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1st Wedding Cake - Analysis Part 1

PrettyKitteh's picture

1st Wedding Cake - Analysis Part 1 (post #65175)


I've started this post a few times but never managed to finish it properly so waited for the weekend to sit down and do it when I'm not busy. Thanks again for everyone's assistance throughout the making of my first wedding cake and I literally don't think I could have done it without all the great advice I received here. I've divided the process into two parts.

The wedding was July 25th and I while I wanted the cake to be as fresh as possible I also wanted to give myself lots of buffer time. Here is my timeline and then I'll breakdown each day with my comments and questions. The pictures are fairly self-explanatory. The palm trees were my view from the kitchen and had a calming effect when I was stressing!

July 23rd - make cakes
July 24th - assemble and decorate cake onsite
July 25th - decorate with fresh flowers

Thursday July 23rd - 90F

Bake all cake layers [plus one extra for tasting/testing].
Crumb coat all layers, add fruit filling and assemble three cakes.
Make buttercream for decorating.


I ended-up using a recipe I found on a Chowhound thread about wedding cakes and I really did like it for flavour, texture and ease of handling. The recipe also broke down how much batter it would make which helped me with baking the cake layers. The recipe seems to be a family recipe that has been used for years. The cakes released very easily and baked evenly too. Thanks for the suggestion to cool them upright as it did help a lot with leveling.

Made one batch of buttercream using RLB recipe which I also really liked for its smoothness. I put each cake on a cardboard cake circle with a bit of buttercream to stick it down. I'd washed the fruit and allowed it to air dry. I sliced the strawberries and raspberries to keep the layer from getting too thick. I used each cake as a layer so I didn't have to cut any extra layers. Do most people do that or do they use 3" pans and layer the cake? In the end I randomly placed the fruit. I didn't crumb coat the underside of the next layer as suggested so some of the juices could mingle. Also, thanks for the suggestion to pipe around the edge of the cake to contain fruit as I had no issues with fruit emerging from the sides. As each cake tier was completed with an overall crumb coat it went into the fridge to chill overnight.

I also used that extra layer to make a test cake to make sure everything tasted OK and I was happy with the result and that removed a "layer" of anxiety as I knew the cake would at least taste the way the bride wanted it to.

I went to make another batch of buttercream and all I could smell was blue cheese. I opened one of the packages of butter only to find black mould on it! Living here has made me test everything I use before adding it to anything. My husband came home with more butter which was made in France and while perfectly fresh but I wasn't as keen on the flavour once it was done. By now it was midnight so I put it in a container, into the fridge then I and collapsed into bed.

Being too tired when I decorated the test cake made me make sure I had a decent night's sleep before the big decorating day.

To be continued....

Bramma's picture

(post #65175, reply #1 of 13)

The height on each layer was awesome! Any link to the recipe you used?

Nice job!

PrettyKitteh's picture

(post #65175, reply #2 of 13)

Let me see if I can find where I cut/paste it from Chowhound into Word so I could print it off for me to use....

PrettyKitteh's picture

(post #65175, reply #3 of 13)

I thought this would be easier than posting the link to the entire thread. This is the recipe I used and really liked too. I didn't use vanilla paste even though I had it on hand as I find it has a sweetness to it I don't like so I used regular good quality vanilla. Just in case anyone isn't sure, the q.s. just means you put 1 tablespoon of vinegar in a measuring cup and then add milk to measure 1 cup.

Here's a marvelous butter cake recipe that we often use for special occasion and wedding cakes we make for friends. We baked off four or five highly recommended vanilla cake recipes (including the favorite of my mom's old pastry school instructor and current reigning national pastry champion), and in a blind taste test, this was the unanimous winner. It freezes and travels beautifully, too. I made my brother-in-law's wedding cake last August, and baked and froze the cakes here in Phoenix and drove them up to San Francisco (packed in coolers with dry ice) for the wedding. The high butter content keeps the cake incredibly moist and delicious.

