At the End of the Day

We arrive at the reception hall, after a very careful 20 minute drive to the Church. You don’t make quick turns or stops after all the work you have invested in the cake, or you might be surprised to find cake in places it should not be when you arrive at your destination. We get everything into the hall to set up the cake and half-way through the set-up, we remember to take a few pictures.

I am charging the bride for only half the cake plates with separators and for half the cake plateau and I will get to keep those for future cakes I may make. Now that’s a win-win situation. Ask me in a few months and I will let you know if I will undertake this for another friend.

I now understand why bakers charge such high prices for their wedding cakes. Not only does it take almost a week to get them ready, materials are expensive. I spent almost $300 on this cake when I include just half the price of the cake plateau and separators with plates! I feel for the bride when I present her with my bill. But it would have cost her much more if I hadn’t provided the labor as my gift. Little does she know how many prayers went into the making of this cake!

We continue with the assembly of the two top tiers together before placing them on top of the other cakes or it will be too high to get the top tier on without getting a ladder. I am somewhat disappointed that you can see the cake through the frosting in places. Maybe I should have added another layer of frosting over the first, but it is too late. My sister keeps reminding me that it is the overall effect that matters. I’m counting on that!

The cakes are together. What you do not see are the supports that we cut to the height of each cake before we stacked the cakes. Without them, the weight of the tiers would smash the bottom layers and the cake would probably fall over. We cut the hollow tubes that go into the cakes with a special tool my sister provided. It’s in the bottom left side of the photo. We used the pencil to mark the tubes before cutting.

The baker of the groom’s cake helped me put the ribbon around the base of each tier.  I used scrapbooking adhesive squares to attach the ends together. She has always used pins, but likes the idea of the adhesive squares. They are safe, easy, invisible, and stick well without pressing to hard on the sides of the cake. Everything is coming together after all.

Oops! I spoke too soon. It is time to put the flowers on the cake, but there are no flowers to be had. The floral people were to provide flowers for us to use on the cake, but failed to leave us any. So, it’s time to problem solve again. There is just enough time to stop by Hobby Lobby, buy silk flowers and come up with some little decorative arrangements for between the cake tiers.

Oh my! When we arrive back at the reception hall, someone has taken matters into their own hands! I was horrified! Who would do this to a cake they had not even made?

My sister and I quickly remove the botch job and set up the cakes with the arrangements I made.

The cake is steady and is not – I repeat, is NOT falling down. I just thought I would throw this photo in for the effect! Believe me, this is an optical illusion!

This is the real deal! The cake is ready for the bride and groom to see. For all its flaws, the overall effect is nice. It is what really matters at the end of the day.

For a last-minute fix, the cake topper turned out pretty nice!

The “satellite” cake has its own topper.

The entire reception hall is lovely and waiting for everyone to arrive.

The bride and groom are happy. In the subdued lighting, you cannot see the cake’s flaws. He says right away, “It tastes good!” In the end, that’s what really matters anyway.

It seems that everyone at the reception liked it too! Lots of people took photos prior to the cake being cut and many returned for a second piece when we did serve it.

The bottom tiers had strawberry filling. The middle two tiers had apricot filling. The satellite cake had lemon filling. It was enough cake to feed over 200.  By the time we served the cake, many people had already left the reception, so there was plenty of cake left over. That was a blessing since the bride was having a family BBQ the next day!

After the earlier excitement and serving the cake, I was exhausted. But it was a good tired. May God bless the marriage of this young couple!

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Buttercream and Classic White Delight

Day 5 begins. It is the day we frost the cakes.

We spend some time making preparations, including how we will place the bottom tier  on the cake plateau. Afterward, we realize that we need the extra-large piping bags to put the icing on the cakes.

So we end up making a trip to the store for the piping bags.

When we get back to the house it is already late morning. We are so far behind! So we jump in and I start leveling the cakes so we can put them together. We save the cake crumbs to make any repairs that might be necessary.

We encounter a few air pockets in the cake tops even though I had pounded the pans against the kitchen counter before placing them into the oven. Hmmmmm! Guess I didn’t pound hard or long enough.

So we mix the cake crumbs that we saved with a little frosting and fill in the holes. No one who eats these cakes will ever know!

Meanwhile, I have put a frosting dam with filling on top of the bottom layer of the bottom tier. The largest tier is 14″ across.

My sister then stacks the two layers and we begin to frost the bottom tier together. In the process, we realize it is not working for us to frost the layers of the same tier together.

So while she repairs any cracks or air pockets on the cake tops, I pipe a thick frosting dam on the bottom layers and add the filling. Then we frost the tops and sides of the cakes separately. The work goes much faster.

We begin to work like a well oiled machine! Repair, . . . filling, . . . frost . . . Repair, . . . filling, . . . frost . . . times 5. 😉

Such yummy-ness! We turned the top layers rounded side up, if you hadn’t noticed. I want the frosting to look as much like it is fondant as possible.

It’s buttercream and classic white delight!

The effect is stunning and the cakes will taste so much better with the Snow White Buttercream than with fondant!

The only thing I don’t like about regular frosting is that you can see the filling from the side, but the ribbon will cover that.

My sister works to smooth the frosting on each cake tier. We are realizing that, even though I followed the frosting recipe to the letter, it may have been slightly too thin. The weight of the frosting is pulling it down the sides of the cake, but as it sits and absorbs into the cakes some, it will thicken to perfection, and help the cakes be ready for transport.

We take a break to go to Church for Stations of the Cross since it’s Lent and come back to put the pearls on the cakes.

My sister’s little guide comes in very handy for placement of the sugar pearls.

At the end of the day,  all five tiers are frosted and boxed for transport. Day 5 is a success. It is time to sit down with a Mojito!

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Mountains of Snow White Buttercream

On Days 3 and 4, it is time to make the Snow White Buttercream Icing. There are a number of recipes out there that include corn syrup in the recipe, but my sister and I found that the corn syrup make the icing more difficult to spread. The corn syrup makes the icing somewhat elastic and difficult to spread, but the addition of corn syrup is a plus when piping frosting.

Since I will use our icing only to frost the cakes and not for piping, the recipe without corn syrup is the one of choice. Each time I make icing, it is a double batch.

This calls for 24 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar. That’s A LOT of sugar!!! And A LOT of sifting. I found that the best and fastest way of sifting is to use a large strainer.

I will put the first 8 cups of sugar into the meringue before I add anything else.

The meringue takes a while to whip up. The mixer must beat quite a bit of air into the meringue power and water.

When it reaches the stage of stiff peaks, I will add more ingredients.

The meringue is finally ready and I add 8 cups of sugar, beating well after each addition. Then I add shortening with more sugar, again beating well after each addition.

After adding all the sugar, shortening and flavorings, I am finished making the icing and  I place it into large bowls to refrigerate. A double recipe makes around 14 cups of frosting. In all, I make 4 double recipes for a total of 54 cups of frosting. It is probably more than I need, but it is always better to have too much than too little icing.

I also decide to use up as many egg yolks as I can. I found a lemon sponge cake recipe that uses 12. I double the recipe for a half sheet cake, using up 24 of the over 3 dozen egg yolks.

I make this cake at the end of Day 3 using the freshest egg yolks. It will be the cake I end up frosting when I find out that over 200 guests have responded to the wedding invitation. I’ve made cakes enough to serve 200, so this one should serve an extra 30 or so guests.

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Into the Swing of Things

I am well into the swing of things by Day 2. Today, I must complete the baking of the cakes for the wedding on Saturday.

I didn’t remember using powdered egg whites for my niece’s cakes so I used real eggs.

Now, I have to figure out what to do with all the egg yolks. ANOTHER project!

Today, I decide to mix 3 cake mixes at once. I have no time to waste.

I still have several cakes to bake.

My new mixer is handling the load well.

The amount of batter for each cake must be measured . . .

. . . and poured into the pans.

Thank goodness for the internet. I know exactly how much for each size pan.

Yes, I have to wash LOTS more dirty dishes. But the task is about over for making cakes.

I have lots of empty boxes to show for the two days of work.

While the last cakes bake, I make myself a healthy salad.

. . . and sit down with a glass of White Zinfandel. Time to relax and get off my feet for a few minutes.

The cakes come out of the oven with deep cracks. My research shows it is most likely from an oven temp that is too high. No problem, though. I will cut off the tops of these cakes so they will be level.

Time to get out the ingredients for the frosting which I will make on Days 3 & 4.

Ingredients are out and storage containers ready to hold the mixed frosting.  Using my large stainless steel bowl and a large strainer, I sift enough sugar  for the first double batch of frosting. That’s about 24 cups.

I cover the bowl and the stage is set for Day 3.

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A Cake and a Prayer

This is the first wedding cake I have ever made for a friend.  March 14 was Day 1. I had originally thought that my sister would be here to help throughout the week, but she had to work and was unable to come to my house until Thursday night. So, the cake baking and mixing of the frosting was my project alone. I entered the week with a lot of prayer and the ingredients. I was so thankful that my sister had made her daughter’s cakes here last October.

I started with fresh ingredients. My friend, Audrey and her fiance, Andrew, had chosen the Duncan Hines Classic White cake at a taste test in January or February, so Classic White it is. Personally? I think she chose well. The cake is light and moist to go with the Snow White Buttercream Frosting.

I took a deep breath and started preparing the largest pans. I wanted to get those finished first. I felt that if I had the largest cakes done early, I would be ahead.

I also prepared the cooling area for cakes as they came out of the oven. My kitchen was now a bakery.

I purchased fresh ingredients for the cakes, including 3 dozen eggs and 12 cake mixes, and oil. More cake mixes and eggs would have to be purchased before I was finished.

I prepared two mixes at a time so the batter in the large pans would be ready all at once and there would be no difference between one cake mix and another going into the same pan.

I purchased a new Kitchen Aid mixer (refurbished 5 Qt. Professional) in early February for $200. I figured that if I make a few cakes and sell them, it will pay for itself pretty quickly. I really like the red in my kitchen! 😉

The first cake is ready to go into the oven. It’s the 14″ bottom tier and takes almost a full two cake mixes. I am so glad my sister taught me to put the flower nails in the pans. They really do make the cake bake more evenly.

After wrapping the pan with the wet baking strips, the first cake goes into the oven. The cake comes out with a few minor cracks across the top but looks great.

After this one, I also make the second layer for the bottom tier along with one of the 12″ layers, an 8″ layer and two 6″ layers. I’m a little over half way done baking cakes.

When the cakes are cool, I wrap them and return them to the pans to freeze them until later in the week when the frosting will go on.

My but there were plenty of dishes to wash!

More to come with Day 2.

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Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!

After my nephew’s wedding in June, we began preparing for my niece’s wedding in October. This time, my house would be the home base for all the cake preparations. The reception would be about 50 miles away. My sister and I began making the Classic White cake layers (our nephew’s cake was French Vanilla) and freezing them early in the week, amidst trips to find earrings for the bridesmaids and various and sundry other time-consuming activities. We finally found 3 sets of identical pearl earrings by midweek, but by then, we also had only about half the cake layers baked and frozen. My sister was the master baker, so I decided to start in on making batches of the buttercream frosting and left the cakes to her.  I didn’t trust myself to do things the way she was teaching me. I had not had the experience she did.

The day we got haircuts, Patricia got into high gear and finished baking the wedding cakes.

By Friday afternoon, we had also finished baking the groom’s cake and we froze the last layers that we would frost that evening.

Yes, we were baking both the wedding cake AND the groom’s cake! On Friday evening, reinforcements arrived in the form of two more sisters. 

My dining room became grand central station as we began to frost cakes.

Once we frosted the wedding cakes and marked the placement of the tiers, we started the work of frosting the groom’s cakes.

Another sister worked on the flowers.

And what an awesome job she did.  Look at the bride’s bouquet!!!

Meanwhile I made one more shopping spree to buy a few last-minute items. This included picking up the pre-wedding photo and frame. It was an old photo from my son’s reception at our house a couple of years ago and I had it enlarged. Thank goodness for one hour photos and half-price frames at Hobby Lobby!

Finally, Mary Ann made sprays of Patricia’s beautiful gum paste flowers, and it was time for one crew to take the cakes and spend the night a bit closer to the reception.

At the reception hall, another sister and another niece helped assemble the cakes.

The gum paste flowers looked so real!

And the chocolate covered strawberries looked so good, they almost didn’t make it to the reception.

But in the end, the only thing that mattered was that the bride and groom were happy. Everyone had their cake and ate it too! Both cakes were a hit.

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Lavender Roses and Blue Hydrangea

We had two family weddings this year. My nephew, who started his residency in Seattle, got married in June. It was the first time my sisters had tried gum paste flowers. It was a large wedding so the cake had five tiers. My oldest sister had purchased a fountain for her daughter’s wedding and offered them the use of it. Of course they said yes. I will never put a large cake on a fountain again. Having said that, the gum paste flowers were very pretty. Most of the time spent on the cake went into the gum paste flowers. For weeks before making the cake, my sisters worked on them. I helped some, but Mary Ann and Patricia did the majority of the work. After assembling all the flowers – lavender roses and blue hydrangea – Mary Ann made sprays of the flowers to insert between the tiers of the cake.

On the morning of the wedding, we took hydrangea from Patricia’s yard and greenery from another sister’s yard and assembled the fountain. We were ready to go. Before the wedding ceremony, we headed to the reception and between 5 people – well 4 since I was behind the camera – the cake came together.

First, we assembled the tiers  and “spliced” them together with buttercream pearls. Then Mary Ann added the flowers.

In the end, the cake was a sight to behold. The bride and groom were happy with the finished product and most of all, it tasted good.

Another family occasional cake for the record!

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Good Luck for the Happy Couple

My wedding cake was the second one the sisters did back in the 1970s. I used the topper one of my other sisters used on their cake. My bridesmaids wore peach colored dresses so my sisters made peach roses to put on the cake.

These cakes are always a group effort and  a balancing act in the beginning. (Get a load of those fashions! LOL)

Though pretty, we’ve come a long way, baby!

We also have made the groom’s cake several times. I let my sisters pick this one. It was small but the decorations were really nice. I seem to remember it tasted pretty good too.

Looking back at my wedding photos, I found the recipe for this cake, called a “Good Luck” cake and scanned it. My sisters had taken it from a magazine. Here it is.



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Origins of Occasional Cakes

Weddings are a big thing in my family. This started in the 1970s within my family of 6 girls. When it came time for our weddings, we all pitched in and helped one another celebrate the occasion by making the cakes and arranging flowers, etc., . . . So it became a tradition to bake and decorate the bride’s cake.

Almost 3 years ago, three of my sisters drove to my house and decorated the cakes I had baked for my son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law.

Patricia, who also colored the frosting for decorating, measured where the string work would go.

My sister, Mary Ann, did an expert job piping the pale blue flowers, leaves and string work.

And Karen, who had made the Snow White Buttercream Frosting,  also iced the layers and piped on the border along the base of the cake.

This tradition in our family continues with the bride’s cake to this day with weddings of all the nieces and nephews.

It was a small wedding at the courthouse and the reception was at our home. I loved how the cake turned out!

My DIL loves doves and we added those to the piped flowers. She has always loved the Precious Moments figurines and we found a topper that fit the bill. When we returned from the ceremony and she saw the cake, she couldn’t stop looking at it and smiling. She had no idea the kinds of cakes my sisters could muster up. As the topper suggested, it was truly a precious moment.

So, the thirty-something tradition continues.

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