Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake!

After spending months planning, weeks testing, two days baking, syruping, filling and frosting, and about two hour's worth of freaking out, Sam and Andrea's wedding cake was finished. In a garden on a beautiful warm Portland afternoon, about 75 friends and family gathered to celebrate the lovely couple, and eventually eat cake.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake

July 30, 2011
Name of Cake: Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
Occasion: Sam and Andrea's Wedding
Constituents: one two layer, 12 in Golden Dream Wedding Cake filled with White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream and frosted with Italian Meringue Buttercream, one two layer, 9 in dairy-free chocolate cake (the deep passion cake, syruped with spiced rum syrup) filled with fresh raspberry coulis and frosted with vegan cream cheese frosting, one two layer, 6 in Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake filled with Midnight Ganache and frosted with Italian Meringue Buttercream. Phew!

I decided to borrow a friend's kitchen to bake the wedding cake. They have a pet-free kitchen with a good amount of counter space, dishwasher, microwave, and AC. All things I do not have. Plus, they were out of town so I could feel free to bake into the wee hours and swear loudly.

Here's my mobile kitchen:

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake

The wedding being on a Saturday, I decided to bake and syrup on Thursday and fill and frost on Friday. That worked out really well. The cakes were all still really moist on Saturday evening, and all the buttercreams had a chance to sort themselves out. I always find they taste better on the second day. Also, this kept the cakes refrigerated for a good 48 hours before sitting out for half a day in 83°F weather.

With the exception of the frostings and the raspberry coulis, all the recipes came from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Seeing as I've got about 20 cakes left in the book to bake, taking on such a task as baking a wedding cake was much easier when the recipes were from a very known and very trusted source. It was like having my best friend be my sous chef (which I wish he was...just saying Joelf).

The two chocolate cakes were the cake from the Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake, which is the same cake us Heavenly Bakers have used for the Ice Cream Cake, the Designer Baby Grands, and the German Chocolate Cake. This recipe uses oil instead of butter which made it perfect for the dairy-free layer (the 9 in tier). This is an easy to make cake that is moist and little spongy--sort of like the texture of a box cake, but way WAY better.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
flowers for the cake

Rose splits her wedding cake recipes into two batches: the 6 and 9 inch tiers, and the 12 inch tiers. Which made it perfect for me as I was baking the 6 and 9 inch Deep Chocolate etc cakes and the 12 inch Golden Dream etc Cake.

The 6 inch cakes got the Milk Chocolate Ganache Syrup; the syrup needs to be applied while it is hot so these two cakes got syruped first. The cakes need 140 grams of syrup total, which is a little more than a third of the recipe given (technically I divided the recipe by 3.5). Once these cooled completely and firmed up a bit they were wrapped airtight and refrigerated.

The 9 inch cakes were getting a spiced rum syrup. I based the recipe off of the amaretto syrup for the Almond Shamah Chiffon, however I remembered that the tasting cakes were really wet from using the full amount of syrup so in actuality I only used about 3/4 of the total syrup made. This turned out to be the perfect amount to keep the cakes moist but the rum flavor wasn't very pronounced. Also, I removed the top crust of the cake to better absorb the syrup. The crust came off in the same manner and almost as easily as the top crust of a genoise, which led me to think this cake is halfway between a butter cake and a genoise. That discussion merits a whole post on its own. Again, the cakes were wrapped and refrigerated.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
6 and 9 inch tiers syruped and hanging out

At this point I wanted a change of pace and decided to make the vegan frosting. After all my tests I discovered vegan frostings do much better when they can have a couple days in the refrigerator to firm up and settle down. I had decided to use the Rich Vanilla Frosting since it looked the creamiest and had that intriguing flavor from the apple cider vinegar. I doubled the recipe since it was only for one 8 inch layer.

A quick recap of how this frosting is made: sugar, water, soy milk powder, corn syrup and a pinch of salt are cooked over medium heat to 230°F. This syrup is left to cool down to room temperature. The shortening is beat into the syrup, and vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar, and almond extract are added for flavor.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
i tried to get my ducks in a row

The doubled amount of syrup never came up to temperature before the soy milk powder browned. So I threw that out.

