To Bake a Wedding Cake, Part IV: Testing 1, 2, 3
I’ve spent the last two months baking inordinately large quantities of cake to prepare for the wedding cake I begin baking in t-minus ten days. The flavors of fall permeated my apartment long before the weather did as I tested recipes for sugared pecans, maple cream filling, pumpkin cake, almond cake, and more. Thankfully, I work at a university with a veritable army of cake-loving, high-metabolism college students ready to sample these cakes as they positively burst from my kitchen.
I must admit, overall, I’ve been pretty lucky with first attempts. I, and all of my faithful testers, were over the moon for the very first pumpkin cake recipe I tested, along with the experimental maple cream filling that went with it. I’d already made the almond cake, so I really didn’t need much adjustment there, and a vanilla cake that will compose the tiny top layer (for guests with nut allergies!) was easy enough. There were, however some unfortunate discoveries.
Having gained a pretty decent handle on Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I thought I’d try swapping out some of the butter for some cream cheese to see if I could create an easy Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream (ack, too many words.) Welllllll. It was kinda awful. The icing ended up far too runny. In fact it was barely spreadable. One could discern the tiniest hints of cream cheese, but it was certainly not worth the loss of stability. We’ll be sticking with the basic. Which is mighty delicious all on its own. I decorated cakes for seven years as a kid, and I find myself seriously shocked that I’ve only started making this icing in the last year. It’s beyond delectable.
The next moment of frustration arose when I was practicing the “alpine panoramic landscapes” that will adorn each tier of the main cake. After a few awkward looking peaks, I finally got the mountains to look the way I had imagined them: craggy, rough, possibly harboring snow in crevasses and canyons. Then for the foreground, I tested out some pine trees. They were… awkward. Sierra mentioned they “looked a bit shaggy”. I think they looked like Muppet outcasts. Then, bizarrely, the longer I worked with the icing, the more yellow it became. It seems like I’ll need to work with teeny tiny amounts in my piping bag when I do the real cake so that the trees don’t like like Muppet outcasts covered in urine. Needless to say, there’s more tree practice in my future this week.
Perhaps the biggest failure, however, came with my technique test for the groom’s cake, which will be served at the rehearsal dinner the evening prior to the wedding. The cake will create a tiny, edible version of one of Sean’s favorite video games called Minecraft (for those of you who know it, there will also be a Minecrafted cake ON the cake… how meta.) I had this grand theory involving cake blocks, essentially cube-shaped cake balls, so that guests could simply pick up a cube and eat it, and “mine” away the cake. Cute right?
The basic premise of the cake ball seems simple enough: bake a cake, let it cool, tear it to shreds and beat it into crumbs, mix in some icing to form a dough, and roll it into balls to dip into melted chocolate that cools and forms a shell. I made a short leap to making blocks instead… shouldn’t it work just as well to press the dough into a square cake pan and cut it into cubes?
I wish I had a photo of the horror that ensued. The dough pressed into the square pan just fine. It came out of the pan just fine. But it did not harden as I had anticipated, so when I cut the cubes, I actually ended up with cube-ish blobs that barely held their shape. My attempt to coat these weird little monsters left me wrist-deep in melted chocolate holding something that looked nothing like a perfect square of cake. The result was a not square, not appetizing, not remotely possible take on the groom’s cake.
After a brief freak-out, I developed a new plan. There was no way I was gonna get it all on the first try, I suppose. Having tested my recipes, techniques, and proportions, it’s about time to finish this wedding cake’s dress rehearsal and start the real show. This week I’m finalizing my ingredient shopping list, packing a seriously bizarre suitcase (TSA is gonna love me), and preparing for four days of serious October baking.
Here’s to hoping my high altitude adjustments work!
Next: Part V: Game Time