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I have reached buttercream nirvana (long)

danna Jul 2, 2007 07:04 AM

Thanks to all who suffered with me in my quest. The anniversary party is behind me and the four - tiered cake has been baked, frosted, decorated, transported, displayed, photograhed, cut and consumed. It could not have gone better. Those of you who associate my posts w/ some disaster story, either complete, or narrowly avoided, will be shocked.

Silk Meringue Buttercream from Rose L-B's Cake Bible is the bomb. If you've followed my cake-related ramblings, you know I did a test run with this frosting a month or so ago. At that time, I found it to be good, but slightly loose and not sweet enough, and wound up beating in some powdered sugar.

This time, I increased the sugar just a bit in both the creme anglais component and the Italian Meringue. The result was perfection. I'm not sure if it was stiffer because of the additional sugar, or if I did something else better than before. Possibly the fact that I took the butter out of the fridge the night before made the difference (I will ALWAYS do that in the future). I made two double batches (4 lbs of butter total) and the batches turned out identical. Fluffy, creamy, stiff, very easy to pipe, non-greasy, and STABLE. After frosting the entire cake, I put it in the fridge for a couple of hours. When I returned to do the detail decoration, the frosting was so "set-up" that I was able to wipe away mistakes with a finger without disturbing the frosting. Yet when we ate it (about 2 hours of room temp) it was creamy and delicious(flavored w/ almond and grand marnier), not that hard stuff you often get.

I refridgerated the completed cake for about 24 hours, turned the a/c on full blast in the car, and transported that rascal 17 miles to the party venue. Stashed it in their fridge for another 4-5 hours. It sat at room temp ( a/c, but still rather hot since there were 75 people and they kept leaving the double doors open) for 3 hours without a problem. And the remnants have sat at room temp for the last 2 days with no ill effects.

I'm beside myself with relief, and had hoped never to see the inside of my kitchen again, or at least no time soon, when I got an email yesterday from a friend who wants to pay me to make a cake for her. Can any of you tell me what wedding cakes go for these days? The one I just completed was 4 tiers of two layers, chocolate cake w/ buttercream, and decorated w/ shells, dots, some (rather amatuerish) scroll work and fluer de lis.

I hope to post some pics, assuming when I go to the venue at lunch today, I can find my camera that I left there *doh!* Thanks for reading.

  1. l
    Lisbet Jul 14, 2007 04:28 AM

    Dear "danna".......Thank you so much for the wonderful posts !!! Thanks for sharing your cake decorating adventures/experiences, you are an inspiration ! I usually approach decorating cakes with nervous, fearful trepidation and the end result always shows it ! My attempts at decorating never turn out....but the cakes (under the frosting/icing) are always very good. I even took a couple of classes in cake decorating. Guess it takes a lot of experimentation and practice. I am copying your posts to tuck into my baking book.

    Have you ever thought about teaching the art of cake decorating?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Lisbet
      danna Jul 16, 2007 08:38 AM

      Thanks for your sweet post, Lisbet, that made me feel good.

      The only thing I'm qualified to teach a class on is self confidence. Whether baking, bike racing, or god-knows what else, I'm overloaded with (often misplaced) self confidence. Something to do with being the only child of a teacher who spent a lot of years learning how to make kids confident. She now says she thinks she over did it.

      Anyhow, just dive in. As you said, your cakes are delicious, and that's what people really care about. All the rest is gravy (frosting).

      One hint I will give you....I actually did 2 test cakes. The first one I frosted in pale yellow (the natural color of the butter and eggs) and decorated in dark golden-yellow and orange. It looked pretty bad and my husband said something along the lines of "I thought you knew how to decorate cakes" and I wound up just swirling it all in to the icing. So I went monochrome with much more success. I think monochrome both makes the design look more elegant and camoflages the fact that the piping is unsteady and amatuerish.

    2. a
      Amanita Jul 12, 2007 08:58 AM

      That's a real work of art. Congratulations. Sounds delicious. Makes me hungry! I think you should ask your friend for something like 300 bucks, counting wear and tear on the cook. Check with a bakery to see what they charge.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Amanita
        danna Jul 12, 2007 09:09 AM

        I decided just to give her one. It won't have to be as big, only 30-40 people. I don't think she can afford what I'd want for wear and tear ;-) I'm not sure Bill Gates would want to pay what for all the waking up in the middle of the night I did worrying about my Mom's cake.

        1. re: danna
          s
          soupkitten Jul 12, 2007 09:49 AM

          danna i know she's a friend but take it from me, someone who has baked enough cakes (not as beautiful and elaborate as yours!) to have been taken advantage of :(

          at least ask her to pay for the ingredients of the cake-- all of them, incl the vanilla beans, extracts, etc, and one or two things that will make baking the cake easier for you-- like a new timer, large mixing bowl, other tools.

          she will still get all your labor and skill for free, and you will be all set up to help the next friend with a cake, and it will be easier and less stressful for you with all ingredients paid for and better equipment. it will be easier on the friendship too! :)

          1. re: soupkitten
            danna Jul 12, 2007 10:40 AM

            maybe you're right. Although, it IS for a graduation party...she just got her PhD. She lives close to a goat farm that makes some fab cheese, I thought about trading her in cheese, but then it won't be as much as the cake is worth, but it would keep it from being seen as a graduation gift. So I don't know what to do.