I decided to make two single recipe batches of syrup and combine them when beating in the shortening. My first attempt never came up to temperature before the milk powder browned again.

By this time I was frustrated, and confused. I decided to take a break, go have dinner, and try again later. After a little yelling and fit having.

After a couple of hours I returned to the kitchen, armed with my own pots and my other thermometer. I made two single batches of syrup with no problems. FINALLY. I left them to cool while I got on the 12 inch tier.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
this is a giant pile of dry ingredients

Let me here make a public service announcement to all home bakers wanting to bake a two layer 12 inch cake. This is a huge amount of batter and it probably won't fit in your Kitchen Aid mixer. You know that the batter for two 9 inch cakes pretty much fills up your mixer bowl 2/3 to 3/4 full. The recipe for two 12 inch cakes is essentially like doubling a recipe for two 9 inch cakes. IT WILL NOT FIT IN YOUR MIXER.

You could, if you have it, make two batches of a recipe for two 9 inch cakes (except that you'll need to figure out the leavening situation using the Rose factor in The Cake Bible). There is no 9 inch cake recipe for the Golden Lemon Almond Cake, there is only the bundt recipe which is about 1/3 the recipe of the two 12 inch tiers. So what I did is this, and it seemed to have worked. I prepped everything as if I was going to mix all the batter at once, down to combining the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another. Then I split all that into two batches (by weight) thereby hopefully getting the right amount of leavening into both batches. Like I said, it seemed to have worked.

I did decide to try to bake both layers at the same time but here's my next warning. If you do decide to bake this behemoth in a regular sized oven, they'll be staggered on two shelves. You'll have to switch the pans halfway through and possibly have some foil ready to tent the cake on the top rack. In my case the top cake's top browned early on and was actually finished a couple of minutes before the other (even after switching halfway through). In hindsight I wish I had baked one layer at a time, either by refrigerating the other filled pan or even holding off on mixing the second batch until the first cake was already out of the oven.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
syruped and overnighted at room temperature

The top of cakes are poked with holes and brushed with the lemon-turbinado syrup right after coming out of the oven. After 20 minutes they are turned out and the bottoms are treated similarly. The directions then say to let the cakes cool completely, wrap them airtight, leave them out at room temperature for 24 hours, then you may do with them what you like.

I wish I had remembered that part at the beginning of the day! I would have baked this cake first.

Last thing I did on day one was finish the Rich Vanilla Frosting and store it in the refrigerator.

Then I went home and pretty much collapsed into bed.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
 the cake table was under a fig tree

Friday came and I was determined to stay in a good mood. Today was frosting day! This shouldn't be too complicated, or take too long.

I started off with the White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream, which was the filling for the 12 inch tier. I knew it needed a couple of hours to rest before it could be completed so I thought I could knock that out and while it cooled start the next thing.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
white chocolate lemon buttercream

After melting white chocolate and butter in a double boiler, a bunch of eggs are whisked in and cooked to 140°F. As I stirred and stirred I wondered why we needed this step, and then remembered it was probably to cook the egg to a food service appropriate temperature, as well as to thicken the custard. This custard is then refrigerated, stirring every 30 minutes, until about 70°F. I made a half recipe to fill the 12 inch tier, and it cooled down in about an hour.

Then even more butter (yay butter) is creamed, the custard and lemon oil mixed in, and then this whole mix needs to stand at cool room temperature until spongy and no warmer than 70°F. I put it in their basement and it took pretty much the whole dang day to cool down to 70°.

