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Suggestions for Wedding Cake Travel/Do Ahead?
Posted: 14 January 2012 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]
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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!

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Posted: 14 January 2012 10:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Where would you be doing the assembling if you were bringing all the parts separately (cake, filling, boards, etc)?  At the bed and breakfast?  Because that’s a lot to ask them to accommodate….  especially if the wedding is also being held at the same B&B.  I would bring the assembled tiers (this way it’s only 4 boxes); and then whatever you need to finish it (buttercream, dowels, fondant, the cake drum, tape, etc). See if you can pack the cakes with dry ice just in case (check with the ferry company to make sure it’s ok)...so it will stay frozen for as long as possible….

Good luck!  Your sister is one lucky girl smile!

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Posted: 15 January 2012 12:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks so much for responding!

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!

Thanks so much,

Sarah

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Posted: 15 January 2012 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Find out if the restaurant kitchen already has a stand mixer; and what attachments it has (you might just be better off bringing two mixer bowls, the whip and a paddle if they have the same kind of mixer.  Or find out if someone on the island will let you borrow theirs for two days).  If people are staying at the B&B the kitchen isn’t really going to shut down because they still have to make breakfast and whatever else they are providing.  In addition to staff meals maybe.  So find out what kind of refrigeration they have and let them know what you are going to need. Figure out how tall your completed cake will be and see if there’s enough room for it to be stored in the cooler.  Bring soap, and sponges and a bucket as well as paper towels.

I would bring the layers assembled, but not crumb coated.  Put them on a board, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap - then put a masonite board under the wrapped cake and wrap again to freeze.  We use masonite boards under the cardboard when we build our tiers so that we can move them in and out of the cooler without the cardboard flexing.  I buy them at Pfeil and Holing (http://www.cakedeco.com).  Do not put the dowels in before you stack the cake.  When you arrive, put the cakes in the cooler.  The smallest one will most likely be thawed out, but you want all of them to be chilled when you work with them.  If the wedding is Saturday, and you are arriving on Thursday, put the cakes in the cooler, and start working with them on Friday.  Is this a buttercream finish on the outside of the cakes? You can have the finish coat on the tiers and then stack them on Saturday; but my guess is that you are in the wedding smile and you should have the cake completed on Friday.  If your sister doesn’t have her heart set on four tiers, I’d do three (13/10/7 plus an extra 10” round as utility cake so you have 125 servings) so your time to work on the cake is not as long as it would be otherwise.  This way, you can have the utility cake completely finished before you get there.  Everything will take twice as long as you think it should because you are in an unfamiliar kitchen so make sure to budget your time with this in mind smile

Bring extra cardboard rounds and when you go to crumb coat the tiers, put the cakes on clean cardboards - this way you don’t have to worry about the cardboards that have been in the freezer if they have absorbed any moisture and become weakened as a result.  While the cakes are still cold, put some buttercream on the board and put the cake on the board and let it chill again.  You could do this on Thursday when you arrive ....

The lemon curd will be fine; it’s more like the thin smear of jam on toast so not to worry.

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Posted: 15 January 2012 05:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hi Jeanne,

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,

Sarah

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Posted: 15 January 2012 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Hi again…

I’m thinking that the cleaning supplies will come in handy so you don’t have to ask them for it; and you can leave them behind smile  I don’t think you’d need to clean the walkin - unless they give you a standard, reach in refrigerator and then just wiping down the walls and shelving would be ok.

In terms of sizing, you could do 12/9/6, which serves 80 and then do another 12” round, which gives you another 40 servings.  The 13/10/7 gives you 100 plus the other 10.  The cake drum would be either a 16” round (for the 13/10/7) or 14 (for the 12/9/6).  The 16 will just fit on a standard full sheet pan, which is important to know if you are using a walk in cooler that has speed racks in it.  The sheet pan will fit, but there are flat rods on the sides of speed racks that will make it impossible for a 16” box to fit on the sheet pan (the “rods” are about 4” apart, this is what the sheet pans sit on). So while you might be able to keep the cakes in their boxes, you might not be able to either depending on what the refrigeration situation is like.

