This coming July I will be making a cake for my sister’s wedding, which will be held on an island off the cape of Massachusetts. The island doesn’t have much on it—no store, few cars—but the wedding will be at a small bed and breakfast/restaurant there, so there will be (I think) a restaurant-sized refrigerator. I’m planning on baking the cake layers at my parents’ house, which is a few hours drive and an hour-long ferry ride away, in the week or two before the wedding, freezing everything that I can, transporting it frozen, and then assembling it the night before on the island.
This is my first wedding cake, so of course I’ve bitten off (arguably) waaaay more than I can chew: My sister wants a four-tier cake (or a three-tier with an extra sheet cake so there will be enough for the 125 guests), with two of the tiers of yellow butter cake and two tiers of chocolate butter cake. The yellow tiers would have raspberry mousseline in between the layers, and each layer would be split and filled with lemon curd, and the chocolate tiers would have mocha mousseline between the layers, and each layer split and filled with chocolate ganache.
...I know. More than I can chew. But I’m really excited about the challenge : )
My question is this: since there are limited resources on the island, I want to do as much as I can before I get there. I had originally thought I’d bake and freeze the layers, and pre-make the curd and the ganache, then take it all down to the island frozen along with a stand mixer and ingredients for frosting, and make the frosting, fill, frost, and assemble the night before. Now, however, I’m wondering if I could do a lot more ahead of time—bake the layers, make the flavored frostings and fillings, assemble, dowel, and maybe crumb coat the tiers, and then freeze them, assembled on their cake boards and ready for transport, a few days before the wedding. Would that work? Could I also make the mousseline for frosting the outside of the cake ahead of time, freeze it, bring it to the island along with my stand mixer, and then re-whip it and frost/assemble/decorate the cake the night before?
It seems like that should work, and it would make everything SO much easier than trying to make anything from scratch on the island, but all the freezing makes me nervous—would it still taste as good? how long would I have to defrost the cake tiers and the mousseline before assembling everything? Could it then finish defrosting in the fridge overnight, and take it out of the fridge 6 hours before the reception? So many questions.
Anyway, I apologize for this incredibly long post, but any and all suggestions and tips would be greatly appreciated!
I’d be assembling it in the kitchen, but it’s sort of a brunch restaurant in addition to the b&b, and I think they’d be shutting it all down for the weekend, since we’re having the wedding catered, and have bought the whole place out. I waitressed there as a teenager, and I’m trying to remember how much fridge and counter space there is : )
I think you’re right, assembling tiers and bringing a giant cooler(s) containing four boxes and plus a tub of mousseline, along with dowels, spatulas, decorating stuff, and possibly a stand mixer is probably the best way to go. If I freeze all of those things, (assembled tiers and mousseline for the outside of the cake), will the lemon curd be okay frozen and then thawed, inside the cake? Should I just crumb-coat and freeze the tiers, do you think, or should I actually frost them, and then do touch-ups when I assemble and decorate it? Could I dowel them (prob with plastic straws, or something I get at the cake store) before I freeze them, or would that be a bad idea? Also, how long should I let the tiers and the mousseline defrost before working with them? Should I do that in the fridge, or at room temp—presumably either way, I should leave them wrapped in plastic, so moisture beads up on the outside of that…If I assemble and decorate everything the night before, should I leave it in the fridge, maybe wrapped loosely in plastic to avoid restaurant-fridge-odors, or should I leave it at room temp?
I’m sorry for the boat-load of questions, and I really appreciate the advice!
When you say “when you arrive, put the cakes in the cooler,” do you mean the fridge or the freezer (assuming those are both options)? I think you mean fridge, but I just wanted to check.
Thank you SO much for your help! Masonite boards and a three-tier cake plus an extra are great ideas (especially since I realized I probably couldn’t find a cooler for transporting it that would accommodate a 14” or 15” tier). Bringing stuff to clean out the fridge is also really smart. If it’s clean, do you think I’d need to loosely cover the cake in plastic wrap (after the frosting had set), or could I just stick it in there the night before, uncovered, and then take it out the next morning/early afternoon so that it could come to room temp before serving?
...and yes—I’m in the wedding. I’m the maid of honor, and seemingly the de facto wedding planner, so it’s going to be a little wild. As long as she doesn’t ask me to officiate, I think my chances of survival are fairly good…I hope : )
Best of luck with your first cake!! I just wanted to add, that whenever I do a big cake, I will often re-read posts on this forum - there is sooo much great info here! I would search for “Freezing” and “wedding cake” keywords especially…
I would also make extra buttercream, don’t forget to bring/make parchment cutouts for your cake rounds, and make lists! Having a “to-do” list in order of operations always helps me not freak out. I will also sketch a picture of the cake, (an inside and outside picture) which helps me picture the final cake as I go along.
