help -- my friends want me to make their wedding cake!
...and while that sounds like fun, it's also terrifying. I keep having visions of layers collapsing on top of each other during the ceremony. I've done a decent amount of baking, but nothing remotely so ambitious before.
tips? recipes? good books to read? any and all advice, cautions, recommendations and words of encouragement seriously welcomed.
It'll be for about 80 guests, and while I've been given artistic license, something vaguely traditional (tiered, elegant) will be expected.
A friend of a friend makes wedding cakes and she passed along this recipe. I've made it a few times now for birthday cakes and it makes a good yellow cake- firm with a medium-to-fine crumb. It's incredibly easy, too.
2 3/4 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup milk
In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds on medium. Add sugar and vanilla and combine. Add eggs one at a time and mix well until incorporated. Add flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time and mix each time on low speed until well incorporated.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
re: Chris VR
What you need is a copy of "Baking with Julia." It's a Martha recipe, which she demo'd on that series. The instructions/method in Julia's book are impecccable, and every construction issue is addressed in excrutiatingly minute detail, accompanied by a whole section of step-by-step assembly photos. Martha/Julia will even show you how to make marzipan fruit with which to decorate the cake. It sounds delicious, looks heavenly, and the instructions are so complete that nothing - and I do mean nothing! - is left to chance.
You should have this book, anyway. Everyone should - it contains everything from the simplest scone to the most wild extravaganzas ever, all thoroughly tested and vetted to avoid any nasty surprises. The contributing bakers include Marcel Desaulniers, Gale Gand, Michel Richard, Nancy Silverton, and many, many others - plus Martha. ;o) A GREAT late Xmas present, for sure (that's how I got mine), and one you refer to forever.
Both epicurious.com and marthastewart.com have excellent recipes and instructions on how to put the whole thing together...a feat of engineering that requires doweling and the suchlikes.
For my own wedding, my husband did the cake - we made sponge cakes in three different sizes - 12 inch, 10 inch and 8 inch squares. Then he did a three layer cake with jam and a bit of frosting in the middle and iced the outside with a 'stucco' finish with coconut. We placed each cake on top of a decorative box, with varied heights on each box. The table was decorated with flowers and confetti and ribbon and such. It was pretty spectacular while maintaining the 'homemade' image we wanted.
Alternatively, you could do three layer cakes of whatever shape you wanted and rent a tiered cake stand...I considered that, but couldn't get the right shape.
Or you could do a beautiful cupcake tree...a popular choice nowdays. Martha Stewart has nice instructions for that as well.
Agree about Martha Stewart being a good resource for elegant, grand, but homemade wedding cakes. Try the website, but you might also consider getting the Weddings book (compiles articles from her Weddings mag; retails for about $50 I think) or just snag the current Weddings issue. However, I would only attempt a bakery-like cake if I had lots of previous experience w/ baking on such a scale.
For something homemade, I actually prefer the idea of making an assortment of 9 or 10" cakes (or cupcakes, donuts, etc.) and displaying them in an interesting way. Some cakes freeze well, so you might consider those so that you can make ahead of time.
Another way to make it really personal is to ask the couple if there is any special family recipe (say something from a late grandmother, etc.) that they would like to incorporate. It's a wonderful way to honor the relative or the family culinary heritage. Another way to personalize: make a dessert that the couple had on their first date or has come to be "their dessert." Nicely-typed copies of your recipe for guests is also wonderful.
What an honor to be asked by your friend...what a great gift you are giving by agreeing...have fun w/ it and don't let the W-word intimidate you...
While people will recommend the Cake Bible as the be all and end all of cakes, I found its wedding cake selections to be somewhat dull -- they have a recipe for chocolate, a recipe for yellow cake, and a recipe for cheesecake. These can be tarted up with flavored frostings, but I really like the cake to be flavored too. The Cake Bible is good for general cake technique, though. When I made my own wedding cake and a wedding cake for a friend, I found Dede Wilson's Wedding Cake Book to be invaluable. There are a lot of recipes for all different flavors of cakes and icing, from tiered flourless confections to good basic wedding cakes. The recipes are given in amounts for each pan size, so you can skip tiers if you want, and you don't have to worry about dividing the tiers as evenly. They're sturdy enough to stand up to stacking, and she gives tips on assembly and decoration (though her decorating style isn't always my favorite). For my own wedding, I made the Spanish Vanilla cake in the book (an almondy cake with grated chocolate), topped it with grand marnier buttercream and covered the whole thing with (purchased) fondant which I had colored and flavored with almond oil. For a friend's wedding, I made the lemon buttermilk cake but flavored it with orange oil instead of lemon oil, frosted the whole thing with chocolate ganache and decorated with white chocolate "plastic". Both were excellent cakes.
For other tips, practice the recipe and frosting with at least one 9" cake beforehand, so you're on top of the technique. Get cardboard rounds cut to size for each layer, and use drinking straws stuck in the cake to support the rounds and avoid collapse.