Everything was am amazing success!
After some experimenting at home, I went for an almond milk ganache with a 2:1 bittersweet chocolate to almond milk ratio, diluted somewhat by the addition of kahlua and vanilla, so the final ratio of all liquids was probably about 1.75:1. The mousseline buttercream made entirely out of earth balance buttery sticks was a little bit too salty and perhaps “off” in some other way as well, but I kept licking my fingers, so I knew it just needed a little bit of tweaking. A 50/50 mix of the earth balance buttery sticks and shortening yielded great consistency and perfect flavor. I also added a teaspoon of orange oil per batch of frosting, it was just enough to give the white chocolate mousseline a hint of orange if you looked for it, but not overwhelming. For kosher white chocolate, I made my own using cocoa butter, powdered sugar, a little vanilla extra, and soy protein powder. I forget which recipe I used online, but there was somewhat of consensus of google search results with this basic formula - they called for soy milk powder instead, but the local yuppie/hippie/health food store didn’t carry that item.
***important note for people of the future***—> buy your cocoa butter online ahead of time instead of at the store, you’ll save $20/pound
So, I arrive in Brooklyn with a giant suitcase full of drying racks, knives, scales, homemade white chocolate, a cake leveler, turn table, cake pans, large stainless steel bowls, and pyrex (which had definitely been gone over by bemused security officials), go off on a massive ingredient shopping run with the groom to be (eager to escape family) and begin!
My host had wrangled a kitchen aid for me, but it was a 4.5 qt rather than a 5 qt model. Amazingly, it was enough, but just barely so - while whipping the eggs for 12” layers, the mix would bulge over the top, but miraculously stayed contained.
To ensure full and even layers, I boosted the genoise au chocolat recipe listed on page 499 by an extra third - I decided I’d rather have more cake to trim than spend the time and effort baking a layer that was too short.
And so began about 2 solid days of baking cakes (followed by more of playing with cake). I got into a rhythm where I would have the next batch ready to go right as it was time to depan the previous. Once I got going, I expanded my ambitions back to 3 layers tiers. I was also paranoid of disaster striking, so opted to make two full cakes. So, 18 layers overall minimum. I believe I made 3 extra of each size so I could choose from the best if some came out weak, and also to have extra to give to my gracious host and the loaner of the kitchen aid.
Luckily my host was a good New Yorker, and had nothing but a few eggs and condiments in her fridge, so I was able to fill it completely.
When it came time to trim all of these cakes, I was extremely grateful I had purchased the wilton cake leveler (http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=415-800). Its adjustment setting were fairly crude, necessitating a fair amount of trimming, but since I had baked tall cakes and was going for 3 layers/tier, this loss didn’t matter to me, whereas getting the cakes evenly flat quickly was a high priority.
I used a wide pastry brush to apply the kahlua syrup. If I were to do it again, I would invest in a syringe.
In my smallish kitchen aid, I shrunk the mousseline buttercream recipe on 514 to 85% of listed amounts, which just fit. I think I ended up making 4 or 5 batches.
Getting the cakes from Brooklyn to the venue in Manhattan was a source of stress dreams for me for about 2 months. I was able to find 10x10x10 cake boxes for the smaller tiers easily, but was unable to find any boxes able to fit the 12” tiers that were probably about 7” high (there were plenty online, but I really didn’t want a case of 50). Eventually I realized I was being silly, walked a few blocks to a fed ex store on Myrtle, and got two 14x14x14 boxes.
I called up a private car service and ordered and SUV, and filled my carry on suitcase with frosting and spatulas, and took off to the wedding. My paranoia over this ride was justified. Both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges were closed, so the Williamsburg bridge was a stop and go disaster. The driver had to stop short in the middle of the bridge as we were cut off, and I heard one cake break free of its frosting glue to the bottom of the box and smack into the side wall— one down… I could lose two more if they were the right two. But that was it. Made it to the venue just in time to run out into the park were photos were just starting. For the stacking, I used boba straws as they are far thicker and stronger. The frosting I had made 2-3 hours earlier was still soft and pliant, I did not need to re-beat it onsite as I feared, and the tiers were spackled together with ease. I was given a box of wildflowers from the florist, and I set about with some childhood friends to decorate… and voila, beauty.
Everyone loved looking at it, and eating it, and folks who normally don’t really care for cake took seconds. People kept asking the groom where they could get a cake like this, and he laughed and told them tough luck.
Thank you Julie for your great advice, you were a huge help in this turning out wonderfully!
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