Tuesday, December 13

Wedding Cake Challenge: The Second Time's the Charm

You may remember from this post that earlier this year I was learning to make a cake for my brother's wedding in Brazil. I read articles, perused books, watched video tutorials, and practiced, practiced, practiced. I packed 30 pounds of fondant in my suitcase. I was all ready, and yet when it was time to bring everything together it was a lot harder than I expected. The ingredients were slightly different than their American counterparts, the equipment and workspace were unfamiliar, and the humidity was off the charts.

I wish that I could say that despite these obstacles all my preparations enabled me to still craft the cake into the masterpiece I was hoping for. In reality, the cake was crooked and bumpy and sticky - not quite what I had planned. But like a Food Network challenge, the most important accomplishment is moving the cake and displaying it in one piece. And I was proud to do that with a ton of help from my family and Beta's!

My sweet husband and Aunt Beth helped me from start to finish!


The finished product. The florist was nice enough to
cover up the slanted side for me!

Don't be disappointed folks - the cake saga doesn't end there. Since only a small part of our family could make it down to Brazil, Steven and Beta had a second celebration when she finally made it to the US in October. This gave me a chance to make another cake in my own home, using my own ingredients. I wanted it to be different than the first one, so I chose a square buttercream cake with light, refreshing flavors. I looked at elaborate designs, but ultimately chose a simple one that I knew would turn out just right. 

I got my original inspiration from this Epicurious tutorial for a lemon raspberry wedding cake. I love the sweet and simple design she uses, but it wasn't what I was going for with this cake, so I just used it for the recipes and assembly instructions. It's always hard for me to estimate how much cake, frosting, and filling I will need, so even though the proportions are a little different for a 12", 8", and 4" square cake, the recipe served as a good guideline.

Since a few of the reviews for the white cake recipe said it was a little dry I made this White Almond Sour Cream Cake using a doctored cake mix instead. It's very similar to the chocolate cake I used for Erin's jungle shower cake and Teresa's sunflower ganache cake. This was, in my totally biased opinion, much more moist and delicious than your average wedding cake.


For the buttercream frosting (arguably the most important part), I used the Meringue Buttercream listed in the tutorial. It's slightly sweeter and fluffier than the recipe I usually use, but it still sets up perfectly in the fridge.

I wasn't so confident about the lemon curd recipe in the tutorial since it mentioned straining it for egg solids. I've had the unpleasant experience of straining lemon-flavored scrambled eggs out of one batch of lemon curd before and didn't want to do that for 12 cups worth. So, I found this recipe from Alton Brown that uses egg yolks only. This meant that the leftover yolks from making frosting went to good use, and straining wouldn't be necessary since the white is what turns into those annoying chewy bits.

With my recipes ready, it was time to get cooking. Unfortunately, since Michael was out of town and I was trying to work quickly, I only took two pictures of this process! I made the frosting and lemon curd about a week before the wedding since it keeps well in the refrigerator. Then I baked the cake layers on Monday before the wedding. Similar to my other cakes, I baked two cake layers in each size. Then, I leveled off the top of each layer and split them into two. So altogether I had four layers of cake in each size.

On Tuesday I filled the layers. First, I spread lemon curd onto a layer using the suggested amount as a guideline (keeping in mind that my cakes were slightly different sizes). Then, I arranged raspberries on top of the lemon curd so that every piece would have at least one. When that was done, I topped it with another layer and repeated until all four were filled and stacked. Then I did the same thing for the other two tiers.

Each cake tier sat on a piece of cardboard cut to size.

That night I applied my crumbcoat of buttercream to each tier. First, I refrigerated the tiers to firm up the lemon curd a bit. Then I scraped off any extra lemon curd that had dripped down the side (it's pretty thin compared to frosting). When the tiers were cold and clean I spread frosting on the tops and sides and scraped off any excess, leaving a thin, smooth coat. I refrigerated all three of the crumbcoated tiers overnight.

On Wednesday, I applied the outer layer of frosting. With the cake still cold, I spread on more frosting than I typically would. Then, I used this super-handy decorating comb to make a scalloped pattern in the frosting. It was even easier than I was expecting. All I did was drag one side of the comb through the frosting, looking down from the top to be sure I was getting a straight line. I figured that once I made the design I wouldn't be able to touch it up without ruining it. But it was actually really easy to fix any mistakes by swiping them again with the comb.

On Thursday I left the cake in the fridge and packed for the wedding. : ) But on Friday, I drove the two-and-a-half hours to my parents' house with the cake. I traveled with the tiers unstacked and set on sticky shelf liner to keep them from sliding. When I reached my destination two of my tiers had melted a little bit and one was bumped on one side. The great thing about buttercream cakes is that you can keep applying the frosting over and over until you're happy with it. So I refrigerated the tiers until they were cold again and then applied more frosting and smoothed it back into shape. As you can tell from this picture of the cake being served, I kept applying frosting until it was perfect, and that meant I used way too much!

Four layers of lemony goodness. Yum!

On the day of the wedding I took the cake to the church and stacked it there. My friend Katie who you met here helped me stack the cake and seal the tiers. Then, we (mostly she because I was a little frantic with the responsibilities of the day) clipped bunches of green hydrangeas and perched them on the corners of the cake.

Perfect. I love hydrangeas!

With Katie the chef. Soon to be Katie the mom!
And as usual, I look like a giant next to her!

I was so pleased with how it turned out! It looked just right with the decorations and I thought it was absolutely delicious! Here are more pictures of that beautiful day.

My brother's second wedding cake.


The bride and groom cutting the cake.

I think they liked it!

My family with the happy couple. So glad Beta's here!

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