Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coleen and Mary's Wedding Celebration Cakes!

My two friends Coleen and Mary have been together for just about ten years. They are a fun couple of ladies who love to camp, garden, and feed people. Mary loves to vacation in exotic locales for months at a time. Coleen dreams of studying the Amazon rain forest. Their door is always open, and they are always interested in meeting new people and living life to the fullest. These are wonderful people. About a month ago, Coleen and Mary hightailed it off to Iowa where their buddhist nun friend married them in her backyard. (I still think it is complete crap that they had to get married in some other state and their marriage isn't even recognised here...but I've ranted about that before.) Since pretty much everybody wasn't able to go to Iowa, Coleen and Mary threw a party today for all their friends and family.

Then they asked me to bake the cake.

coleen and mary's wedding reception

September 17, 2011
Name of Cakes: Coleen and Mary's Wedding Cakes!
Occasion: Coleen and Mary get hitched!
Constituents: one two-layer, 12x2 inch german chocolate cake with the goop and caramel ganache, one two-layer 9x9 inch white chocolate whisper cake filled and frosted with IMBC, one two-layer 6x2 inch GF, white sugar-free coconut-pecan-carrot cake filled and frosted with agave-orange cream cheese frosting

The girls weren't necessarily interested in having a traditional, three tiered wedding cake with white frosting and the like. Mary insisted on a large German Chocolate Cake after sampling the one I brought over in July. Mary is one of seven children and most of them were coming; German Chocolate Cake is the family's go-to celebration cake. I suggested a three tier German Chocolate Cake (because how cool would that be?) but Coleen wanted a simple white-white cake, and both wanted a gluten-free cake for all their celiac friends. I warned them that a three tier cake with so many different outer frostings could look terrible and they told me to use my judgement and do whatever I pleased. As long as there was a big German Chocolate Cake, they were going to be happy.

12 inch german chocolate

After pondering the situation for a couple of weeks, I decided to make the GCC a stand alone cake, and tier the other two (the white-white and the GF carrot). Even though they would have different outer frostings, at least they'd be similar enough in color to look good stacked. Then I hemmed and hawed about square versus round cakes, and what sizes of everything there should be. Eventually, after much indecision, I decided on a round 12x2 for the GCC, a square 9x9 for the white-white, and a round 6x2 GF carrot cake to sit atop the 9x9. I almost went with a square 10x10 white-white and a 8x2 inch round GF carrot, but decided that was too much cake for 75 people, and too much complicated math for me.

The 12x2 German Chocolate Cake

german choc, again

Remembering the batter for two 12x2 layers does not fit in my tiny 4 quart KitchenAid mixer, I mixed and baked each layer separately. Interestingly, for this particular cake the leavening for a 12x2 is simply double the crazy leavening math needed. So...that was easy.

I decided to frost the sides with ganache to seal the cake and make it look more appropriate for a celebration. I also decided to use the caramel ganache on p 105 in RHC for the job, hoping the caramel notes would mesh nicely with the Goop. I used a factor of x1.5 and used all of it to make a dam for the filling and to frost the sides. The Goop was a double recipe of the one for a 9x2 and it was the perfect amount. I did forget to chop the pecans which made it difficult to cut later on. In the end I felt the ganache was too bittersweet to be a good companion to The Goop. Rose does have a suggested ganache recipe to use for the GCC; I'll have to try it next time.

I lightly syruped these cakes since I made them 36 hours ahead of time.

The 9x9 White Chocolate Whisper Cake

9x9 white/white, 6x2 GF carrot cake

The 9x9 White Chocolate Whisper Cake is in both TCB and RHC (as the cake component of the chocolate-strawberry cake). I chose to increase the RHC version by 1.5 to get two 9x9 cakes. Then, since I only have one 9x9 cake pan,I divided that in two. A little complicated, but when I compared these notes to the She Loves Me Cake, the cake flour was 300 grams in both recipes. That was nice validation.

This cake I ended up baking three times, for two reasons: 1. I had a hard time reasoning out how much baking powder to use. 2. The original recipe has you remove two cups of batter from the completed mix before filling the pans. There's a gram amount for each pan. This threw me off too.