Also, The largest cake I have made is a 12” .... and I prefer to make my bottom tier 10”. I find it’s easier to bake, flip out and cut… but that’s just my personal preference. I also totally agree with making a sample cake and get some practice.. It’s an easy step to skip over, but you will quickly learn a lot! Not to mention you have a lot of time to do so. I’m not sure if I read how you are decorating the outside? I may of missed it..
I don’t have a professional (and successful!) cake business like Jeanne, but I would think you would want to crumb-coat the cakes before hand? I would think this would keep them fresher… having a thin protector of frosting. I always do a light crumb-coat of frosting before freezing a tier and have never had an issue with drying out etc… I got this tip from a Dede Wilson book, and have never gone back!
A 10” bottom tier would probably be smarter, but I’m over-ambitious, and way too excited about making a big visual impact, and it’s all I can do to stop myself from going for a 15” fourth tier : )
7”, 10”, 13” sounds like a good compromise : )
One last question, if anyone still has patience with my *endless* questions—when I dowel (I think I’ll use bubble-tea straws), I’d like to leave a little space between the tiers, so they’re easy to separate without wrecking the frosting on top. However, if I have to move the assembled cake in and out of the fridge, and carry it from the kitchen to the wedding tent (with help), maybe it makes more sense to make the straws flush with the tier tops, for stability’s sake, and make do with messed up frosting on the tops. Does that sound smarter, or do you think I could get away with leaving 1/8” of space?
I will definitely do a trial run or two, with freezing and everything, so I know what I’m dealing with. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the sage advice!
On second thought, it looks like the math of converting a recipe meant for 6”, 9”, and 12” round pans to 7”, 10”, and 13” might involve un-measurable fractions of teaspoons and multiplying things by pi, so I may have to go with smaller : (
It’s not one of Rose’s recipes, so I can’t use her great conversion chart
Jeanne, I just said “Oh My God!” out loud when I read about your fall—that’s incredible : )
If you have time to check out the recipes, I’d love that—they’re from “Sky High—Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes,” which is a book I really like. I was thinking I’d do a taste test between these and Rose’s butter cakes, but these are the ones my sister thinks she wants. Because these are from two different wedding cake recipes in that book (a round-tiered vanilla cake and a square-tiered chocolate cake), I also have the recipes for a 9” round 3-layer vanilla tier, and 6”, 8”, and 10” square 3-layer tiers for the chocolate cake. I just figured the 8” square would be fine as a 9” circle, for the chocolate tier.
As far as scaling up to 7/10/13 goes, I’ve thought about finding the volume of all these pans using a combination of geometry and charts I found online, and then doing a ratio with volumes of the pans and the approximate weights of those amounts of batter, and solving that little equation to find the appropriate weight of batter for the cakes I’m making, and then only using that much and discarding any extra batter, but at a certain point my brain just shuts down and goes on strike. I’m an SAT tutor, so I should be able to do this…but it just makes my head hurt : )
6” round vanilla buttermilk cake (makes 3 layers)
1 and 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
9” round chocolate buttermilk cake (makes 3 layers)
3 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 cups cocoa powder
3 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 and 1/2 cups freshly brewed coffee, cooled to room temp.
12” round vanilla buttermilk cake (again, 3 layers)
6 and 2/3 cups cake flour
4 and 1/3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 and 3/4 cups buttermilk
4 egg yolks
1 and 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
I am not a professional, either, and have only done two three-tier wedding cakes (12”, 9”, and 6”), but I’ve been able to stack the cake on site. I used regular plastic straws in the 9 and 12 inch tiers for support which I placed ahead of time and cut a little taller than the cake layer. I can’t pipe frosting to save my life so after stacking the cake I hid the gap with a ribbon.
It sounds like you’re going to be very busy on the actual day! Line up lots of helpers, and most of all don’t forget to have fun!
Thank you all for your amazing advice last winter/spring—the cake was an incredible success!
I ended up doing a twelve-inch tier of three chocolate buttermilk cakes, separated by coffee mousseline and each filled with ganache, a nine-inch tier of three vanilla buttermilk cakes, separated by raspberry mousseline and each filled with vanilla bean SMBC, and a six-inch chocolate tier on top (same as the twelve-inch). I also made two more twelve-inch tiers, one chocolate and one vanilla, to have as extra…and there was a lot of extra : )
It was a ridiculous amount of work and transportation craziness (I ended up transporting the three 12” tiers, filled and frozen but not masked, and stacked on top of one another, in one of those giant orange cylindrical coolers they dump Gatorade onto coaches with at the end of sports games—it was kind of perfect), but it was unbelievably delicious and beautiful, and I couldn’t have done it without you guys : )