            1. re: danna
              s
              soupkitten Jul 12, 2007 09:15 PM

              your call. just my suggestion-- b/c the average person doesn't know how much it costs in expensive ingredients to bake a cake, they tend to underguesstimate these costs, and then underguesstimate your time commitment as well. if it is a good friend and you want it to be her graduation gift then that's different, of course-- do whatever your heart tells you, or ask for a token fee to defray the cost of ingredients. i didn't mean to butt in--just please have fun doing the job, & don't forget to share your pictures here! :)

      2. danna Jul 12, 2007 08:11 AM

        Here are the pics: (i hope)

        http://s29.photobucket.com/albums/c28...?

        9 Replies
        1. re: danna
          MMRuth Jul 12, 2007 08:22 AM

          Wow - I'm impressed!

          1. re: danna
            s
            soupkitten Jul 12, 2007 08:26 AM

            beautiful!

            1. re: danna
              jennisad Jul 12, 2007 08:27 AM

              wow!! what an awesome job for your first time. I am truly impressed, and I also admire your patience, i can only imagine what it takes to finish off that monster. I already saw great improvements from your test cake to the real one. Good for you!

              I have seen many people here list The Cake Bible as a go to for cakes....is it a great resource? or just a few keepers?

              1. re: jennisad
                danna Jul 12, 2007 08:38 AM

                Funny you should ask. My initial thoughts on the Cake Bible were not good. I made a very blah chocolate cake from it, and a buttercream that was hellish to make and then slid right off the cake when the room got a little warm.

                However, more recently I made the chocolate angel food cake from Cake Bible and it is spectacular. Then I made the above Silk Meringue frosting...it's WAY better than the Classic Buttercream. So...I don't know...you'll have to decide for yourself what you think of Cake Bible. The charts showing how much frosting you needed for different sizes of cake layers were very helpful.

                Thanks all for the compliments.

                1. re: danna
                  macca Jul 12, 2007 08:49 AM

                  WOW. What a great job. Must have been nerve wracking when you first cintemplated making the cake. Came out perfect. I am going back and reading your posts from pre party time- posts like these really inspire me to broaden my baking skills ( or lack thereof!).

                2. re: jennisad
                  s
                  Smokey Jul 13, 2007 06:51 PM

                  the cake bible (and the other 'bibles' by RLB) are a total love'em or hate'em type books. The author has a definite tone and style that isn't to everybody's liking.

                  1. re: Smokey
                    p
                    Pistou Jul 14, 2007 06:26 AM

                    I both love and hate her books. I love them because when I follow her directions to a "T" everything I have made has turned out perfectly. Which is why the buttercream story shocked me! I'm not doubting you in any way, Danna, rather saying that I'm bummed to learn that this is not always the case with RLB.

                    Because what I hate, loath and detest about her books is the fact that you invariably have to look at a minimum of 5 different pages in 5 entirely disparate parts of the book to make one recipe. I completely understand why this is so, but it drives me to distraction. I have been known to photocopy the needed pages so I wouldn't have to flip, flip, flip in the middle of making something complicated.

                3. re: danna
                  d
                  Diana Jul 12, 2007 10:51 AM

                  Fabulous! No wonder people want to pay you!

                  You took me as a drive-by visitor to your buttercream nirvana!

                  1. re: danna
                    s
                    Smokey Jul 13, 2007 06:53 PM

                    Danna, it's gorgeous--congratulations on reaching buttercream nirvana!

                  2. l
                    Linda513 Jul 2, 2007 08:04 AM

                    Ooh, it sounds divine. I would love to see photos.

                    As for the cost of a wedding cake, I would think it would depend on how long it takes to make it and where in the country you are located. Everything where I live (outside of Washington DC) is incredibly expensive. I got a cake from here:

                    http://www.fancycakesbyleslie.com/html/cakes.html

                    for my daughter's pre-bat mitzvah party. It was small, two layers, and had a horse on top. It cost $250.00. Here's a photo of it:

                    http://www.furryterrier.com/images/ca...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Linda513
                      h
                      HungryLetsEat Jul 2, 2007 08:18 AM

                      Linda513's cake was fondant-covered with a lot of molded decorations. I would venture to guess that a buttercream-frosted wedding cake would cost a bit less per-slice than a fondant-covered cake just due to the lower level of complexity. So Danna - that's something to keep in mind as you price your wedding cake.

                      1. re: HungryLetsEat
                        l
                        Linda513 Jul 2, 2007 08:33 AM

                        Definitely consider the level of complexity in your pricing. The number of hours it takes to make and decorate would figure into that.

                    2. Carb Lover Jul 2, 2007 07:26 AM

                      Congratulations! You must feel so triumphant to have nailed this buttercream. I remember the problems you had a couple of years ago w/ your father's bday cake. I have no idea how much wedding cakes are going for these days, but I'm sure there are plenty of brides-to-be out there who do. I hope you can find your camera and post those photos!

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