Next up I tackled the raspberry coulis. I based the recipe off this one by Shaina Olmanson, but used two pints of raspberries, no lemon juice, added two tablespoons of rum, used maybe 3/4 cups sugar, and used three tablespoons cornstarch. I combined everything in a pot, let it macerate for about an hour, cooked the mixture until the liquid pooled slightly on the surface when dropped from a spoon, pushed it through a fine mesh strainer and set it to cool in the refrigerator. This resulted in a very berry, mildly sweet, thick puree that held it's own after slicing. I kind of modified that one as I went along so I am super happy it turned out well.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
9 inch cake insides

When I went to fill and stack the 9 inch cake, I pulled out the Rich Vanilla Frosting I has made from the night before and let it warm up to room temperature. It was GRAINY. It was a big, grainy waste of time. I still used it to make a dam around the edge of the cake, but I finally accepted that I couldn't use it to frost. WHAT THE FUDGE, FROSTING. WHY DO YOU GOTTA BE LIKE THAT.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
i would have liked to have chucked the stupid vegan frosting into a lake like this

I am still not sure what went wrong. The test I had done came out perfectly creamy and white. In fact the test is still in my refrigerator and it still looks perfect and creamy and white. I don't know what happened but I am firing this recipe forever.

After filling the cake with the raspberry coulis I scattered in one layer of fresh raspberries for fun texture, stacked the cakes, refrigerated, and went to the store. After I ate dinner. And read a magazine.

I picked up Tofutti and Earth Balance shortening sticks to make the vegan cream cheese. At least that recipe was quick and easy, didn't need a sugar syrup, and I knew would hold up well in the heat. And who doesn't love cream cheese frosting?

The recipe I linked to in my dairy free frosting post was scaled for 12 cupcakes. I decided to quadruple it to get enough to frost the cake, except I only used three cups of powdered sugar. I had less than 1/4 cup of frosting leftover. Phew! One tier done and done. The cake went back to the refrigerator.

I decided to fill the 6 inch cake with leftover Midnight Ganache, because there is not a chocolate lover alive who wouldn't love that stuff. That was also an easy thing to do because I just had to defrost the container, whip it up a bit with a spoon, and fill the little cake. Then I snuck a spoon for myself, and put the stacked little cake in the refrigerator to firm up the filling.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
love the contrast!

In the meantime, I made one batch of Italian Meringue, as shared by Warren Brown of CakeLove. His instructional video is awesome. Look how nonchalantly he pours sugar syrup into his whipping egg whites! I did it too, by the way, and it turned out great. I added one teaspoon of vanilla extract. This made about 4.5-5 cups of frosting.

I frosted my little 6 inch tier and put it to bed.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
6 inch cake insides

By this point the White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream had finally cooled itself down so I finished it up by beating it for another minute, then I filled and stacked the 12 inch tier. That cake was heavy! After chilling, I frosted the cake (I needed another half batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream) and then I was done. Huzzah.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
12 inch cake insides

Oh yes, I did place the plastic straws in the 12 and 9 inch tiers before I went home and went to bed.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
9 inch cake, ready to go

Saturday around noon I boxed up the cake and hustled to the wedding site. It was already getting hot and I was a little nervous about the cakes melting in the heat. I kept thinking of the Cake Wrecks Inspiration vs Perspiration post and hoping I wouldn't see my cake up there next week.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
ribbon is a great way to hide the gap and cardboard rounds. but on a hot day you oughta line the back of the ribbon with parchment. i did not.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
love the topper!

The cake table was ready to go so I stacked the cake (frosting already soft!), lined the bottoms of the tiers with the ribbon Andrea provided, and waited for the ladies in charge, Sam's Aunts, to come decorate the cake with flowers. Paula decorated the cake beautifully! She did such a lovely job, and was also very ingenious when the glass cake topper kept threatening to fall over (frosting too soft). She placed flowers behind it to prop it up, and it was just so lovely.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
Paula gettin' it done

The rest of the time I hovered near the cake table because I was convinced it was going to start sinking. But it never did. Even when the couple cut the cake from the top tier while it was still on the cake (I squeaked a little with each cut--what if the cake came crashing down) all held together.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake

The Aunts got down to cutting and serving the cake--which I am not so good at--so I got myself a beer. My job was finished! Everything was fine!

