So my best friend Cara got married (so did her fiancé Dan). It was amazing.
The last five or so days have become a blur out of complete exhaustion.
Thursday and Friday I was buried away in the kitchen making cakes and dressings and salads and sauces. Then the big day arrived on Saturday and I was up at 7am chopping onions, organising food and people in between coats of mascara and on less than five hours sleep.
I can't remember much of the wedding. I didn't really attend the reception as such. I was one quarter of the catering machine that consisted of Mum and Dad (who had flown down for the wedding) and Mr Alex (who had driven up from Dunedin to be my date). We operated in the kitchen and at the serving tables. Flip I feel shattered just thinking about it. Brownie points to Alex for being such a babe in the kitchen (I think he got the parental nod of approval for his efforts there).
Alex and his excellent cake cutting skills
All of Cara's friends wondered how I became such a crazy party organising dictator. Then they met my parents and the mystery was solved. The day would not have gone down so well without the both of them there.
The stars I have for parents
But all in all it was a great day (although rather windy!) and it was a lovely wedding and Cara looked absolutely stunning.
So as promised, here is a truthful account dictating my comings and goings with a particular wedding cake.
The cake. It consisted of six cakes stacked together. Four tiers and about 8kg in all. Each tier was a super moist chocolate mocha cake. I am surprised the nice crystal cake stand didn't snap under the shear weight of it all. It was so moist that when I went to level the cakes off with a bread knife the sticky crumbs on the top got into the cracks in my finger prints and stained them black. The stains are still here three days later.
I didn't feel comfortable decorating the cake with fondant so I stuck within my comfort zone and slathered the cake in buttercream. To make it a little more special and to coordinate it a little better with the chocolate cake, I mixed in a big batch of white chocolate ganache as well.
Since I realised the cake kept so well and didn't dry out I made the cakes on the Thursday morning then kept them in their tins until Friday afternoon when I iced them.
As part of agreeing to make this cake for her I had made my conditions for icing the cakes very clear. I wanted a nice quiet place which was cool so the buttercream didn't go sloppy, I needed access to a fridge. I needed speakers to play some angry dance music with. And I needed to be alone.
I only got the fridge (in the form of the most excellent refrigerated trailer!).
I was outside on an old desk in the North Canterbury heat, surrounded by people (who insisted on watching) and someone was playing the most non-dancey of playlists. Looking back I am glad I was outside. You should have seen the amount of cake crumbs and icing splatters I left on the ground!
I am usually a really nice person. However there are sometimes where I just want to be alone otherwise I risk stabbing someone (or a cake) with the nearest sharp object around. Crumb coating four really moist and crumbly cakes is one of those times. Communicating this to the 10 or so people watching me fell upon deaf ears. They now all think i'm a raving lunatic. Luckily for the top buttercream coats they had all gone to pick flowers and it was just me and the best man chilling over a few beers whilst I piped away.
When making a tiered cake you need to have cake boards and wooden struts supporting each layer. The thick wooden support skewers you insert into each cake basically transfers the weight of the top cakes straight down to the plate the cake is sitting on. This way it prevents the sponge of the cake getting compressed and sinking like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You can buy boards and wooden struts from all good craft shops and cake decorating shops. I got mine from Spotlight.
I also recommend having a turn table to ice your cake on. I use a granite lazy Susan I found in my grandmother's house. It certainly makes life a hell of a lot easier and allows you to achieve a nice even coating.
Before you ice your cakes all fancy and what not you are going to want to do a crumb coat. Not sure what a crumb coat is? See it as a base coat when painting. It glues all the crumbs in place so when you let it set then go to ice over the top you don't get crumbs in the top coat (which is frustrating as hell!). This
l by the Whisk Kid is one of the best so go have a gander!
The piping techniques I used were the
In between each patterned tier I just kept the icing plain and simple.
Mum and Dad's wedding gift to Cara was bringing her flowers down from Auckland. They also brought with them the most amazing cake topper! I am so pleased with how it turned out, it was completely perfect and suited the tone of the wedding excellently.
I used two relatively shallow 25cm spring form tins, one deep 20cm spring form tin, one deep loose bottom tin and two 11cm shallow spring form tins to make this cake.
Being the total food science nerd that I am I weighed the cake batter into the tins when doing the prototype so that cooking times would be consistent and the layers would be roughly the right height. I'll list those weights in the method below.
The last thing you will require for this cake is perserverance and patience. Also sometimes an imperfect cake is far more appealing than a textbook masterpiece. I repiped the rose layer four times and I was still not happy with it but I just had to put down the piping bag and accept the cake for how it was.