Vanilla Butter Cake
Yield: 6 cups batter

Unsalted butter, softened 8 oz (½ lb)
Sugar 2 cups
Large eggs, room temp 4 ea
White vinegar 1 Tbsp
q.s. vinegar w milk at room temp to 1 cup
Vanilla paste 1 Tbsp
AP flour, unbleached 2¾ cups
Baking powder 2¼ tsp
Salt ¾ tsp

Preheat oven to 350°F
Grease and flour pans, and prepare parchment liner to go in over that
Cream room temp butter and sugar together on medium speed until fluffy, ~3 min
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
Add vanilla bean paste to creamed mixture
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in separate bowl, whisking to integrate
Add the dry ingredients in thirds alternately with the milk-vinegar liquid in halves to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
Divide batter into prepared pans
Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until it tests done

Baking notes (will differ depending on your oven):
Electric conventional, Fairfield GE, 8” pan: 20 minutes, it jiggled, but +5 minutes, it was done
Middle shelf was better. Back of middle shelf was little browner
Electric convection, Fairfield Gagenau:
Let cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

Round pan Amount of batter Time to bake
6” pan ~2 cups 35 minutes
8” pan 3 cups 40-45 minutes
9” pan 4½ cups 40-45 minutes
10” pan 6 cups 40-45 minutes
12” pan 9 cups 45-50 minutes
14” pan 11 cups 55 minutes (I use baking core)
16” pan 13-14 cups 60 minutes (I use baking core)

NB: Amounts and times can vary a little, but should be consistent within the wedding cake.

Edit: hitting "submit" on the post messed with the formatting I tried to include, but you should be able to figure out what I meant. Let me know if it leads to any confusion, and I'll do my best to clarify.

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PrettyKitteh's picture

(post #65175, reply #4 of 13)

Ooops....forgot the picture of the view from the kitchen...couldn't add it to original post. The first picture is the view from the kitchen and the second is where the bride walked down the "aisle" to meet the groom for the ceremony on the beach.

Edited 8/2/2009 2:09 pm ET by PrettyKitteh

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suz's picture

(post #65175, reply #11 of 13)

Your cake is as beautiful as the view from your kitchen.

PrettyKitteh's picture

(post #65175, reply #12 of 13)

Thanks so much for the compliments. I have a new found appreciation for cake bakers and those who can decorate them beautifully. I'm sure practice helps a lot and I just need to learn a few of the tricks or better ways of doing things.

Yeah, no complaints about the view from my kitchen or from the one at the resort. I don't know how they work in there when the restaurant is open because I was melting along with my buttercream without doing a thing.

StevenHB's picture

(post #65175, reply #9 of 13)

Beautiful and a nice beginning to your after-action-report!

In case anyone is interested, here's a link to the Chowhound source, which includes a bit of additional discussion around the recipe:

Maybe we'll find direction, around some corner, where it's been waiting to meet us.

Without coffee, chocolate, and beer, in that order, life as we know it would not be possible

Without coffee, chocolate, and beer, in that order, life as we know it would not be possible
Bramma's picture

(post #65175, reply #10 of 13)

Thanks so much for the recipe!

PrettyKitteh's picture

(post #65175, reply #13 of 13)

No problem, that recipe is definitely going into my book of keeper recipes.

Adele's picture

(post #65175, reply #5 of 13)

Clap Clap Clap!   Absolutely beautiful.  Congratulations to YOU!

Edit: I used each cake as a layer so I didn't have to cut any extra layers. Do most people do that or do they use 3" pans and layer the cake?

I've done it both ways, used a 2" as a layer itself and have also cut each 2" into two pieces.  Have also cut a 3" into two layers.

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

Edited 8/2/2009 5:09 pm ET by Adele

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

PrettyKitteh's picture

(post #65175, reply #6 of 13)

Thanks so much for your kind words. Some of the things that worked with this cake were pure luck and not skill on my part. I was concerned that each cake was too thick but at that point couldn't really do anything about it. The top cake is a little higher than the other two because I added a little extra fruit since my guess was they'd have that little cake to eat after the wedding.

Adele's picture

(post #65175, reply #7 of 13)

Just think, your next one will go so much easier now that you have the experience.  Next time, you must delve into fondant.  I love working with it. 

There is a website called egullet that RuthWells participates in, perhaps she'll come along and guide you to where the cakes are.

You need the Whimsical Bakehouse cookbook too, as well as the Cake Bible for reference.   Just wait, we'll have your bookshelves filled and your cabinets overstuffed with cake products.  :)  There is actually a device made that cuts cake layers in half.  Exactly.  It even levels the tops.


But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

bjb0777's picture

(post #65175, reply #8 of 13)

Dazzling..what a great job! I am not a am even more in awe. Well done! barb