Cake attempt 1: I halved the amount of BP from the original recipe, so 2.25 teaspoons. Also, I reasoned that since the 9x9 pan holds 1.333x more volume than a 9x2 pan, I should multiply the amount of batter for the pan by 1.333 as well. This resulted in a cake that was tender but compact; not more than 1.25 inches tall in the center.

Cake attempt 2: I used the full amount of BP called for in the original recipe: 5.5 teaspoons. I'm not sure why I thought that was necessary. I still only filled the pan 1.333x more than the original amount called for. This resulted in a cake with good rise and doming, with tunneling and sides that sloped in. Still, the cake wasn't the full 2 inches high. I still had a little bit of last week's She Loves Me Cake on the table, and that rose to a nice high height. I took a look at the BP amount for that cake, and decided to try again.

Cake attempt three: I used the She Loves Me BP amount: 3.25 teaspoons. I also used all the batter, filling the pan 3/4 full. This resulted in a nicely risen cake with an even crumb. Finally!

I decided to use cakes 2 and 3 for the cake. In the photo below, cake #3 is on the bottom and cake #2 is upside down, on top. You can compare the different crumbs as well as the trapezoidal shape of #2 (upside down, that is). You can also see just how much frosting was necessary to cover that up!

white/white insides

I used the Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe at the bottom of the post. It was just barely enough to fill and frost this cake. I think I would have had enough if I didn't use so much in the filling and didn't have to patch up the funky sides as much as I needed to. At any rate, I will be making x1.5 the next time I'm filling and frosting a 9x9 just in case. Also: it is hard to make good frosting corners on a square cake! (Especially at 2am.)

I lightly syruped these cakes, too. I was worried that this one would dry out.

The 6x2 Coconut-Pecan-Carrot Cake

the cakes

This is a recipe I have modified from the original several times over the years. It is the perfect kind of recipe to modify to gluten free, as the original recipe called for whole wheat pastry flour and wheat germ, applesauce instead of butter or oil, and liquidy sugars instead of granulated. It has already deviated quite far from a standard butter cake. The structure comes mainly from the leavening, as I understand it. So subbing gluten-free flours didn't really change how the cake behaved. I love this cake for precisely that reason.

I've published this recipe on the blog before; here's a link. I halved all ingredients, used 1 cup Brown Rice flour mix and 1/2 cup sorghum, used two eggs instead of 1.5, and omitted the cardamom and xanthan gum. I also whisked the batter by hand. You can omit the maple syrup and just add more agave or honey, but I encourage you to keep the unsulphered molasses. It adds a nice warm, almost coffee-like punch. Yum.

The cream cheese frosting has also been published to this blog; just follow that link above. I halved all the ingredients to get enough to fill and frost two 6x2 inch layers. I had only dark amber agave for the frosting and it did tint it a tannish color. But not too terribly different than the IMBC it was going to sit atop.


The GCC was gobbled up fairly quickly. I got good reviews from Mary's family, which I am happy about. Anytime I am recreating a family's favorite cake I always worry. Nobody reported back that the ganache was too bitter, but then again I didn't ask directly.

The white-white cake was also well received. One partygoer told me it was the best white cake she'd ever had. I did have a little of this cake; it was good. Not dry, but not wet either. The IMBC was out of this world. I love that stuff.

The GF cake was a little dry, but I did overbake it a tad. The celiacs (of which there were more than I thought) were happy to have a cake that wouldn't kill them. Most of the time when a person with celiac goes to a party they don't get to eat the cake, so it was really wonderful of Coleen and Mary to make sure they were included. I believe in feeding everyone too, not just the people who are the easiest to feed.

One could draw parallels between including the people with celiac by giving them cake and bread they could eat, and making sure the people who love each other can be included in the ritual of getting married, but that would be me gearing up for another personal rant. So I will leave it here, and just say congratulations to my dear friends Coleen and Mary. May you have a long life together of love, joy, and good food, surrounded by the people who love you!

me and my peeps!

Italian Meringue Buttercream
adapted from a recipe by Warren Brown

This is the best way to celebrate butter I have found yet. Yields enough to fill and frost a two-layer 9 inch cake.

