Although I do love the word ‘naked cake’, I think working with buttercream is tremendous fun. Besides all possible decorating fun, buttercream also does a surprisingly amount of hard work in the flavor department. It seems like all the dough, filling and topping melt together in a very pleasant way.
Even though that all sounds very airy, it took me a lot of trial and error before I succesfully made buttercream. In the name of project wedding cake I made and tried different kinds of buttercream (I know, a very special detox program in case you have a big party to look forward to ;)). A very helpful guide was recently published by Food52 and I can only recommend reading this if you’re interesting. If you’re not really up for reading more, I have found us a perfect recipe!
My favorite buttercream turns out to be Italian (or meringue) buttercream. This type of buttercream is made on a basis of egg whites whipped stiff with hot sugar syrup. When the meringue is ready, you gradually add pieces of butter. This way the bulk of your cream is coming from eggs, not from sugar, which makes a less sweet butter cream than for example an all-American buttercream that I have made in the past. The consistency is wonderfully creamy when you have just whipped it, which makes it really easy to cover and pipe a cake. After you put your cake in the fridge this cream does firm up beautifully as well, which is a big plus as it makes it less likely that you will damage or dent your cake.
Due to the emulsion of the egg whites and butter, the process of making Italian Buttercream is a lot like making mayonnaise. Whenever during the process the mixture tends to crumble, you can fix this by either cooling the bowl in an icebath or melting a small portion in the microwave. In case your buttercream doesn’t seem to firm up: just keep mixing it. Helpful clues are to not double portions but rather take the time to make each portion individually (otherwise it might take hours to firm up), and to use a standing mixer (or have someone help you in the process). In case of trouble, I have found this blog post to be very helpful, if not soothing.
And in case you have made your buttercream, why not cover it in sprinkles?:)
On a more practical note: a cake covered in sprinkles or fondant will be much easier to transport than a cake that is solely covered in buttercream. This beauty traveled all the way from Frankfurt to Amsterdam (!) and still looked unaffected. View Full Post
Project wedding cake:
What can I say? I baked a wedding cake!
Writing this down makes me realize that we did it! And with that I mean both getting married and baking our own wedding cake (including transporting it to the venue unharmed ;)).
Would I do it again? Yes, any day. And with that I mean both getting married to Anton and baking our own wedding cake.
Besides being able to fully fine-tune the cake to all our likings, I also liked that all the anticipating fun lead to something tangible.
So this little monster, that was surprisingly heavy btw, consisted out of buttery vanilla cake, silky soft butter cream, the freshest and tangiest lemon curd, dark chocolate cake, white chocolate ganache, raspberry marmalade, dulce de leche and dark chocolate ganache.
For the decoration I gold-painted white fondant and made fondant roses. Instead of buttercream leaves, I used sprigs of rosemary from our terrace. I liked the fact that something ‘home-grown’ was on the cake, but honestly I also didn’t really seem to get the buttercream piping right
Do I have tips for you? Yes! In case you are in the process of either considering to bake a cake or already knee-deep in, I would like to give you the following advice.
- Measure everything, especially the size of your baking pansTo create different tiers of cake, you will want the difference in size to be big enough. I discovered that 5-centimeter difference between the third and second layer proofed to look a little lame. For that reason I left it out (and made it a ‘back-up’ cake, see point 7). I haven’t read any guidelines on this, but I would say that a 10-centimeter difference in the diameter size of your cake pans is a good place to start. Reason is that your buttercream (and / or ganache) will make your cake wider after decorating it.
- Make sure you have a sturdy and large(r) cakeboard to transport your cake onI did not consider this upfront and was lucky enough to find a large wooden board to put the cake on before we transported the cake to the venue (it was really a lucky coincidence, as this a wooden board that my grandparents got for their wedding, with their names on it (!)).
Reason is that your normal cake-board will not leave enough room for your hands to hold on to it, which might lead you to grope your carefully finished cake right into its buttercream.
- Consider the transportation of your cakeI thought that the transportation of our cake would be a breeze, especially as the venue is less than a kilometer away from our place.
However, I did have trembling knees by the time we arrived. Driving in a car will cause your cake to move a little on its board.
I would advise to buy a cardboard box large enough to at least comprise the bottom half of the cake (it then doesn’t have to be closed).
In case your travel is longer than a couple of blocks, I would recommend to assemble the different parts at the location itself and request a bit of space and time for that.
- Prepare as much as you can upfrontAssembling the cake will take a lot of time, even if all parts are ready. I thought I had most things ready and only left the buttercream and fondant decorations for the assembling day. In hindsight, I would even have prepared those a day upfront.
- Allow your fondant (decoration) time to dryI was surprised how much easier it was to handle the fondant decorations after it had dried a little. Here I must add that I did add a layer of gold paint (edible gold powder mixed with vodka) as well as food coloring to the decorations, which makes it a little stickier.
Especially the gold-painted fondant was much easier to cut into little rounds (I used piping nozzles for this) after the painted sheets had dried for a couple of hours.
- Make more buttercream than you needI had difficulties to estimate how much buttercream I would need. I ended up making four times the recipe of Italian Meringue Buttercream (recipe to follow), and have around 3/4 portion left. The buttercream will need quite a bit of time in your kitchen machine, so it makes sense to have it turned while you are working on the assembly of your cake instead of having to make it everytime you run out.
Having said that, it is much easier to make it in small batches, so I just kept the kitchen machine running and kept making. Having more than you need is also really handy in case you are bringing a piping bag filled with buttercream with you to the venue.
- Consider making a ‘back-up’ cakeInstead of making a three-tier cake, you could make a modest two-tier cake that is much easier to transport and still looks amazing, and keep one large (sheet) cake in the back, for example in the kitchen of the venue. This way you are sure that there will be more than enough for all your guests.
- Bring a (closed) piping bag of buttercream and spatula to the venueChances are that during the transport of your cake, little bits of the piping will get damaged. This is obviously not the end of the world, but I would have been happy to correct it.
My advice is to use a disposable piping bag for this, that you simply snip open once you need to use it. Also consider bringing a (small) cotton bag with you to put in the remains and dirty spatula, as chances are that you won’t necessarily have access to a sink to wash it all up.
- Practice slicing the cakeI know that this sounds really lame, but in case you are the slightest bit of a control freak (I hear that, sister), it is really helpful to watch a couple of youtube videos. I had no idea how slicing a tiered cake works and how you are sure to avoid the internal cake board and dowels.
We sliced the cake as it was and had no difficulties (some cake tiers are disassembled before slizing) and it turned out that you will notice where the dowels are. We also did our best to not give our guests too big of a piece to make sure that they wouldn’t feel overstuffed (or bad for leaving it) and still had a chance to try our other cakes (such as the kid’s cake and the backup one).
- Enjoy the fruits of your laborIt goes without saying, but I would still emphasize this. You have poured so much work into this piece of art, enjoy a possibly massive piece of it. The cake will taste amazing, regardless of how it looks. Even when the layers tumble, your guests will be delighted to try it. And the more relaxed you are about it, the easier it will be for people around you to enjoy. In the end, it is just a cake. Well, an awesome one. 😉
I wish you all the baking fun there is! That, and loads of eternal love. 🙂