Thursday, August 27, 2015

Project Wedding Cake 2015: Planning

I mentioned last post that my next big project is a wedding cake for some good friends in Oakland. Because of the distance between Oakland and LA, I am not making the entire cake at home and driving it to the wedding (like I did last time). That means I have a LOT of pre-planning to do, if I want to make this happen. So here is my plan:

  1. Bake the cakes a few weeks in advance at home, triple wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the freezer. (I always bake big cakes at least a week in advance, and typically 3 weeks out, and freeze the layers, because they are SO much easier to work with when they are frozen!)
  2. Fly to Oakland with the frozen cake layers. I still haven't decided if they will be my carry-on (which I prefer) or if I should put them in a suitcase and check them... I get really nervous when I think about the cakes getting tossed around with the luggage, but I am a little more nervous that TSA won't allow me to carry on frozen cakes... I have carried on baked goods plenty of times, but never a large quantity of cake, and never frozen. I'll need to do a little more TSA research...
  3. Day before the wedding, make the frosting and filling and assemble the cake - I can do this at my friend's apartment where we're staying, or I can do this at the bride and groom's house. I want to be as out of the way as possible, but I also don't want to have to transport the cake after it's assembled. I may take the approach that I did for Heather's wedding, and make all of the tiers separately ready to go, then transport them to the bride and groom's house to stack them and store them in the fridge. I just hope their fridge is big enough!
  4. Day of the wedding, the caterer will transport the cake from the bride and groom's house to the reception venue down the street. No stress for me!!
So aside from the whole flying with frozen cake issue, I think the plan is pretty solid. I will bake the cakes this weekend. The bride and groom requested a three-tiered square cake to feed approximately 120 people. They want the top and bottom layers to be vanilla, and the middle layer to be chocolate. The chocolate layer should have fruit filling, and the vanilla layers should have buttercream filling. The entire cake will be frosted in white buttercream, and decorated with flowers from their florist. I haven't decided what kind of fruit filling I'll make yet, but I'm leaning toward raspberry, as that is usually a crowd pleaser!

I am going to bake the chocolate and vanilla cakes this weekend. Check out the ingredients I'll need for one 14" and one 6" square vanilla cake, and one 10" chocolate cake (each cake will have 3 layers):

  • 17 cups of flour
  • 12.5 cups of sugar
  • 6.5 tbsp baking powder
  • 12.5 sticks butter
  • 7.5 cups buttermilk
  • 29 eggs
  • 8.75 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 cups coffee
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
As always, the wedding cake recipe I use comes from the amazing cake book Sky High. I use both the chocolate and vanilla cake recipes for every big cake project that I've done, including the gluten-free wedding cake! They always turn out spectacularly.

I think I will go to Smart and Final to get bulk flour, sugar, buttermilk and eggs!! I'll post again once I've finished the baking, and all cakes are wrapped and in the freezer. Here we go!

Friday, August 21, 2015

2015 Update and New Projects!

Hi Blog World,
It's halfway through 2015! Where does time go? Over the past two years there have been lots of changes: I moved to LA, I started running and completed 7 half marathons so far, and have tried to live a healthier lifestyle, which means FAR less baking... But I'm still baking for special occasions, or by request :)

Here are some recent baking projects that I've done:

Minion Cake for my nephew's 2nd birthday!
Harry - the newest minion?

Happy 2nd Birthday Harry!

Bridal Shower Cookies and Cupcakes for my dear friend's bridal shower! The theme was 'girly' so I went with pink, white and gold, and used lace as my inspiration.
Lace/doily hearts
More doilies
Strawberry Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Roses

The sweet spread
Zoo Baby Shower Cupcakes for my best friend's baby shower!
Lions and Tigers and Panda Bears, Oh My! (and Zebras!)





The whole display!
Pies! My mom and I took a pie making class from the wonderful Kate McDermott ( and I've been practicing my skills!

Apricot Pie fresh from the oven

Mom and I with our finished pies!
Mom and I with the Amazing Kate!!

Triple Berry pie! (not enough egg wash...but still tasty)

Peach pie ready for the oven!

I have a couple more big projects in the coming month, which I'll be sure to document here. One bachelorette party, and a WEDDING CAKE! The special challenge with the wedding cake is that the wedding is in Oakland...and I live in there will be lots of travel/logistics involved. Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cake Chronicles pt 5

Hi. I had to take a long break from posting (and baking!) after pulling off the wedding cake. I know you've been anxiously awaiting the finale of the Cake Chronicles series, so here we go :)

As you may recall, I needed to make three cakes for the 300-person wedding: a big tiered chocolate cake, a vanilla sheet cake, and a carrot cake sheet cake. I split the baking into two weekends. Over memorial day weekend, I baked the tiered wedding cake. The following weekend, I baked the two sheet cakes. All in all, I think I spent around 16 hours baking and assembling all three cakes. This is serious business, people! (This shows how much I love you, Heather!!) It's no wonder professional bakers charge so much for their cakes! Now, to be fair, I don't have multiple ovens, or even multiple pans, so each layer had to go into the oven on its own, which means for a 3 tiered cake, that was 3 rounds of 3-pan baking, and then 4 rounds of sheet cake baking. Plus washing and preparing the pans before each round. The baking probably took the most time!

I didn't take any pictures of the chocolate cake baking, but here are some of the carrot cake!

Carrots processing for the batter
 For the carrot cake, I used my favorite carrot cake recipe, omitting any nuts and raisins. I used my engineering degree math skills to determine that for a 2-layer sheet cake, I would need 3 batches of the recipe (which normally makes enough batter for two 9-inch round pans). I made 1.5 batches at a time because I only have one sheet pan.