  • Egg whites (room temperature) 150g
  • Sugar 214g, and 72g
  • Water 59g
  • Butter (room temperature) 454g (4 sticks)
  • Vanilla extract 1 tsp
In the bowl of your mixer, place the egg whites and beat at low speed.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, stir the 214 grams of sugar and the water together until the sugar is moistened. Place on medium-high heat (or high, if you feel daring) and let it go until the sugar is dissolved. If you have a gas burner you can turn the flame way down, or if it's electric, take the pan off the heat.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks; add the 72 grams sugar. Let the mixer keep on mixing while you bring the sugar syrup up to temperature.

Turn the heat under your sugar syrup back up, or put your pan back on the burner. Heat until the syrup comes to 245°F.

Pour your syrup slowly into your beating egg whites. You are aiming for between the whirling whisk and the sides of the bowl. Keep a steady stream!

Once all the syrup is in, let the meringue continue beating for a bit to even out the temperature and start to cool down. I will let it go for at least of couple of minutes; sometimes more if I am occupied. You can stop beating the meringue after a couple of minutes and put the bowl in the refrigerator for a little bit to hasten cooling. You want to get it around 75°F before adding the butter.

Continuing with the whisk attachment, on medium to medium-high speed add the butter in chunks at a steady rate. If the mixture starts to look curdled, don't panic, and don't stop the KA. Let it beat the frosting back together. If it seems to be taking a long time, turn up the speed. You can out-stubborn this curdling business.

Once all the butter is added and things look pretty, add the vanilla and beat for another minute to evenly distribute.

This frosting can be used right away, or refrigerated or frozen for later use. Always bring the frosting back to room temperature before using. You'll probably want to beat it for a minute or two to restore its lofty texture.

And please, go watch this video by Warren Brown, because he will demonstrate how to do it and everything will be clear.


  1. I'm so impressed the your wedding cakes! All the best to Coleen and Mary.

  2. oh my goodness. great job!! that's such a huge project to undertake. They both turned out beautifully!

  3. Nice job, as always! If it is ever in the cards for you to be able to get a bigger mixer, I heartily recommend the cuisinart 7 qt. I got it this year when I got tired of the wimpiness of my 5 qt kitchenaid, and I love it! Angel food cake batter does not cover the entire head of the mixer! The mixer does not try to walk off the counter when I knead bread! You would love it--especially when you're making wedding cakes.

  4. Thanks Lois! I will pass on your hearty wishes.

    Jane, thank you! I hope someday to decorate cakes as beautiful as yours!

    Amanda, thanks! So you have a cuisinart? I have been Kitchen Aid dependent since I started baking in high school. It would be a big mental switch to change brands, but 7 quarts sounds sooo dreamy!

  5. P.. they look amazing... and of course I know they tasted just as good. Congratulations to the both of them.

  6. Wonderful wedding cakes, ECl! I love that here was something for everyone.
    I love your bake off experiment. You are fearless!
    And here is wishing Coleen and Mary much happiness and love in their lives together.

  7. I agree with Melinda--you're fearless! How do you take on a project like that and not wake up in the middle of the night fretting about all the possible mishaps? (And there are so many possible mishaps).

  8. Melinda, thank you! I don't know about fearless; I would have said crazy.

    Marie, well I usually don't mention the sleepless nights leading up to the event but I do have them! (And there are always mishaps!) Also, I can't relax at the party until the cake has been cut and served. Next time I do one of these, I'm going to insist that we cut the cake first.

  9. yeah, I had my kitchenaid for about 18 years, so it was a little weird to switch. I got over it in about a day after using the cuisinart, though! The Kitchenaid professional model is only 6 quarts, and that extra quart can obviously make a big difference. Also their bread dough hook is much better designed. And, I've heard they don't make kitchenaids like they used to...not as high quality any more. So, apparently the cuisinart is the new high standard--cooks illustrated recommends it. Almost $400, but worth every penny.

  10. Anonymous24/9/11 02:28

    Thanks for sharing. Great cakes, beautiful day and Happy happy and congrats to Colleen and Mary as well. We will look back on these times when people have to go interstate to get married and we will marvel at the stupidity of our society.

  11. Wow, look at you!!! Those cakes look awesome! And thanks for including the little details (I love details) :o)

  12. Wow! You are one talented woman. I loved your post. Best wishes to Coleen and Mary. You are one amazing ECL!