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
what was left as the reception wound down

People enjoyed the cake, and the dairy-allergic people were super happy to have cake, and one that they said was really good. Again, people were surprised the frostings or the cakes weren't too sweet. Many guests were pleased to discover the lemon almond cake was pound cakey, and one person exclaimed, "how could it be so dense and yet so light!" Such is the magic of Rose.

When you have 75 people standing around a pretty lawn enjoying a cake you've worked on for two days straight, there is no greater feeling I know. A big, HUGE, thanks to Rose for her foolproof and more-than-excellent cakes, and thanks to Kevin and Tu for giving me their kitchen, and lots of love to Sam and Andrea for trusting me to be a part of their beautiful day.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
such a cute couple


  1. Wow! The cake was really beautiful! I know how hard you worked to make it so! Fabulous!
    And, I wish I had been there, too!

    love you,

  2. What an amazing cake! I know they loved it.

  3. makes me tired to just read about making that cake! Well done!

  4. thanks joelf! love you homes.

    lois, thanks! it is hard not to love a Heavenly Cake!

    amanda, thank you! it definitely made me tired too. btw your little one is looking precious!

  5. Bravooooo!!! it looks great, pat yourself in the back girl, its a beautiful cake and by the looks of it a delicious one at that as well.. love the video too!

  6. Oh WOW! Love the story and the cake (it's gorgeous). I'm so glad everything went well (I'm sitting here drooling at the mystery ganache). Now you can go have yourself many beers (or a bottle of wine). You did it!

  7. Thanks Monica, I am patting myself on the back as I type ;)

    Jenn, the ganache is no mystery, it is the midnight ganache from the devil's food cake. I celebrated by going to Sock Summit and buying yummy yarn!

  8. Amazing!!! They must have been delighted.

  9. ECL, midnight ganache is my favorite ganache - hence the drooling effect :).

    Oh also have to add that you are amazing for the quick thinking on figuring out how to mix the batter for the 12 inch pan.

    Congrats on the new yarn!!!

  10. You're a great baker and an even better friend. It never occurred to me that those beautiful cake ribbons served a useful purpose--the person who first thought of using them was quite clever.

  11. Gorgeous! Congratulations on a job well done!

  12. Jenn, I think any of us would figure out how to mix the behemoth batter; we're smart cookies.

  13. Marie, you are so sweet. I would like to give the ribbon inventor a big high five, since I can continue to get away with not knowing how to pipe!

    Kristina, thanks!

  14. Anonymous4/8/11 14:17

    I am so in awe! And I just want to gate crash some event that I read about on a computer screen, that happened in the past, in another time zone, in another climate, with people I don't even know!! just so I can eat those cakes. I was there though. Your story put me in that kitchen, in that garden, the sun, the flowers, the pretty dress, the happy couple, the gorgeous, gorgeous, awe inspiring cake(s)...gushing, gushing now. Drooling. Thank goodness I'm a world away. You're one impressive HCBaker ECL! (some credit to Rose of course).

  15. WOW! Wow, wow, wow! Beautiful! I think you have nerves of steel, too, because I started biting my nails just reading the post. This cake is truly an accomplishment, ECL!

  16. Melissa, that was the sweetest comment. Thank you so much!

    Raiuchka, thanks lady! I think my nerves were just worn down from worrying for 6 months :)

  17. What can I say? You are amazing!!!! Bravo!!!! (standing ovation). The cake is gorgeous, the flavors sound wonderful and the married couple looks super happy. Thanks for sharing all the details of your wedding cake baking. I'm sure it will be helpful to somebody out there!
    Your post made giggle several times (swearing out loud in your friend's kitchen, ducks in a row). I'll have to watch Warren's video later. I love not only his book Cakelove, but also how his bakery business came about.

  18. Thanks Hanaa! I kept thinking about the HCB and how we're kicking around the idea of baking one of the wedding cakes at the end of the bake-through, and I thought, I'd better disclose everything!