Hello all, I just attended a wedding for my wife Becky’s friend Kelly that we baked the cakes for.
The couple set up their reception inexpensively and had selected people bring a nice selection of food. We got cake duty. She didn’t want a big tiered traditional wedding cake, but instead requested something very colorful. I was kind of intimidated that Becky had signed me up to do a wedding cake, and spent a lot of time thinking about what to do. I settled on two cakes, each made up of three 9x2” layers, frosted with buttercream. Sounded relatively easy and I knew I could do it. The cakes are downy all-occasion yellow cake, modified according to the excellent posts on power of flour. I used cake flour with a blend of whole eggs and yolks, whatever was leftover from making IMBC plus whole eggs to make up the rest.
I thought I would do it all in buttercream with piped flowers on top, since I had great results with buttercream flowers on my daughter Violet’s birthday cupcakes (pictures here: http://picasaweb.google.com/holly.gates/VioletS3rdBirthdayParty#). It seemed like a good idea to do IMBC since it has a reputation of holding up to heat better than other types, and the wedding was in unconditioned space in mid July. I’ve made IMBC a few times now, and I’ve got it so it works, but it always curdles and needs a tremendous amount of whipping when first making it and also when rebeating. Also, let me tell you it is not easy to do big cakes with lots of piping in buttercream when your kitchen is high 90s and humid!
So after a long day of striving to decorate one of the cakes, which involved a zillion trips in and out of the fridge, wiping condensation off, chilling cones of frosting, etc., I was stunned to find that it looked awful. The flowers looked almost as good as they did when they were on cupcakes, but on the cake they just looked bad. I think the cupcake is a nice platform for the flower and gives it a discreteness and elevation that makes it look good. On the cake it just looked like a mishapen mish mash. I filled in between flowers with dark green leaves, which was part of the problem. The colors were not working together at all, and the textures were all wrong. It looked like a gaudy discount funeral arrangement. My wife, housemates, and some friends staying with us at the time all agreed it looked bad. There was no way we could show up with these cakes.
Becky had been trying to convince me to do fondant from the start, but I resisted because the one time I had tried to fit fondant on cylindrical shapes I ended up with a lot of creases at the bottom. Plus I had good luck with the buttercream decorations on the cupcakes. But now the buttercream was clearly having issues, so I decided to try fondant and whipped up a couple batches of marshmallow fondant. Becky did some mock up cakes in Illustrator to get some shapes and colors that looked good and I kneaded in colors to the fondant. Then I cut the flowers off the top and covered with fondant.
Overall the fondant was great. Easy and fun to work with, and my 3.5 year old daughter could help me too. I still had some wrinkles at the bottoms of the cakes, but it wasn’t too bad and was mostly concealed by ribbon. One cake was for Kelly and one for Doug, with one piece of ribbon wrapped around both and joining them. Transport was a little tricky but went pretty well with the cake bunk bed I built to fit them in a cooler with cold packs and dessicant. Each cake had a bamboo skewer running from its shelf on the bunk bed up through the round and most of the way through the cake to prevent them from sliding around.
The cakes were received well and there was plenty for all the guests. Both cakes got big bubbles under the fondant at some point along the way, but I didn’t bring anything to pop them. The cake was delicious, except the fondant. But I didn’t mind seeing fondant peeled off on all the party plates. Now I think of it as cake rind. Does its job making the cake look attractive and keeping condensation down and interior moisture up, but then can be removed before eating.
My pictures, including the failed buttercream flowers cake: