Making the Cut (Wedding Cake Blues)

mystrawberryweddingcake1

A little over a year ago, my eldest daughter got engaged and asked me to make their wedding cake. Due to allergies, her diet is pretty limited: no processed foods, nothing with preservatives, no soy and no dairy. When I asked what flavors, style, etc. she wanted, she had only two requirements: no fondant and diet-friendly. She tells me “I don’t care what it looks like as long as I can eat it.”

Getting Psyched for the Big Day
When the kids were small, I made all their birthday cakes. I really enjoyed making each one fun and unique. Sometimes I even let them help decorate. Of course, this stopped the day they put “Happy Birthday Booger Mud” on their brother’s cake. Did I mention the girls were all grown up at the time? But I digress. The point is, I really wanted to make something special for the wedding. I figured I’ve got a year; that’s plenty of time. What could possible go wrong?

The Big Plan
As an avid fan of the Great British Baking Show, I dreamed of adapting these cool new recipes for my own kitchen. In one season finale, the winner baked this amazing wedding cake! My inner child baker did a happy dance. It was a beautiful cake made up of three tiers. One tier was a ginger cake, another had carrots, apricots and pistachios, and another was lemon cake with almonds. The whole thing was decorated with what looked like autumn leaves, but were actually oven dried slices of pineapple, sweet potato and mango. It was ideal.

A Slight Detour from My Objective
I got busy. Regrettably, I wasn’t busy with baking cakes. Instead, my days were filled with other life events and you guessed it, time got away from me. With two weddings and a baby shower in the same year, among other things, there was just a lot of stuff going on.

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Mom
After re-reviewing the (count ‘em) 11 pages of ingredients and instructions for the “dream” cake, my plan moved to a more simple 3 tiered cake. I figured, three different flavors in various sizes stacked on top of each other. It sounded simple in my head, where, by the way, many great thoughts have gone to die painful deaths.

Math Doesn’t Always Add Up – Test #1
For my first trial, I opted to make a smaller sample size cake with no tiers, and hopefully no tears as well, just to practice for flavor, layers and fillings. This was supposed to be the perfect tasting wedding cake with Italian cream icing, along with a raspberry filling. Next, I calculated ¼ of each recipe and finally got cookin’.

The result: the cake was okay but seemed a bit dry. While the icing spread well, the filling kept getting absorbed by the layers like water-based paint on concrete bricks.
Conclusion: Mathematically reducing a recipe only works in theory.

A Wise Women Takes Advice
It was time to speak to an expert. I managed to corner our church semi-pro baker who listened patiently to my testing and plans, then emphatically recommended I not go with a tiered option and suggested I look up “cake wrecks”. Also, when I mention this is for 22 guests, she gaped at me and explained that my current plan would feed 150. Who knew?

Have Your Cake and Eat It 2
For trial #2, I chose a “best white cake ever” recipe that was actually quite complex. For this test, I went simple with only buttercream frosting for both the filling and frosting.

The result: my testers, or rather coworkers, enjoyed the flavor (maybe because, hey, it was free cake). However, my daughter didn’t care for the frosting.
Conclusion: Back to the drawing board.

Mama’s got a Brand New Plan
My new plan: make a sheet cake version of the lemon pound cake I made for the Bridal Tea plus a layered 6” strawberry cake for the couple’s topper. My order of what I thought was another 6” pan turns out to be five thin 6” pans.

With all the wedding preparations, test #3 becomes real-deal #1. First, I make a strawberry cake with my new pre-layered pans, along with a strawberry filling adapted from the raspberry filling I made in test #1. Ever cut your kid’s hair and find yourself making it shorter and shorter just to make it even? Leveling the layers is just as tricky and I finally stop before ending up with wafers.

No Face Smashing Please
The lemon pound cake turned out well and set on a display board hubby and I created, thanks to instructions from my cake expert. With the cakes iced and displayed, the wedding over and the party in full swing, the time had finally come to cut the cake. One look at my 5 tiered strawberry creation and my youngest daughter whispers, “That looks like strawberry pancakes.” The look I gave her must have clued her in, “Oh,” she draws back, “Did you make that?” “Yep,” I say. “Looks good,” she smiles brightly. But the best was when the bride and groom traded bites, turned to me and pronounced it delicious. Mission accomplished.

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