Transporting a wedding cake, tips & tricks!

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This wedding cake traveled 500 (five hundred!) kilometers from Frankfurt to the Dutch countryside earlier this month.
I can’t mention any of this without giving a huge amount of credit to Anton, who kindly coped with heavily airconditioning our car and really managed to avoid any bump or curve in the road.

Considering I (we) managed, I am happy to share my tips on transporting the wedding cake over a long distance.  

Choosing your cake & ingredients

Whenever choosing a cake, make sure that you do not use the softest or most crumbly cake recipe you can think of. I did make one tier out of a rather tender chocolate cake, but I made sure I prolonged the baking time just a little, to make sure it wouldn’t all break apart. The fact that the cake had enough time to settle into the buttercream compensated for this loss of liquid.

We started traveling two days prior to the wedding, so I took care to not use any fresh fruit as a filling, and I was also extra careful with making sure that none of the buttercream ingredients were extra perishable (I didn’t add fruit puree or fresh cream for example).

In addition, I avoided using anything ‘slippery’ as a filling as it might cause the cake layers and buttercream to start moving (think of the architecture behind building a no-slip sandwich). Instead I used a limited amount of concentrated marmalade and mostly buttercream.

As the day prior to the wedding was a national holiday, I decided to use silk flowers, instead of fresh flowers to make sure the flowers wouldn’t look old or wilted.

I was really happy that I went for the safest options possible, as the week of the wedding of our friends was incredibly hot, but you might feel more comfortable choosing otherwise.

Allowing time to let the cake get firmer

To ensure that all cake layers would arrive in one piece and largely undented, I made sure that the cake tiers were finished at least one day in advance. Doing so allows the cake, buttercream and marmelade to ‘sink’ into each other and to get more grip (this prevents cake layers from sliding off one another).

In addition I used wooden skewers that I stuck into the cakes to also prevent further movement. Even though this leaves little holes in the buttercream, this is easy to cover up once you assemble the cake.

To be extra-extra sure I completely froze each cake tier before traveling. This meant that our freezer needed to be empty, but it was a huge peace of mind during our travel which made me feel like it was worth the effort.

Materials to wrap the cakes for travel

In short: each cake tier was made on its own cake board and packed separately in a sturdy cardboard cake box, large enough to fit a cake board larger than the cake resting on it, and high enough so that the buttercream wouldn’t touch any of the sides of the box.

Needed equipment:

  • 3 sturdy and large cardboard cake boxes (I used these)
  • 2 thinner cake boards (that can be cut into shape with scissors, I used these)
  • 3 extra thick cake boards (two of it you will be able to reuse, I used these)
  • wooden skewers
  • dowels

I made each cake tier on a cake board that was larger than the diameter of the cake, to make sure that no cake would touch the sides of their cardboard box.

As I still wanted each cake tier to be smooth (without any cake boards sticking out), I made sure that I made the two smaller cake tiers on cake boards that were a bit thinner and that I could cut to size with scissors once we were at the venue.

To be sure that these smaller cakes would still have enough support during travel, I put thicker cake boards under the thinner cake boards inside the box. Because I can reuse the thicker cake boards (no cake has touched it), I didn’t feel too bad about using double materials.

Transporting the wedding cake

I placed the cake boxes in an empty car trunk, so that nothing could slide into the cake boxes during our travel.

To be sure, I did my best to keep the temperature in the car as low as possible, which might not be necessary, but my advice is to prevent transporting (or leaving) your cakes in a burning hot car, as I am afraid you might end up with puddles of buttercream speckled with cake.

Things you will need at the wedding venue

So you have made the drive with the cakes in the back of your car and you have carried the cake boxes safely into the venue!

So now that your cake arrived carefully at the location, try to put the cake tiers into the fridge for a bit. Even if it is only 20 minutes, it will firm up your cakes exponentially and will make it so much easier to assemble your cake tiers together (here is a really useful video on how to dowel and assemble your cake).

  • a power socket
  • a kitchen counter or working space
  • a fridge (although not necessary, it is a really nice to have)
  • an hour to an hour and a half at the wedding venue to finish your cake in peace
  • half of a portion of Italian Buttercream, packed in a ziplock bag
  • a handmixer (to smoothen and soften the buttercream)
  • a (disposable) piping bag
  • silk flowers (or any other decoration you’d like to use)
  • enough wet wipes to clean any counter you will work on
  • 2 tea towels (you’ll be happy you brought these)
  • a microwave or hair dryer (or any other device that will help you warm up your buttercream so that it will not curdle when you whip it up)
  • knife (to fit your dowels to your cake)
  • Scissors (to cut the cake boards of your upper two tiers, so that none of the cake board is visible after assembling)

Not technically needed, but great to have is some support by means of someone helping you carry the cake boxes, open the door for you, supplying you with coffee (thanks Anna and Anton) and to encourage you during the process.

