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Jan 26, 2005 11:14 AM

cake decorating book

  • j

Big challenge: my sister has asked me to bake her wedding cake. Date of event: May. I'm very excited -- but I've never baked an elaborate, highly decorative cake. I'm looking for some books/resources that I can practice with over the coming months. (I especially need help with roses.) Any suggestions?

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  1. c
    Caitlin Wheeler

    A great book I used to bake my own wedding cake was The Wedding Cake Book by Dede Wilson. It had great recipes and advice about structure and construction, as well as some tips on decorating. I found the recipes to be much more interesting than the ones for wedding cakes in the Cake Bible. Though, speaking from experience, piping is very hard, especially for a novice to pick up. I'd model the roses from chocolate plastic if you must have edible roses, or use fresh ones.

    Rolled fondant is something that looks very sharp, and I think that if you aren't a professional/experienced cake decorator, it's actually easier to get a cake looking really professional by using rolled fondant (though it takes a lot of practice, first!). You still have to get the buttercream underneath very smooth, but the buttercream doesn't need to look good.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

      I agree with the fondant suggestion. Much easier to make a professional, flawless looking finish, and if you are somewhere where the weather will be quite warm in May, fondant holds up better than buttercream. Beware the slippage of layers from the filling, though!

      I made a friend's wedding cake a few years ago, and used The Cake Bible - she wanted simple flavors so interesting recipes wasn't an issue. Rose Levy Berenbaum gives great instructions on all aspects of making and assembling cakes. I did find the chocolate cake recipe needed substantially more beating time to build a good cake structure than she specified, though.

      The Wilton books are great primers as well, my Mom had a wedding cake business for years and years and swears by the Wilton books.

      Whatever recipe you choose, it's a good idea to do practice cakes first. Not necessarily an entire wedding cake, but it's helpful to know any quirks with the recipes - if I hadn't done that I would have ended up with much flatter chocolate cake layers. You also want to make sure your oven and racks are very level - a slight tilt you may normally never notice will be very evident in a large cake.

      Good luck!

      1. re: Persephone

        Very helpful posts, thank-you!
        Fondant: Buy or make? (I saw big bags of it at the store.)
        Buttercream: the easy kind with just butter and sugar, or the complicated kind with egg yolks?
        I am starting my practicing tonight.

        1. re: jennyreese
          Caitlin Wheeler

          I bought fondant, but I flavored it with almond flavored candy oil (my cake also had almond paste in it, and grated chocolate). It wasn't my favorite tasting part of the cake, but it tasted OK, and people could just eat the buttercream underneat. I did have a few guests tell me that the fondant was their favorite part though, so I would definitely recommend the flavoring route (it has to be oil based, though).

          Buttercream -- choose your favorite recipe. A meringue based buttercream is probably slightly better, but it's up to your taste -- some people LOVE the powdered sugar kind. I made a sort of hybrid one that included dried milk as a stabilizer, and I flavored it (again) with grand marnier extract.

          1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

            I made the fondant, and have for other cakes. It's really very easy, and fun, very tactile. Do not, I repeat do not, no matter what cookbook author tells you it's okay, do not try to make it in the food processor! I cracked the center thingy in mine trying that, it still works, but it's very difficult to change blades now. I agree, fondant isn't the greatest tasting stuff, mostly it's just very, very sweet. But it keeps the cake nice and moist, and it's easy to just peel off if someone doesn't want to eat it.

            I also agree about the buttercream, try some different recipes, see what you like best, and what you think will work with your cake given the flavor, texture and the weather. I forget which buttercream I used, it wasn't the super complicated type though, and I used ganache for a filling for the chocolate layers. We had yellow cake with chocolate buttercream, and chocolate with ganache, per the bride's request.

    2. i was in a very similar situation 2 years ago and i produced a beautiful wedding cake thanks to one very helpful book: the whimsical bakehouse cookbook by kaye and liv hansen. their cakes are so much fun but more than anything their constructions and decorating techniques were so helpful and simply illustrated. i produced a beautiful 3 tier professional wedding cake with white chocolate swirls on the sides and pearl dots at the base of each layer. and their carrot cake recipe has become a family favorite after trying many other cookbook versions.

      1. I don't have much advice about a cake decorating book, but I did find the Cake Bible helpful when making my sister-in-law's wedding cake, in part because of the conversions for all different sizes of cakes.

        I'm linking my post about that experience, which also includes links to some other useful posts (sorry the image no longer works).


        1. In addition to books you may want to check out some old Gourmets/Bon Appetits. It seems to me that they have often had features on wedding cakes come June or so. Some of them seemed quite nice as I recall.