Hello, hello! We are three posts into this wedding cake trio and I’m happy to announce that the cake is baked, iced and awaiting assembly with no major catastrophes! If you have yet to read post 1 and 2, feel free to head on out there to catch up on this particular DIY challenge and then back to see the results.
Speaking of, let’s jump straight to a results photo:
Project wedding cake: complete!
For this last assembly step, this was the bag of goodies that the bride gave me:
How pretty is the L-O-V-E banner that she made? Or the heart-shaped cake topper with their initials? So many fun supplies.
But let’s go back to where we left off with our last post and talk about assembly. Last we spoke, the cake was successfully covered in a buttercream and then fondant for that smooth, wedding-white look.
It’s important to add a structural support system to the cake because at this point it’s quite heavy. Without dowels or rods of some sort, the bottom tiers of the cake will eventually give way to the top tiers above, resulting in concaved and bulging bottom layers over the hours that the cake is on display.
In the past I’ve used 1/4″-1/2″ wooden dowels from the craft or home improvement store, but for this particular cake (and the relatively small size when considering wedding cakes), I used chopsticks! These were easy to cut to height and were the perrrfect diameter. My base layer received six tier-height cuts and the middle layer four. The support system should be at the exact height as the cake – no higher, no lower.
I added my chopstick support system the day before the wedding, and the morning of we packed up the car with my three tiers of cake resting on cookie sheets on the floor of the back seat, and traveled the 10ish miles to the reception site.
Once there I began the assembly in the kitchen… dun, dun, dun, dun…
The bride covered a piece of plywood with fabric to serve as my cake board base. On went the first tier with the six supports as well as a layer of cut burlap.
Next up was the second tier (by the way, moving these layers is 10 thousand times easier with this tool! The mother of all spatulas and another tool that I borrowed from a friend and will be purchasing.)
Finally the last tier, several layers of burlap, lace and twine, a good smattering of flowers that we asked the florist to set aside, and a beading of icing to help blend where the layers meet.
That soft little beading line can make a huge difference in the ‘finished’ look of the cake and it’s really not difficult with a bit of practice. Using a pastry bag (or zip lock bag) and small round tip, pipe a little round bead, move your bag forward about 1/3″ of an inch and pipe another. Repeat until all layer bases are covered. (Sometimes it’s easier to move ‘backwards’ rather than ‘forwards’, so play with what is your style until you find your rhythm.)
Next, I found some big strong men to move my 50+lb cake from kitchen to reception area. The bride had these beautiful antique mirrored doors for right behind the cake and a big wine barrel as its podium!
Finished! And ready for its close up. Pretty close to Katie’s inspiration, right?
The entire day was just beautiful, starting with a lovely ceremony and followed by that rustic, organic reception that I was describing earlier. Every detail was so special. Here are a few pictures to offer a recap.
I’m so happy with how the cake turned out! And to save the bride a small bundle – ingredients ran in the $200 range, though cakes to feed 150 are probably closer to $750-1000 from a bakery – made the effort all worth it. Hope you enjoyed following along!
Tags: Decorating, Desserts, DIY, Recipes, Tutorial, Wedding, white
Posted in DIY, Family & Friends, Favorites, Recipes | 17 Comments »
This past weekend I had the honor of creating a wedding cake for my friend, Katie. Boy, what an undertaking that was! But because I’m always up for a good challenge and because I love to create personal gifts for those that I care about, I gave her an enthusiastic ‘yes’ at the request.
I’m breaking this saga into three parts: baking, filling & fondant, and assembly/wedding. Join me over the next three days to partake in the journey! If you’re not really interested in the art of novice cake baking, feel free to head right on back here Thursday. If you love up close pictures of chocolate ganache (that’s so good you could just eat it right off of the computer screen) or are slightly amused by such a ginormic challenge, then I invite you to join along .
Let’s begin. My mission was to design a wedding cake that melded the bride’s organic, rustic-themed wedding (rustic might not be the right word, but think beautiful lace + rugged burlap) while also baking a deliciously yummy dessert that could feed the 150ish guests. Inspiration from the bride included:
Beautiful! I was immediately smitten with the entire look and feel of this future cake.