Conclusion: you can transport a wedding cake over a long distance as long as you are thoroughly prepared. Wishing you the best of luck!

tukskitchen.com

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When it was all done! 🙂 Thanks Anna & Anton for the great support, encouragement and coffee!!

Project Wedding Cake Part III – TA-DA!


Project wedding cake - Tuks Kitchen

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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).
  10. 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. 🙂
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Project Wedding Cake Part II – the cakes are baked!

Wedding cake design Tuk & AntonWhat can I say? The cakes are baked! And there are even more than fitted onto the photo (!). Besides feeling pretty smug, it’s reassuring that a large chunk of the work on our wedding cake (literally) is done.

The best thing about baking a cake this size is that it really feels like a project that can be approached with the utmost care. I mean, sure it is fine to fiddle around with a simple fruit cake when friends are coming over, but there is no way to justify dancing around it to achieve perfection. 

And just to be sure, there is no way that this cake will be perfect or looking like it’s made by a cake master, but I’m happy trying. Hopefully the cake will look more or less like above sketch. 🙂

And in the name of research and project management, I have taken my time to find the perfect recipe for the cake layers (which mostly meant loads of note-taking and try-outs). My requirements for the cake recipe: I wanted to have a tender cake that is really tasty with clear notes of butter, vanilla and egg without being overly sweet. What I didn’t want was a spongy cake, as I really like the tenderness that butter lends to baked goods. At the same time I wanted the cake layers to be sturdy enough to build a wedding cake (!) out of.

Additionally, I wanted to be able to freeze the cake layers without losing any of the softness, and thus a recipe that was truly tested.

The answer? The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I can’t be positive enough about the detail with which this book is written. Admittedly, it is not the lightest read in the cookbook-genre, but in case you are undertaking baking something for a special occasion, this is really an amazing guide. Not only does she describe clear portions, she also gives hints to which cakes would stack best and how far in advance the baked cakes can be wrapped in clingfilm and frozen (in this case three months (!)).

With regards to the amounts, it seems like opinions differ on portions. We will serve the cake after dinner, and therefore the expectation is that guests will prefer not to eat a large piece. Having said that, I like to play safe and have taken a generous approach. The Wilton guidelines are considered one of the most reliable, and I have taken away my rough estimates as well.
We expect around 90 people to enjoy the cake and have made 4x the recipe of the yellow cake and 4x the recipe of the chocolate cake. 

Next up: recipes of the buttercream, fillings and the build-up of the cake! View Full Post

Project Baking my own Wedding Cake – part I: the Introduction

Photo 21-02-16 12 04 19I might have casually dropped this on you before, but for real, I am baking our wedding cake (!). We will be getting married in May and I’ve embraced this cake project in the fullest way possible.
My not so hidden agenda is to have as much anticipating fun as possible, especially when this involves me pottering around the kitchen and feeding my friends (test audience sounds even much better!). But honestly I think that if there’s one day that I would like the cake to taste amazing, it will be this day, and I am happy to contribute to that. 

After reading Deb Perelman’s wedding cake series, I was convinced that this project would be a good idea. Because yes, it all makes sense. There is no way that a professional bakery can put as much effort into every little detail as you would yourself, due to the fact that they are restricted to their time-efficient processes and profit margins.

Now, there is no way to really avoid saying that I went into this project head-on without any clue about crumb-coating (what?), trimming a cake or building up a layer cake in general. My previous attempts on buttercream have looked somehow fit for a low-key birthday party but have lacked the oomph I generally drool over on Instagram. In case you are worried, please consider yourself in good company (read: possibly everyone around me in a good state of mind). 

By no means am I considering myself an expert, but what I would like to share with you is what I learned over the last couple of months. As there are actually many steps to baking and building up a layered cake, I will discuss in a couple of blog posts.

