I wrote this letter after my sister’s wedding was all over, but then realized I didn’t know where to send it. So I hope it’s okay to post it here.
Having haunted your blog during the past three months or so, I thought it would be a good idea to send you a picture of my first wedding cake and to express my gratitude for the part you had in making it a success.
First, a little bit of background. If I have time for a hobby, it’s baking or arranging flowers. I live in California, and my three sisters all live in New York. (They are the transplants, not me. ) When my youngest sister got engaged a few months ago, she asked me to do her flowers for her as I have done for all of my other siblings. She wanted peonies and I was thrilled to be able to work with such a lovely flower and keep it within the budget. But as my other sister and I were discussing cakes, the idea came up that maybe I could do it too. I’m not sure who suggested it first, my husband, my sister, or me. But in any case, the matter was decided and the exchange of ideas and pictures began.
I have your three “Bibles” already and have baked extensively out of them, but I’d never done a wedding cake. Maybe it’s just the words, but “wedding” is much more intimidating than “birthday.” First off, I discovered that the bride had fallen in love with the idea of strawberry shortcake. She sent me a picture of a lovely three tiered cake on Martha Stewart’s web site. But she didn’t like the pillars. So far so good. But then I started looking at pictures on line of “strawberry shortcake wedding cakes.” That’s when I started seeing what could go wrong. They tend to look horribly messy both before and after being cut.
I started experimenting with cakes and fillings. I quickly concluded that a butter cake was not going to cut well with a whipped cream filling and the bride did not want buttercream. Maybe you know of a way to do it, but I wasn’t having success in my searches or trials. When I tried cutting it, the whipped cream would squish out. So I tried the genoise. Perfect. I decided to use the Grand Marnier syrup to moisten it.
Then there was the matter of the stabilizer for the whipped cream. Cobasin was a bit pricey for how much I would use it, so I decided on gelatin for the top and strawberry conserve made back home for the filling. I also used some of your strawberry puree with wild strawberry essence on each layer for extra flavor and color. After the cake was assembled I used a large round tip to pipe filling between the layers so that it was neat and even around the sides. I think with practice I could do a bit better on that, and the whipped cream was just a tad over whipped, but overall I was happy with the outcome.
Since my sister doesn’t like pillars, I stacked the tiers using straws to support the cardboard cake round. The base tier was 12 inches and the top, 8 inches, giving me extra space for decorating with fresh strawberries. The straws work perfectly. Someone said, “Cut from the top to the bottom.” Well, they tried to cut from the top through the cardboard to the bottom. And they couldn’t do it. They really tried and the cake hardly moved.
In addition to the large cake, I made and froze five whipped cream bundts. They were a hit, served with a bit of your strawberry puree and a dollop of whipped cream. The Nordicware cake pan was infinitely better than the one I used for testing at home. I’m very much in favor of having the right tools for the job, but I never realized what a difference a better pan would make. Fabulous!
All the baking was done at another sister’s home the week leading up to the wedding. I even got to use a brand new Kitchen Aid mixer—a shower gift to the bride. I myself don’t have a Kitchen Aid, so I was surprised to see how high all the cakes were when they were done. It made for more trimming than I expected, but a Kitchen Aid mixer is definitely on my list of must-haves now.
Thank you so much for your blog. I read everything I could find on butter cakes, genoise, whipped cream, strawberries, stabilizers, even Kitchen Aid mixers! The search engine saved me a lot of time and effort as I learned what would work, what wouldn’t, and what could go wrong. As it was, nothing ended up going wrong, and everyone loved the cake. The goal, to have an attractive and delicious cake, was met. I think anyone could do it since your detailed instructions are perfect, and your support system is wonderful.
Sorry this post is so long. I tried to just put in what I ended up deciding on rather than all the mental gymnastics I went through. I’m including a couple pics of the cakes and one of the flowers to give you an idea of the style.