Sunday, May 24, 2015

In The Cake Zone

The wedding of DS1 and K2 was yesterday.  I'm not sure if I had mentioned it here or not, but I was the baker of the wedding cake.  Not just any cake, mind you (because I am a glutton for punishment), but a reproduction of a cake K2 had seen online over a year ago.  She had asked me if I could make a cake like that one, and, being confident of my mom super powers, I told her sure, I would do my best.

I'll cut out the months of researching and thinking I did, because this post is going to be long enough as it is, and just say that I did a whole lot of studying on wedding cakes and techniques for creating a custom cake. Wedding cake is a whole different ball  of wax from birthday or graduation cakes.

I also spent many hours looking for instructions on how to build a pick-up truck out of cake (you'll see the result of that later).  And how to use fondant, which I personally don't care for the taste or look of, and have never used, and eventually ruled out using on this cake.  Because I have that power, being the (non-paid) baker and all.

There were also a few practice cakes this spring, testing out recipes and cake-stacking technique.

Last week, I spent many hours working on the wedding cake.  First was the figuring of ingredients for each tier of the cake: three tiers, three different flavors.  Then came the purchasing of the ingredients.  On Wednesday, I made two batches of rice crispy bars, only I didn't cut them up and eat them, I carefully dumped them out of the pans as rice crispy/marshmallow sheets, stacked them, and set them aside (you'll understand later).

Then, on Thursday, I officially entered the cake zone (ie, I zoned out on most everything except creating the perfect wedding cake).  I got out my cake pans in the needed sizes.  I got out my recipes.  I got out my ingredients.

three sets of pans, three recipes

Then I commenced to cake baking.  Six individual layers: two 10", two 8", two 6".  I let them cool, wrapped each layer in plastic wrap, and chilled them overnight in the fridge.

cooling cake layers:
butter, strawberry, and cookies 'n' cream

On Friday afternoon, I made the filling for each cake--fudge for the butter cake, strawberries & cream for the strawberry cake, and cookies & cream for the cookies 'n' cream cake.  Then I leveled each layer with my handy dandy cake leveler:

carefully leveling

'dome' removed

fudgy filling warmed up, and layers ready for filling
(Mother-in-law had sent us a couple of bags of 'hot fudge'--like used at ice cream parlors--in April, and I decided they would make much tastier cake filling than chocolate fudge frosting would!)

mmm, butter cake w/fudge filling!

filled, stacked, wrapped, and chilling

Once each layer had it's uneven top carefully sliced off, I glopped filling on the bottom layers, carefully placed on the top layers, and wrapped the whole cake tightly in plastic wrap.  Back into the mini-fridge for a few more hours of chilling.

While the cakes chillaxed, I commenced melting chocolate in my pint-sized crock pot, and dipping strawberries.

chocolate dipped strawberries
(hey, look, I have a cool new skill!)

melting the white chocolate for the white strawberries

chocolate dipped berries drizzled w/the extra white chocolate

Once my berries were all dipped and drizzled, I whipped up a super sized batch of butter cream frosting and did a crumb coat on the cakes.  Also caught DS2 (who finally came down from the U.P. in time to pick up his tux from the rental place) snitching a few fingerfuls of the crumby 'waste' frosting.

Phew!  Think that was enough work for one day?  Nope!  (Actually, yes, but there was still more to do and a looming deadline).  Off to rehearsal dinner for a few hours.

Then back home, get out my rice crispy sheets, and commence truck building.  Yes, I built a pick-up truck out of rice crispy bars!

First I cut the sheets approximately in half.  Then I started cutting,shaping, and pressing into place the various parts of the truck.  At which point I realized I needed more building material, and whipped up a third batch of rice crispy bars!

the initial cut

by George, it looks like a truck!

 I used a biscuit cutter to make the wheels, then dipped them in melted chocolate to make them look like tires.

dowels and duct tape, 
and I have a chassis!

paint job (frosting) applied

By this time, it was past my bedtime on Friday night.  The wedding was scheduled to begin at 4:00 on Saturday afternoon.  I needed to make the final coat of frosting, assemble my supplies, pack and transport the cake and cake paraphernalia--including the cake board I made out of an old counter top cut-out (where the sink went) from when we'd remodeled the kitchen of our previous house--to the site of the wedding and reception.  Once there, I needed to assemble the cake tier by tier, apply the final coat of frosting, pipe the seams and edges, and stick on the strawberries (with toothpicks, which I wasn't totally sure was going to work, those berries were some big heavy suckers).  And, after making the coolest bestest wedding cake ever, I needed to drive home, clean myself up, put on my wedding duds, do my hair, apply make-up (a rare occurrence),strap my feet into some high-heeled shoes (another rare occurrence) and drive back to the wedding venue by the time the photographer arrived to do the pre-ceremony photos.

