put a couple of boxes of fresh baking soda in the fridge when I have to store a cake - added insurance if you know what I mean).  Better yet, store them in the fridge inside bakery boxes (my bakery sells them inexpensively).  Transport the cakes cold.

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Posted: 26 February 2008 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Great!  Okay - thanks!  Questions:

You’re talking about her yellow, white, and chocolate butter cakes, right?

Also, I’ve heard stories about not storing a frosted cake in the fridge due to condensation issues.

So, I have to get there a good 24 hrs in advance of the wedding, which means I’ll leave the house at 11 am Friday.  I suppose I would assemble/frost the cakes on Thursday, finish them by Thursday evening, and put them in baker’s boxes in the fridge overnight.

You mention “transport the cakes cold” - so on the trip down and for the overnight stay, should I keep them in coolers with those ice-pack things?  Or do you think by then I need to just let them get to and stay at room temp?

I figured on having someone take the cakes over to the pavilion (we’re having the wedding and reception in the same place) about 30 minutes before the ceremony, and then at that point we’ll just get on with the show and hope for the best.

-Amy

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Posted: 26 February 2008 01:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Amy, i have just clicked on to your website/blog and I am astounded!!!!  YOU ARE NOT LAZY!  I can’t believe you have done all that work, you’ll need a month for a honeymoon just to get over all that work.  I wish you much happiness in your forthcoming marriage.  I live in the UK, and over here a fruit cake is the traditional wedding cake although some these days go for the American style stacked cakes made like your butter cakes in vanilla of chocolate flavour.  I have made fruit cakes for my daughter and son as wedding cakes and will willingly type out the recipe if you require it.  Because of the amount of fruit and spirit in the mixture you can make it well in advance of the big day as it keeps very well for months!  So that would be one job out of the way for you!  I hope Patrincia can find your blog as I’m sure she will be very impressed with your dressmaking as I know she also is interested in sewing.  let me know if you want the fruitcake recipe, I can recommend it, I make it every Christmas.

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Posted: 26 February 2008 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Hi Jeannette!
Oh, yes, please send me your recipe!  I had heard the traditional English wedding cake was what they used in the 1860s, and looked up a couple of recipes, but having never tasted it, I haven’t a clue what it’s supposed to look like/taste like.  LOL!  grin

Thanks for your compliments on my dress and blog.  I started that thing 6 months ago—I can’t believe I’ve been able to get most of it all done.  grin

-Amy

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Posted: 26 February 2008 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Hi, Amy, I am so pleased to be of some help to you, this recipe is written for an 11 inch cake,I hope that will be appropriate.
2lb currants
12 oz raisins
12oz sultanas
4 oz mixed peel, finely chopped
4 oz glace cherries, rinsed and finely chopped

These ingredients should be placed in a bowl the night before you make the cake, and mixed with 6 tbs. of brandy. Cover with a cloth and leave to macerate for at least 12 hours.
1 lb. plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 dessertspoons black treacle *
1 lb soft brown sugar
1 lb unsalted butter
8 standard eggs
4 oz almonds blanched,peeled and chopped
the grated rind of 2 lemons
the grated rind of 2 oranges

First brush an 11 inch round cake tin with melted butter, and line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper and the sides with a double thickness of greaseproof (and brush these with melted butter too.)  Finally line the base with another round of greaseproof and brush with butter.

Pre-heat the oven to 275deg F or 140deg. C

Start by sieving the flour, salt and spices into a bowl.  Then in a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy .  Then when the mixture is thoroughly creamed, beat the eggs and add them, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.  When all the egg is incorporated, fold in the flour and spice mixture bit by bit.    Then stir in the fruit, nuts and treacle( which will pour more easily if warmed a little first), followed by the orange and lemon rinds.
    Spoon everything into the prepared tin, spreading it evenly with the back os a tablespoon and making a gentle depression in the centre.  Secure some thick brown paper around the outside of the tin , then cover the top with a square of double greasproof paper with a hole in the centre the size of a dollar piece. Bake on the lower shelf of the oven ( without opening the door) for about 5 1/2 hours.  Cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight tin and ‘feed’ it at odd intervals with brandy. ( to do this , strip off the lining papers, make a few holes in the top and pour teaspoonsful of brandy in to soak down into the cake.)
i Hope this works for you, let me know if there’s anything puzzling you.  * treacle is similar to molasses

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Posted: 26 February 2008 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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amy mckinney - 26 February 2008 04:59 PM

Great!  Okay - thanks!  Questions:

You’re talking about her yellow, white, and chocolate butter cakes, right?

Also, I’ve heard stories about not storing a frosted cake in the fridge due to condensation issues.

So, I have to get there a good 24 hrs in advance of the wedding, which means I’ll leave the house at 11 am Friday.  I suppose I would assemble/frost the cakes on Thursday, finish them by Thursday evening, and put them in baker’s boxes in the fridge overnight.