The recipe below will be enough to fill 2x 25cm cake tins or 1x20cm and 1x15cm and 2x11cm cake tins. So what I am really trying to say is that you need to double the recipe to get all four layers :)
Chocolate Mocha Cake
Enough batter for 2x25cm cake tins or 1x20cm and 1x15cm and 2x11cm cake tins
3 cups white sugar
3/4 cup oil (I use sunflower)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or a mixture of plain yoghurt and milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups cocoa
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups strong black coffee
Prepare the appropriate cake tins by lining the bases with baking paper and greasing the sides with butter and then dusting with flour. Preheat the oven to 180 on bake.
In a large mixing bowl or cake mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs until thick then beat in the oil and then buttermilk and vanilla. Sieve in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until smooth. Carefully stir then mix in the black coffee until a runny mixture is achieved.
Place each empty tin on a set of scale and zero them. Place approximately the following amounts in each tin:
If you can fit the top three tiers in the oven at the same time, place all the cakes in to begin with then take them out one at a time as they finish baking.
25cm: 45-50 minutes
20cm: 70 minutes (because this cake was much deeper than the 25cm cakes)
15cm: 60 minutes
11cm: 25 minutes
Leave the cakes to fully cool before even considering icing. These cakes freeze pretty well so if you are wanting to bake them well in advance just place them in a heavy duty freezer bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. I kept the cakes in the tins right up until it came time to ice them. It made transporting them way easier.
White Chocolate Buttercream
500g white chocolate (I used Dream), chopped into small pieces
1 1/4 cups cream
250g butter, softened to room temperature
3.5kg icing sugar
vanilla bean paste
approx 1/2 cup cream (to loosen the icing)
gel food colouring
To make the ganache, heat the cream on a medium heat in a saucepan. Once the cream is just below simmering, take it off the heat and place in the white chocolate. Leave to sit for a minute before whisking together to a smooth liquid. Leave to set in the fridge. You might want to do this the night before or at the same time as you bake the cakes.
I had to make the buttercream in two lots because my mixer can't cope with that much icing sugar.
To make the buttercream, beat the softened butter until pale and creamy. This may take around 5 minutes. Slowly add in the icing sugar a couple of cups at a time, alternating with splashes of cream to help loosen it. Start adding scoops of the white chocolate ganache and beating in until fluffy and voluminous. Once the buttercream is a good fluffy but still sturdy texture you can begin to ice the cakes. At this stage I keep the icing colourless but that is totally up to you.
Transfer some of the icing to a small bowl (this way you don't contaminate the main icing bowl with cake crumbs). Place each cake on its appropriately sized cake board. Get a mug of boiling water and with a nice long butter knife begin to
the cooled cakes. Use the hot water by dipping your knife in it to help cut through the icing and spread it thinly. After coating each layer, place it on a plate and leave to set in the fridge for half an hour. I usually start with the largest base layer because by the time the top layer has been crumb coated the base is ready for the top coat.
Colour your icing however you wish and proceed to decorate each layer in your desired fashion.
To assemble the cakes you will need three 20cm thick wooden cake skewers. Place the finished 25cm base layer on the cake stand you wish to present your cake on. Place the cake skewers right down into the cake in a triangular shape that is no larger than the 20cm cake that will sit atop of them. Use a pencil to mark the point at which the skewers emerge from the cake (it will be the same height as the cake). Remove the skewers and trim them using a small saw. Return the trimmed skewer pieces to their holes in the base cake layer. Place the next iced cake on top of the support skewers. Repeat this process with the next 15cm layer. The top 11cm layer was so light it wasn't worth supporting with a skewer. If in doubt just google "how to assemble a tiered cake" haha. After placing each tier on top of the one below, use some of the icing to make sure you can't see the cake board beneath each cake.
Adam the best man
Once everything is glued and placed together (it's a bit of an engineering masterpiece really) store the cake in a cool room. If you need to store it in the fridge overnight just remove the cake a few hours before serving to bring it up to temperature again.
Top the cake with something pretty and cover with edible glitter if you desire.
Collapse into an exhausted heap in the corner of the room!
There you have it! I am actually horrendously surprised that the entire cake got consumed on the day. There were less than 90 people eating it too and it was served right after dessert!
If you are a little nervous about making such a monster the first time around do what I did and build your confidence up by making a two or three tiered cake first just to practice.
So congratulations Mr and Mrs Gibbs, I love you both so much.