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Princess cake - how much can I make ahead?

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  • weem Dec 2, 2013 11:59 PM
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Generally speaking, cakes are in my cooking comfort zone. But I'm going to attempt a princess cake for a friend's birthday this Saturday. I'm fully expecting it to be a lot of work, and I'm a little daunted by the marzipan, but I think I'm up for the challenge. My question is, how much of this can I make in advance? I'll have all day Saturday to work on it, but I'd rather break it up and prepare some of it over the previous evening or two, if possible. Any thoughts or suggestions?

I'll probably use this recipe, or something very similar:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ga...

Thanks in advance!

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  1. My, what a process.

    I'd imagine you could make the cream filling the evening before and refrigerate.

    You could also maybe bake the cakes beforehand, but I wouldn't slice them in half until ready to assemble (to help prevent them from drying out).

    Simple syrup can be done ahead and stored in fridge.

    Essentially, I think you could prep everything but the whipped cream (and others may disagree) the day before and then on Saturday, you'll just have to assemble and roll out the marzipan.

    Are you making your own marzipan too?? You may want to just buy some and save yourself the trouble.

    EDITED TO ADD: I was just reading the reviews and they suggest making the pastry cream and simple syrup the night before so they have time to cool.

    4 Replies
    1. re: nothingswrong

      I was thinking along the lines of what you suggested, so I'm glad for the confirmation. It looks like I'll be able to save myself some stress on Saturday by doing much of it ahead of time. Cooling the components seems to be essential to the assembly, so that will help. Yes, I'm buying the marzipan, not making it from scratch (I'm not THAT eager to impress people with this). Thanks for the suggestions!

      1. re: weem

        you can bake the cake layers today if you want and freeze them uncut. with a sharp knife, it's actually easier to cut a frozen cake -- less crumbs.

        simple syrup has an indefinite shelf life so you can make that anytime too.

        the cream filling is essentially pudding so that will hold 24-48 hours, easily.

        you can make the whipped cream in the morning. it will hold several hours provided you beat it stiffly enough. -OR- you can make it while the cake is being soaked.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          Thanks! I especially like the tip about cutting a frozen cake.

          1. re: weem

            commercial bakeries always freeze cakes. they freeze, crumb-coat with a thin layer of frosting, freeze and frost again. this way you don't get crumbs in the finished layers. cakes freeze very well up to a month.

            home cooks often think everything in a bakery or restaurant is made at the last minute. the prep is often done well ahead.

    2. Thank goodness I tried making parts of this ahead! The night before, I decided to prepare everything except the whipped cream and the marzipan. I baked the cakes, made the simple syrup, and did the cream filling.

      The cake turned out very dense and dry, not what I expected or hoped for. Naturally, I assumed it was my fault. Did I deflate the eggs too much when I folded in the flour? Was my baking powder too old? I baked it again, making adjustments, and the result was slightly better, but functionally the same. Perhaps the simple syrup would make it more palatable, but I wasn't sure I wanted to take that risk. Meanwhile, the cream filling was a new technique for me, and I cooked it too hot without enough stirring, and ended up with scrambled eggs. So I tried it again, erring on the side of undercooking, and came up with something that was creamy and delicious, but not really thick enough. I thought perhaps it would thicken up in the fridge overnight, but it didn't.

      So the next day I started out early. I hate waste, and was dismayed that I had already blasted through a couple dozen eggs, but I was determined to get this right. So I went back to the store and got ready for another day of trying. I went on the internet, specifically looking for recipes that seemed like they would make a lighter cake. I ended up trying this one:

      http://korenainthekitchen.com/2013/05...

      What a huge difference! The dough baked up beautifully, moist and pliable, but super light. As for the vanilla custard, I didn't want to waste any more vanilla bean, so I switched to vanilla extract. The recipe implies that you add the extract when you are done making the custard, but that didn't work for me since it didn't incorporate. So I made a fourth (!) batch of custard. This final one was pretty good, though it was slightly curdled. So I whisked together portions of that with portions of the thinner batch #2, and ended up with something perfect. The only other problem that I encountered with the second recipe was that the recommended 10 oz of marzipan wasn't quite enough, so at the last minute I created a simple paper border to cover the bare spots.

      I assembled the cake in the manner of the second recipe (with a layer of cake just under the dome of marzipan). I skipped the decorative flowers and things because I didn't have the time or the skills, but cut a quick stencil out of paper showing the birthday girl's initial and used it to dust the cake with powdered sugar. The final cake was delicious, and light as air. My friends were amazed, including a friend who specifically said he doesn't normally like princess cake but liked this one.

      Now, the day after, I have an enormous mess in the kitchen to clean up, and a jar of simple syrup that I guess I'll save for iced tea. Thanks for the all the advice.

      2 Replies
      1. re: weem

        Holy cow. What a day you had.

        The first 2 tries at the cake may not have been your fault; could have just been a bad recipe. The reviews were spotty at Food Network if I remember correctly.

        As to the slightly curdled custard, you may have been able to just pulverize it in the blender or strain it if it wasn't too bad. Tempering in your eggs or using room temp eggs, or adding your hot milk very very slowly while whisking vigorously will prevent the scramble.

        Glad you were able to put something together that was enjoyed by everyone though! Sounds like you made a great cake.

        1. re: nothingswrong

          Thank you, yes, I'm thinking it was as much the first recipe's fault as anything, and I'm glad I switched. Not only was the second recipe better, but it had a lot of the tips (tempering the eggs, etc.) you mentioned for dealing with techniques that I wasn't practiced at. It was a lot of trial and error, but ultimately the cake turned out very well, and I learned a lot, so I'm glad I bothered.