No pressure.  Right.

But, honestly, I was still in the cake zone.  Nothing else mattered.  Cake, I must do the cake.

Saturday morning I dodged all sorts of distractions thrown at me by others (where the heck is my spare 18 qt roaster?!?  DH needed both my roasters for transporting the meat from the pig he had roasted all night for the wedding meal.  Said roaster seems to have vaporized.  It could not be found despite five people searching high and low).  I made my frosting.  I gathered all my parts and pieces for the cake.  I packed the back of the suburban.  I drove.  I unpacked the suburban.  I commenced cake assembly.  First tier, the frosting looked awesome.  Oh, I was so happy.  Second tier, the troubles started.  No air conditioning.  Warm, humid day. The reception area (the loft of a large old barn) was getting stuffy.  My frosting was getting a little runny from the heat.  It no longer wanted to go on smoothly.  The fruit & cream filling of the strawberry cake began to bust out of the crumb coat, making frosting the sides of the cake even more difficult.  I began to plan strategic strawberry placement to cover the irreparable boo-boos.  Third tier, and still frosting problems.  By now my hands were gooey (I had totally forgotten to bring baby wipes or something similar for cleaning my hands).  

Oh well.  Stay in the zone.  Focus.  Breathe.  Make beautiful cake.  Except the cake and frosting did not want to cooperate.  Breathe.  Lower standard slightly.  Forget flawless smooth frosting on top and just concentrate on getting the frosting flat with as few spreader lines as possible.  Then pin on the strawberries.

Said strawberries were sweating.  At least the chocolate wasn't melting, but they were a bit slippery to handle.  Oh, don't drop any strawberries and break off their beautiful chocolate coating!  Concentrate.  Stab strawberry with toothpick, insert near bottom of cake.  Strawberry immediately falls off cake, onto cake board.

A few minutes of hard thinking ensued, then I jabbed the strawberry back onto the cake again and stuffed a few bigger ones underneath it.  If I couldn't suspend my strawberries, I would build them like a stone wall, with a stable base and each layer balanced on the one below it.  I did still use toothpicks to spear them to the cake, but my aim now was to have the berries support each other rather than relying on the cake to hold them.

Phew!  Crisis averted!  Now, for the truck!  Smear the cake board with chocolate frosting, carefully place truck chassis in desired position, and carefully lower the truck body onto the chassis.  Then, artfully apply chocolate frosting to back and tires of truck and front of cake.  The idea was to make it look like the truck was out mudding and had sprayed some on the cake.  (I later found out it was symbolic to the bride and groom because they had gone to a mud run on their first date.)

Meanwhile, the front end of my truck was slowly sinking.  I noticed a crack developing where the 'windshield' met the 'hood'.  Uh oh!  I snapped a dowel into small pieces, and jammed them up under the front end of the truck. Thinking I had solved the problem, I went back to applying 'mud' to the truck and cake, concentrating on the crack in the truck and the problem frosting spots on the front side of the cake.  

Unfortunately, about the time I thought I had a masterpiece, I noticed the truck was absorbing it's dowel supports under the engine compartment.  Desperate, I grabbed an extra strawberry of approximately the right height, and wedged it up under the front end of the truck.  Genius!

Now, phew!  It was done!  I had succeeded in making the wedding cake of the bride's dreams.  My very first wedding cake (and also the last one that features a 3-D pick-up truck!  Several people asked yesterday, and I politely refused to create any more.  Not in my non-air conditioned home for an outdoor wedding anyway)

The cake was a huge success.  Everyone loved it, and several well-seasoned cake eaters told me it was the best wedding cake they had ever eaten.  The chocolate dipped strawberries disappeared  quickly once the cake was cut.  Sometime soon after, several younger wedding guests absconded with the truck's tires, making it look like it had been parked in one of Detroit's less desirable neighborhoods for a few too many hours.

The rest of the wedding was wonderful too.  Not too big, not too small, beautiful weather, great food, and a good time had by all.


  1. That is amazing! What a great job you did - certainly a cake to remember! I love your cake leveller - I have never seen such a thing.
    Glad everyone had a wonderful wedding celebration.

  2. Glad the cakes turned out nice and they were a 'hit'.
    Hope you get sometime to relax today, working in the garden to me would be relaxing compared to making a wedding cake.