Yes, to putting the cakes in the refrigerator when you arrive so they are chilled before you start working with them.  If they give you a standard refrigerator, position the shelves so the tiered cake will fit and you don’t have to worry about covering it. If you are in a walk in cooler, they usually have chrome shelving in it - and as long as nothing is going to be on top of the cake you wouldn’t have to cover it or wrap it once it is finished.  Hopefully there is nothing too aromatic in there with the cake wink

Have a back up plan in case the ferry is delayed due to weather (where the dry ice will come in handy).  See if the ferry has a cold cargo area you can put the cake boxes in during the trip.  If you can make buttercream when you are there rather than bringing it, bring double the supplies just in case. Figure out if you can ship the non-perishable things in advance via UPS or the post office (like the cake drum, spatulas, wide spatula for placing the cake, toothpicks, tape, cardboards) and track the package so you know it is there before you leave.  You want to make your Friday morning as streamlined as possible so you are finished by noon.

Practice at least once with a small cake.  You want to know what is is like to do the crumb coat without a turntable (unless you have an inexpensive plastic one that you don’t care if it get damaged enroute).  All the little things that might surprize you once you are there might show up during a practice run….

Loved the part about officiating!!!!! LOL, you have a lot on your plate!

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Posted: 15 January 2012 08:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Hi Sarah

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!

smile Sarah

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Posted: 16 January 2012 02:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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sarahmollo - 15 January 2012 09:50 PM

Hi Jeanne,

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,

Sarah

  “as long as she does not ask me to officiate” LOL.  I appreciate this thread….it is useful info to have.

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Posted: 16 January 2012 10:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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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!

Best,

Sarah

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Posted: 16 January 2012 11:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’m planning on doing really simple decorations—a thin ribbon pinned around each tier, with a simple dot design—maybe little clusters of dots, or triangles. I’ll practice that too, though : )

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Posted: 16 January 2012 11:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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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

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Posted: 17 January 2012 08:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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If you want the tiers to float above each other, you can use the Wilton plates and the pillars they call “floating pillars”  - you assemble it onsite rather than transport it assembled.  You cut the pillars to whatever height you want and you don’t see the pillars, just the space.  The pillars are very wide (about an inch at least), so they provide lots of support.  Otherwise, I think you are better off having them flush against the tier beneath it - especially since you don’t know what the walk is going to be like going from the kitchen to the tent!  Before you bring the cake out, go over the path you will take so you aren’t surprized by any low spots or rocks or anything that can cause your feet to falter.  I once fell carrying a three tier wedding cake when a brick in a brick stair gave way.  (There was, miraculously, no damage to the cake - not even a crack.  Talk about lucky.  I held on to the cake for dear life and fortunately when I landed, I was still holding it.  It was as if the hand of God guided it down to where it came to rest.  My arms and knees on the other hand looked like I’d been hit with a bat.)

My guess is that you can use that recipe - if you want to post it or a link to it, we can take a look.  I am not militant about converting, and I have excellent results by looking at what a recipe will yield and see how it can fill what I need.  For the butter cake recipes in TCB, I use the one for the 12” rounds to fill one 13” and one 10” round and don’t have any problems. For example, the carrot cake recipe in the Silver Palate book is written for 2 9” rounds - and I’ve been able to make it and use it to fill a 13” round or a 12” square.  So it’s worth a look if you have it.

I think it will look lovely!

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Posted: 18 January 2012 01:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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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
2 eggs
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
3 eggs
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
9 eggs
4 egg yolks
1 and 1/2 tablespoons vanilla

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Posted: 18 January 2012 02:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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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!

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Posted: 18 January 2012 11:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Hi… it’s been a long day; I’m pretty tired so my brain cells are not firing on all cylinders - which means take this all with that proverbial grain of salt….  I use 2” high pans in the shop, and I cut each layer in half, and build each tier with three layers of cake and two layers of filling.  I think, though, that you might be using 4 layers of cake; I can’t remember. 

I think you can use the 3x12” round recipe to make 2 13” rounds plus a 7” round; I’m not sure how high the original pans were or how high the cake rises in the pan,  It’s basically a 4 times recipe of the original, with a little extra (not a straight 4x scaling up).  Then use the chocolate one to make 2 10” rounds.  Make a half recipe of the chocolate and make a third 10” round.  If you are using 2” high pans, and the cake rises well, you are all set with this.  If however, the cakes don’t rise a lot, (e.g., the finished height is not anywhere near 1.5 or 2 inches tall, you would simply need to repeat each one so you end up with four layers of cake.

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Posted: 19 January 2012 12:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Jeanne - 19 January 2012 03:40 AM

I Dream of Jeanne Cakes selected by Platinum Weddings Magazine 2012 Best Cake Designer

I see you updated your signature with a new award….congratulations!  And thank you for being willing to help out here when you do this all day at work.

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