And in case you are not on the market (ha!) for a wedding cake, just consider that the same principles apply to baking any layered cake with a bit of festive ba-boom.
Photo 21-02-16 16 49 08
Principles of this Wedding Cake:

  • Happy couple plus happy guests equals awesome wedding. I would love this cake to look absolutely stunning, but it is not the most important thing. Non-perfection is perfectly acceptable and I would choose taste over looks one million times (which I think is also the perfect thought for any wedding;)).
  • There will be around 80-100 guests that are hopefully all hungry for cake! The cake will be served after dinner, which – according to the venue – means that not everyone will eat a huge piece. If it would be up to me we would solely eat cake but I don’t want to spoil appetites before the ‘real food’ is served (not my words;)). Altogether I decided to play it safe and I’m holding on to the Cake Bible’s portion guides.
  • Our wedding venue is 200 meters away from our home and this means that I will be able transport the cake by walking to the venue, holding the cake (stand) in my hands. I’m therefore lucky enough to not have to worry about packaging, the cake getting warm or a bumpy road.
  • The cake will be having a simple, round shape as I didn’t want to buy extra springforms. I’ve decided upon a rather large 26 cm diameter springform and have bought three of those to be able to bake different layers in one go.  
  • The cakes themselves need to be simple, not too sweet and sturdy enough to hold up. The choice is to make one cake a classic yellow cake, and the other one a classic chocolate cake. Requirement is that the cakes need to be prepared in advance, wrapped and frozen without a loss of taste or texture.
  • I love cakes with intriguing fillings and have chosen accordingly, preferring those that can be prepared far in advance. The choice is a Homemade Simple Lemon Curd filling in the yellow cake, combined with slivered strawberries (how I love spring!). The chocolate cake will be filled with alternating salted Dulce de Leche (!) and raspberry marmelade. These fillings can be made at least one month upfront, and it is only the strawberries that need to be cleaned and sliced last minute.
  • Upon starting this project, I gave myself a budget to invest in some kitchen tools. Having said that, I have been careful not to procure anything that will not serve use in the future. Hereby a short summary of the materials I already had or have bought: three large spring forms, two large mixing bowls, multiple spatulas to mix with, a buttercream plastic comb (from the Ikea), food coloring (I’d highly recommend you buying good quality gels), a hand mixer, a little brush, dowels, a cake board to support the cake, a strong piping bag (worth the investment as many have failed on me), a pasta machine (not necessary, but utterly brilliant to ‘roll out’ fondant with), a cake turning table and this mind-blowing tool to make roses.
  • Tips for buying tools: think thoroughly about what you’re really going to need. Then, think outside the box. Have a look at your local DIY store, as similar tools tend to be available, but for much better prices. Examples are a turning element to put your cake on (instead of a cake-turning table), paint spatulas (to apply buttercream), small paint brushes (to sprinkle any sparkling dust on your cake) and floor levellers (to make the top of your cake even).
  • What I didn’t buy: cake strips (I found I didn’t need those when I baked my cakes at a low temperature and in thin layers), a cake leveler (instead of slicing cakes horizontally, I chose to bake thinner layers, to avoid the mess), complicated piping tips or molding tools.

Still under consideration:

  • I am still debating how many tiers the cake will have. Initially I considered to make two large round 1-tier cakes, but I start to realise that there is quite some visual appeal in having a stacked cake. My main worry here is that the cake will need to be disassembled (right?) before slicing into it and that a stacked cake needs a strong foundation, to prevent the top cake from sinking or collapsing into the bottom tier.
    To achieve this, the top tier cake is placed on a cake board and dowels (wooden or plastic sticks) are stuck in the bottom tier cake. I am planning to practice using these tools the upcoming weeks and will let time decide whether I am comfortable with all of it.  
  • Buttercream will be the only thing to cover the cakes. Reason for this is that I really do not like the sweetness (and general blandness) of fondant, even though it tends to look beautiful. At the moment I am trying out different buttercream recipes that are not using a majority of sugar, but are rather less-sweet tasting, such as Swiss Buttercream or Buttercream on a basis of roux (cooked milk with flour).
  • The decoration of the cakes and the looks of it in general is the thing that worries me most, as it is completely out of my comfort zone. I’ve watched several youtube videos (you are warned, this couple is amazing and the rabbit hole is luring!) to get accustomed to the different steps and the apparent needed precision (so much patience!). I hope to make a cake with white buttercream, a dotted boarder, and a stream of fondant roses on the side. 
  • The timing is still a debacle, as the cake needs to be ready two days in advance, including the buttercream frosting and decoration, due to the fact that the day prior to our wedding is a banking holiday and the venue will be closed the day prior to our wedding. Alternatively we could do the last bits of assembling on the day of our wedding (there will be a three hour break), but I can imagine that the chances of me collapsing with cake into dress or into handsome suit are increasing.

Sources that I have found useful:
The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (a very old-fashioned cooking book in a way that it doesn’t have many pictures, but really in depth with its technical descriptions, warning is that you do need to take a bit of time to dig into all of the information);
Smitten Kitchen, the wedding cake series;
Smitten Kitchen with tips on making layered cakes;
Food52 on baking a wedding cake;
Cake Style on Youtube (in case you find yourself unable to stop watching, consider yourself warned :)).