Hi all! Its been a hectic past week for me because MY BEST FRIEND GOT MARRIED TWO DAYS AGO. It was an exciting and happy event, filled with dancing and eating and general fun. And as you’ve guessed from the title of this post, I was asked to make the wedding cake. She only asked me a month before the wedding, and at first I was very nervous about it. I’ve never made a great tasting layered cake before, and the ones I have made usually 1) don’t look so great, and 2) don’t taste awesome. Thankfully though, I’ve made bad layered cakes before, so I knew what to watch out for. Thus started my journey of making a perfect wedding cake for my best friend.
Bride and Groom with the wedding cake
One of my most trusted recipe blog sites is Smitten Kitchen, so I headed over right away to find a wedding cake recipe. Finding a wedding cake recipe is important because cakes tend to be heavy, and stacking them usually results in a dense cake. Although there is that fine balance between texture and being stackable, it was more important that my cake didn’t crumble under its own weight. Thankfully, Deb has made a wedding cake before, and her recipe is delicious. I decided to make both cakes, although I quickly realized the chocolate cake is very tender. My friend asked for a two-tiered cake, and although I would much prefer to have lots of chocolate cake for the bottom tier, I was afraid that the cake would not hold. Thus, I decided the bottom would be the yellow butter vanilla cake and the top would be chocolate cake. One of my baking habits is to NOT use vanilla unless the flavor of vanilla is a prominent feature (such as creme brulee), and that back fired on me on the big (baking) day. I forgot to use vanilla on the cake. =( Fortunately, the buttercream got some, so it all worked out. My final recipe is:
Yellow Butter Cake (for 8×3 inch cake pan):
- 300g cake flour
- 19g baking powder
- 300g sugar
- 7.5 oz butter, cubed, slightly chilled
- 180g buttermilk
- 48g buttermilk
- 3 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- Line your cake pan fully with parchment paper.
- Add cake flour, baking powder, some salt, and sugar together into a LARGE bowl.
- Using an electric mixer, Cream the butter into the dry ingredients by adding a piece of butter at a time. This helps the cake rise evenly without doming.
- Add the 180g buttermilk to the creamed mixture, and whisk the batter until light and fluffy.
- Whisk 48g buttermilk with 3 eggs and 2 egg yolks.
- Add egg mixture in to the batter. Mix until smooth. Pour into cake pan.
- Bake at 325C for 1 hour and 20 minutes
Chocolate Cake (for 6×3 inch cake pan):
- 180g hot water for coffee/cocoa mix
- 64g cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp instant coffee/ espresso powder / strong coffee
- 180g cake flour
- 225g sugar
- 10g baking soda
- 5g salt
- 6oz butter, cubed, slightly chilled
- 144g buttermilk
- 1 1/2 eggs (24 g = half an egg)
- Line your cake pan fully with parchment paper.
- Make strong coffee using 180g hot water. This could mean brewing your own coffee, or using a couple of packets of espresso powder in water. I typically do 3 tbsp of instant coffee. Just taste the coffee – you want it to be fairly bitter.
- Add the 64g cocoa powder into the strong coffee and mix. There will be clumps but don’t worry about it. Set aside.
- Again, cream the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, salt with cubed butter using an electric mixer.
- Pour the 144g buttermilk in to the creamed mixture again, and whisk until light and fluffy. You can add some of the coffee/cocoa mixture in as a reference to see when the batter has become lighter.
- Add 1 and 1/2 eggs into the coffee/cocoa mixture, and whisk until smooth.
- Pour coffee mixture into cake batter, and mix until smooth.
- Pour batter into 6×3 cake pan, 3/4ths high up. There will be tons left over, so I typically pour the rest into a pyrex dish and bake it as well.
- Bake at 325C for 50 minutes
The next thing to decide was flavors. At first I just wanted to be boring and use buttercream between the layers. However, upon reading all of Deb’s post for the wedding cake she made, I was inspired to do lemon curd for the yellow butter cake and raspberry for the chocolate layer. I knew the bride liked lemon tarts (cause I made her one a few months ago), and raspberry with chocolate is always a good combo. I opted for using Serious Eat’s lemon curd recipe (without the strawberry part). The raspberry part took a little more fiddling with. My recipe ended up being 200g frozen raspberries, 50g sugar, 30g corn starch (dissolved in minimal water) and created a congealed raspberry glob that was thick enough to create a nice, thick layer of raspberry in between the chocolate cake layers. The congealed part was important because I didn’t want the sauce to be flowing out of the cake once the layers were stacked on, and I found that unless the raspberry layer was thick, its flavor was not very prominent as I had hoped.
To my dismay, the buttercream recipe Deb provides at Smitten Kitchen tastes like butter. And while that is awesome for cake making, eating a cake with that buttercream recipe tasted like I was rubbing my mouth down with sticks of butter. My favorite buttercream recipe is from the book The Science of Good Cooking (Cook’s Illustrated Cookbooks) (which I HIGHLY recommend), but it is unfortunately at the bottom of my many boxes that are waiting to be moved to Chicago. So I turned to Serious Eats for another recipe. I don’t always count on Serious Eats for good baking recipes, but since it came with a slideshow regarding the technique to creating buttercream, I went along with it. The fact that it called for egg whites in grams also made it seem very promising. It turned out to be utterly delicious, and it is now my new favorite. Although the recipe calls for 1 lbs of butter, I typically add just enough butter just to get it to turn from a water-based emulsion to a butter-based emulsion, so the consistency tends to be loose. This is usually calls for 3 to 3 1/2 sticks of butter. I flavored the buttercream with vanilla extract in the end. The buttercream is not a big part of the flavors of the cake however, because I used just enough to “glue” the fondant to the cake. Which finally brings us to….
What. A. Bitch. Fondant was by far the hardest thing to deal with while making the cake, but to be fair I’ve never worked with fondant prior to making this wedding cake. As for the recipe, I wasn’t choosy so I just went over to foodnetwork.com and found a fondant recipe. Translated into weights, that recipe means 60g water, 1 packet of gelatine (~8g), 170g light corn syrup or glucose, 28g glycerine, and ~2lbs sugar, depending on how much I work in. I think the trick to working with fondant is to try to not work too much sugar in initially, and then use tons of sugar while you are rolling it out to prevent it from sticking to the table/itself. If you add too much sugar into the fondant (rolling it out too many times due to rips, or working too much sugar into the fondant to begin with), the surface of the fondant won’t be smooth and end up looking like elephant skin.
Finally, the most fun part of a wedding cake: design! I chose to go with a simple quilted pattern (like a Channel bag), and used buttercream to glue on pale yellow beads. I cut a cardboard into a triangle, and traced the edge into the fondant using the rounded tip of a butter knife. I used 2.5 cm intervals between each line. The yellow beads the bride got for me from Michael’s. Near the big (baking) day, I was told a two-tiered cake would look tiny on the table, so the bride got me a 10x3inch and 12x3inch Styrofoam fake cakes to cover with fondant. In the end it required 1 1/2 buttercream recipes, 2 1/2 fondant recipes to cover everything properly, since the fake cake portion needed buttercream as well (as glue). The bride also asked her florist to put some flowers on top as decoration.
Tons of thanks to my wonderful helper, Demi Wang
And finally, I would like to thank everyone who was encouraged me through this long process of learning how to make a wedding cake, and all of those that I have stuffed the cake down the throats of. 7 cake trials, 6.5 hours on the big (baking) day, and the magic of one florist later, the cake was baked.