You mention “transport the cakes cold” - so on the trip down and for the overnight stay, should I keep them in coolers with those ice-pack things?  Or do you think by then I need to just let them get to and stay at room temp?

I figured on having someone take the cakes over to the pavilion (we’re having the wedding and reception in the same place) about 30 minutes before the ceremony, and then at that point we’ll just get on with the show and hope for the best.

-Amy

Wow Amy - I was finally able to view your blog… I have no doubts you will indeed be able to make your own wedding cakes (and very well I’m sure).

Condensation on a finished buttercream or ganache cake in April shouldn’t be an issue for you.  Condensation is more likely to form during more hot/humid months like July and August (or for refrigerated cakes covered in fondant any time of the year).  If any condensation does appear on the surface of a finished ganache or buttercream cake, it will dissipate in time so not to worry (however, never mix condensation into a batch of ganache - I know this firsthand).  Cardboard has wonderful insulative qualities, so using bakery boxes (or plain old cardboard boxes) will be an added layer of protection.  Boxes also help keep accidental bumps at bay (my hubby’s elbow accidentally bumped into the side of a large cake I made once.  Thankfully the cake was covered with buttercream/chopped nuts, so I was able to carefully push everything back into place with my hand and you couldn’t tell there was ever a problem with it.  If I had put that cake in a box, it probably would have prevented the dent, and the the stress that followed for the next several minutes).

I suggested transporting the cakes chilled for a few reasons - 1) it will prolong the room temp shelf life for each of the cakes, 2) chilled buttercream or ganache is harder to accidentally dent/mar, and 3) chilled cakes don’t shift, slip, or slide as easily as room temp ones.  Since your drive is 2 hours long, I would definitely start with chilled cakes.  You probably don’t need to worry as much about keeping them chilled once they move from your hotel room to the reception site (and you’ll want to serve them at room temp). 

One word of caution about the hotel - be sure to put “DO NOT EAT” signs on your cakes (did anyone see this week’s Ace of Cakes?  The hotel staff ate the layer cakes intended for the UN’s Birthday Party in honor of Sir Roger Moore…. can you imagine?).

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Posted: 26 February 2008 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Oops, I forgot to answer your questions about the cake recipes.  Yes, I was referring to the white, yellow, and chocolate butter cakes in TCB.  I can only speak for those recipes because they are the only ones I’ve used for wedding/tiered cakes.

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Posted: 26 February 2008 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Amy, I forgot to say the recipe I have written out for you is copied from Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes.  She is a well respected cook and writer of all cookery books over here and her recipes are very dependable, I have been using her books for years and years.  I made this recipe up as a 3 tier cake for my daughter in 1992 and a 2 tier one for my son’s wedding in 2005.  Both were very well received by all who tasted them.  tongue laugh

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Posted: 26 February 2008 03:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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You ladies have been so wonderful!  Thanks so much for answering my many questions (there will probably be more) and for the recipes and advice.

Jeannette - What are sultanas?  Never heard of them.  Also, if I can’t get treacle, can I substitute molasses?  I’ll try to make this one the weekend of March 8th.  What do you frost it with?  I’ve heard you’re supposed to put marizpan over a fruitcake and then icing.  Do you use buttercream or can you use that Mousseline Buttercream?

Patrincia - How long does it take to thaw the cake layers and the icing?  I thought I’d spend the weekend of March 22 baking the cakes and making the icing, and then freeze them.  So how do I thaw them?  Do I just put them in the fridge on Wednesday night and start assembling Thursday morning?  Oh, and would I need to put more syrup on them after they defrost?

The hotel staff ATE the cakes!?!?  Oh, I’d have to kill someone if anyone did that to me.  I’ll be putting signs all over the place.  grin  hee hee!

-Amy

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Posted: 26 February 2008 03:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Amy, yes you can substitute molasses for treacle,it adds colour to the mix , I daresay you could even leave it out altogether, the amount is so small. 
    Traditionally this type of cake is covered with a layer of marzipan then Royal Icing.  I am not a cake decorator unfortunately, I made the cakes but a friend decorated them for me.  Fondant icing would work equally well I think if you’d find that easier.  It is easier to eat as well! Don’t hesitate to ask if there is anything else you wish to know and I hope we see pictures of the big day when you find time to post them!  Best regards, Jeannette.

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Posted: 26 February 2008 03:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Great!  Thanks!  I will definitely send pictures.  wink  I’ll probably post some of my mishaps and misadventures in making the cakes on my blog.
I’ve had the worst time w/ fondant.  I can never get it thin enough.  :-(

-Amy

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Posted: 26 February 2008 03:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Can’t you buy it ready made?  Over here even people who regularly decorate cakes use it!  I buy it to cover my Christmas cake and it is really easy to use.

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Posted: 26 February 2008 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Forgot to say what sultanas are!  they are dried fruits ,same as raisins but seedless.  If you can’t get them ,double up on raisins or just make the total fruit content up to the recipe requirement by making a mixture of currants and raisins instead.

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