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Aug 16, 2010 01:40 PM

last minute favor doing wedding cake for nephew - could use some thoughts on approach?

So i agreed to make a wedding cake for my nephew this weekend as a last minute favor. I am going to keep it pretty simple but have some questions regarding best approach given wedding conditions and time to travel. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. So the wedding is about a three hour drive away from my home on a farm - whose driveway is bad shape. The wedding itself is outside and not really sure about the kitchen on premise. The bride and groom are not interested in anything but buttercream.

I am planning on a yellow butter cake and a mousseline buttercream. I am concerned about the buttercream holding up in the weather, but thought that might be my best one. thoughts? better suggestions?

I plan on making the tiers and have them frosted prior to transport. Is it ok to frost and refrigerate the tiers overmight, get them good and chilled for the 3 hour car ride? Or should I get up early on Saturday make the buttercream and frost them right before transport? Because of road conditions I don't plan on assembling the tiers together until we get there and will decorate with flowers.


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  1. I'm not an expert, but I think that you should definitely assemble as much as you can on-site to eliminate the damage en route.

    I would probably do a crumb coat at home (at least 24 hours after baking, and after leveling as much as possible), then refrigerate overnight, and do the final "nice" coating at the venue so there aren't any rough patches. Buttercream isn't terribly forgiving.

    At our wedding, the cake sat out for about 3 hours before cutting (in quite a warm room) and wasn't in great shape - it started leaning and melting a bit. And we got married in March, so it wasn't nearly as warm as it is now. I'd be a little worried about a buttercream frosting sitting out for more than 2 hours. Is there a way you could do a final frosting coat there, then chill it (either in a cooler or in a fridge, if there is indeed one on site), then assemble right before it's needed? Adding flowers shouldn't take too long, and I'm sure the frosting will cooperate more if it's chilled.

    Anyway, I hope that's helpful. Good for you for taking on such a monumental task at the last minute!

    3 Replies
    1. re: guster4lovers

      Just wondering--could she final frost the layers the day before & freeze them? Wouldn't they defrost during the ride, the final assembly and the ceremony? Or is this too iffy?

      1. re: Stein the Fine

        As someone who makes a good number of cakes, wedding and otherwise, I tend to stay far away from freezing. I also stay far away from anything but fondant or marzipan coating when I have to transport that far, so you are a gem for agreeing to the buttercream! They are a very lucky couple...

        My suggestion would be to definitely do what you can on Friday and get the whole thing good and cold. Build yourself a nice transport container...cardboard boxes, cut in half, with plastic lining and Blue Ice blocks work terrifically well...the boxes lined in plastic (cheap tarp material from Home Depot is great, or just white garbage bags...steer away from black) keep the moisture from the Blue Ice from ruining your car, and they keep the cake layers from overheating.

        Since you don't know what sort of facilities you'll have, I'd suggest doing all the frosting at home rather than just a crumb coat...only because it will give you time to chill and set the buttercream overnight, rendering it much more "forgiving" should the cake be cut hours after you arrive. If you wait til the morning of the wedding and it doesn't have a chance to really chill, it won't last through the vows...

        Definitely assemble there, though. Take extra buttercream for touchups. Flowers will cover any issues that arise during transport. If you're really really really worried about the weather and heat, you could give the layers a quick visit to the freezer right before leaving -- no more than an hour. That will buy you a little more time, if you have the freezer room...but make sure you don't have anything odd in your freezer, or the buttercream may pick up the flavor.

        Good luck, and don't worry! Remember that you will be more critical of your cake than anyone else, and the bride and groom will undoubtedly be thrilled with it and with your efforts!

        1. re: tsfirefly

          Good advice. For transport, I use large square clear plastic storage containers (like rubbermaid or sterilite),upside down so the lid is the base for the cake and the container is the lid. Non-skid mats are your friend if you're traveling long distances/rough roads so the cakes don't slide. I'd consider getting a lot of blue gel packs to keep it cold. If it's hot, don't tier until closer to the wedding time because the heat can melt the frosting and soften the cake and it could fall.

          Oh, and check on the flowers to make sure they're not poisonous and that they're grown in food safe or no pesticides.

    2. Hi, midddletownbaker. What a nice aunt you are! I've made my share of wedding cakes in my day, none of them "simple", but I have never refrigerated one. I would fear condensation after taking them out of the refrigerator, and that can really mess up the surface of the buttercream! I do work in buttercream. I only use fondant to sculpt flowers and other decorations simply because I don't like the way fondant hardens as it air dries when you work in advance, and frankly, I'd just as soon eat chalk. But that's just my opinion.

      In your situation, I would make the buttercream heavier for the cake itself by using more powdered sugar in it than normal. Then I would frost the tiers at least a day ahead of time. The cakes will NOT spoil. If you want to give them a little boost for moisture and spoil proof them, sprinkle the layers with a bit of your favorite booze or liqueur. This will spread through the layers evenly and add flavor while retardning any spoilage.

      I would frost the cakes 2 days ahead of time with just the plain smooth thicker than normal butter cream. Then the day before I would do all of the piping with normal texture buttercream and allow it to set up overnight. Considering the roads you must travel, I would not do any string work. If you will be separating any of the tiers with pilars, then I would use thin sheets of styrofoam in the bottom of the transport boxes and shove the plastic extensions on the bottom of the tier plates into the styrofoam so there is no chance of the cakes sliding around in the boxes. Actually, this should work with all of the layers that aren't on flat cardboard seperators. But even with those, you can use smaller-than-normal dowels about an inch or so long to "peg" them into place. Sliding room is a killer during transport! Assemble on site, decorate with fresh flowers, which I think is a great idea, and Happy Wedding! And an extra glass of champagne or so just for you. You will have earned it! '-)

      EDIT Here are a couple of links to Wilton's website with some valuable information on making wedding cakes"

      Be sure to use dowels in each lower level to support the ones on top. Somewhere on the Wilton site there should be illustrations on how to do it, but I didn't find it quickly and thought you might learn more by browsing yourlself. The criticaal thing in using dowels is that you cut all the dowels for each single layer at the same time and to the same exact length. They go in vercially and the layer above sits on them for stability. I would insert the dowels at home before travel. I buy my dowels from the craft department at Walmart, but any craft store will have them. I use 1/4 inch diameter. And I use at least four dowels per layer. On a really large bottom layer, I use more and one in the center. Have fun browsing Wilton! There's a lot to be learned there.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Caroline1

        Just in case anyone read my post above before I added the Edit note, there is one with some good references.

        1. re: Caroline1

          Much easier than wooden dowels... plastic drinking straws. They can hold a surprising amount of weight when vertical. I think I use eight around each tier. Sink one in to mark the depth you need, remove it, then cut all the straws with a knife at the same time so they all come out exactly the same length.

          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

            Interesting. Very interesting! Food safe solid plastic rods are also available at most shops that carry cake decorating supplies.