Carrot cake batter!
 After baking nine layers of chocolate cake (three 14" squares, three 10" squares, and three 6" squares), and four layers of sheet cake (two carrot, two vanilla), I put everything in the freezer (and...nothing else). I used creative stacking techniques to make sure it all fit! The freezer door piece posed a problem, so I had to raise the big cakes to clear the door shelf that stuck out on the bottom. But everything fit, and it gave me a great excuse to clean out my freezer!! The 14" square tiers are stacked on the right side, the layer cakes on top, and the 10" and 6" tiers on the bottom.

Cake for 300 people in my apartment freezer!
 On Thursday night, I flew home from my job in Portland, and started the frosting component for these cakes! Here are the ingredients: buttermilk, cream cheese, strawberries, sugar, maple syrup, and lemon juice. Not pictured: LOTS OF EGGS.

Frosting ingredients!
I made swiss meringue buttercream for the big tiered cake, and colored it VERY light pink. And I made strawberry swiss meringue buttercream for the vanilla sheet cake, and maple cream cheese frosting for the carrot cake. Here is the swiss meringue buttercream starting! Yes, that is 10 sticks of butter you see. I was making a LOT of frosting!!

Egg whites heated over simmering water, and frozen butter thawing.
A pro-tip: if you have frozen butter (or frozen anything) it thaws significantly faster if you place it on a metal surface, like a baking sheet, rather than a counter. The metal conducts heat and thaws the frozen items much faster than a counter-top can. How's that for an engineering degree? :)

Time to assemble! Here is the big 14" layer. First, I leveled the layers, and then I spread a centimeter or so thickness of frosting on the layers (not a technical measurement... it may have been 1/4 inch...but it was enough to be a nice layer between the cake layers!). Also - I always frost frozen cakes. They are so much easier to work with, and as long as you leave plenty of time to defrost (overnight is best) then you're fine!

Frosting the cake
 I just used a plain white meringue buttercream for the filling and crumb coat (thin layer on the outside of the cake) because I would be covering the cake in pink icing later. Here is the 10" cake filled and the start of the crumb coat!

Crumb coat
 Once I filled and crumb-coated each of the three tiers, they went into the fridge overnight.The next morning (Friday) was the big frosting day! I started by making the pink buttercream for the big tiered cake. I made another batch of swiss meringue buttercream and put a few drops of red food coloring to turn it a light pink. FORTUNATELY, I had plenty of frosting. If I had to make another batch, I have no idea how I would have matched the color. I did count how many drops I used...but color matching is hard! Make more frosting than you need!!

Pink frosting ready for the cake!
 When you're making a large tiered cake, you need to use dowels to support the tiers. I ordered these paper dowels to use and cut them to the height of my cake. Here's where I nearly encountered disaster. I DID NOT MEASURE THE DOWELS. I can't believe that I did this, but I was in a big hurry, and I laid the dowels next to each other and cut them to what visually was even. However, later in the day when I was stacking the cake at the venue, it was clear that the dowels were slightly different heights, and the cake was lopsided!! Luckily I had extra frosting and was able to put frosting on the lower side to even it out, but it was NOT something I wanted to have happen, and I really lucked out that I was able to fix it. Please measure your dowels and don't trust that they "look" even. A slight difference can really throw off the tiers :(

Dowels going into the cake
I frosted the cake with pink frosting, and added a strip of burlap and lace to the bottom of each tier. Each tier was on its own cake board, and went into its own cake box and back into the fridge while I made the frosting for the sheet cakes.

For the vanilla sheet cake, I made a strawberry swiss meringue buttercream. This is the exact same buttercream recipe that I used for the chocolate cake, but I pureed strawberries and poured the puree into the finished buttercream and mixed it in. I didn't strain the puree, because I liked the look of the seeds in the frosting. Plus, this was not a cake that would be on display! I also sliced some extra strawberries to go in the middle of the layers :)

Strawberry cake being frosted!
After the strawberry cake was done, I made the maple cream cheese frosting. I was WAY overzealous on the ingredients for the frosting. For whatever reason, I thought I would need 5 batches of frosting for this cake (even though I only made 3 batches of batter!) so if you are in need of cream cheese, I have plenty in my fridge :) I ended up only making 3 batches of frosting, and still had tons left over.

Carrot cake being frosted!
And here is the finished carrot cake!

Finished carrot cake!
I boxed up the two sheet cakes and packed up the car to go down to Clovis. I was planning to take the cakes directly to the venue, where they would be refrigerated overnight and I could assemble the tiered cake in the morning before the wedding. As we were driving to Clovis, I got a phone call from my friend telling me that there was no refrigerator space at the venue! So my mom came to the rescue and had me take the cakes to her office, where they were stored in a big commercial refrigerator. Thanks, Clovis Unified District Office! :)

The day of the wedding was 100*F in Clovis...which means certain death for buttercream frosting. Luckily there was an air conditioned room at the venue. We went out to the venue and I got to stacking the cakes. As I mentioned previously, I had a little scare with the uneven dowels (ugh) but was able to fix it and the cake came out beautifully!!

The cake!
 The florist saved some flowers for me to put on top of the cake, and they were really beautiful!

Burlap and Lace
 Heather ordered this really cute custom wooden cake topper. I hope she saved it! :)

Heather + Jonathan
 Congrats to the beautiful bride and handsome groom!!!

my best friend is married!!!!
I've taken a full month off baking after these three big baking projects, but look forward to more delicious things soon!

Read the rest of the Cake Chronicles Series:
(1) Cake Chronicles
(2) Cake Chronicles pt 2
(3) Cake Chronicles - Intermission
(4) Cake Chronicles pt 3
(6) Cake Chronicles pt 5 (you're here!)

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