But gah, I am no cake expert and wedding cakes are a category of their own. I have just two wedding cakes under my belt: the daisy covered cake I baked for a friend a couple of years ago (where I learned that buttercream and I are not best friends) and the beast of a cake that I did for my own wedding – which I really, truly loved (you can see pics of both by scrolling through this post). But even these two projects (years apart, really) make me an absolute beginner at the art of giant cake baking. You will find a million excellent tutorials on the proper baking and styling of wedding cakes from the galore of tasty food blogs out there (one such that I depended heavily on was this one) – but you might also enjoy the ramblings (fortunes and misfortunes alike) of me creating this special dessert. Just please don’t judge (wink, wink).
Let’s start off with the world’s tastiest cake recipe. I made a very similar version for my wedding, but I can report that this one is that much better. It is rich but not overwhelming, it is deliciously moist (in that dense sort of way) but also holds its form well. We went through the entire cake (the below is supposedly enough for 149 people, but maybe I cut too big), and I am hoping that that means I have finally found a good recipe. If you are in need of such a chocolate (with just a hint of of espresso) recipe, look no further. It’s so good it’s worth bookmarking.
I sought out this recipe because I was searching for a tried-and-true wedding cake story (not recipe but blog story, with plenty of reviews and suggestions included). I’ve found that there’s a big difference between chocolate cakes and wedding chocolate cakes – the latter being sturdy, holding its shape well and still being tasty, just any ol’ chocolate cake recipe won’t do. Deb highly recommended this guy on her blog so I gave it a go.
Another huge plus is that this cake recipe is made nearly entirely in one bowl without the usual separating out of dry and wet ingredients. Convenient. Because of this unique assembly, Deb shared that she had issues with deposits of unmixed butter and flour that she had to scrape down often in her mixer bowl, I used very room temperature butter and didn’t run into this issue at all, but it’s worth noting just in case.
Makes one 12-inch square cake layer (or two 8-inch layers). My total cake is three tiers high with a 12″, 8″ and 5″ tier – four layers per tier.
3 cups flour (some use cake flour but I find the regular stuff works just fine and is quite a bit more economical)
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
3 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (I should note that the original recipe calls for 350, but I have come to prefer to bake my cake layers for much longer than a recipe traditionally calls for and at a lower oven temp, and have found that this results in a deliciously rich, flat cake layer that is ideal for stacking). Line the bottom of a 12-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and butter/cooking spray the paper and edges of the pan.
2. In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt (because I’m making so many layers, I prefer to have these ingredients premixed in ziplock gallon bags. One recipe batch per bag and one more step that can be completed a day or two earlier). With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for about 30 seconds.
That butter should be soft.
3. Add the butter and buttermilk and continue to blend on low until moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes (now’s a good time to taste! Your batter should be amazingly delicious and sans eggs)
4. Whisk the eggs and coffee together (both should be room temp), and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only until blended after each addition. Pour into prepared baking dish. If using 8-inch pans, split between two.
5. Bake for 40+ minutes and watch carefully. 8-inch layers may take close to 40 minutes while 12-inch as much as 50-55, the lower 325 temp means that baking time is increased over the average cake but be sure to not over cook! Cake is finished when a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Carefully turn them out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely. I prefer to keep the cakes right side up (to prevent any breaking if the edges or center rises higher than average), so I flip them twice. Once to remove them from the pan (the layer is now upside down) and once again onto a wire rack for cooling (now it’s back right side up). Leave those parchment paper liners on for refrigerating later.
*A couple of thoughts on baking a flat cake. I have used both a heating core (if you use, grease well!) and baking strips in the past and I find both to be helpful (especially at calming the nerves – so if you’re that type I highly recommend), but the best tip I have ever received is to drop the temp of a recipe and bake for a longer time. As mentioned above this is already a step I suggest to create a dense cake, but it also yields near flat results as well. I baked near all layers above with neither the core nor the strips, but that’s mostly because I forgot the former at my house (baking at my parents which is in the same city that the wedding is) and forgot to apply the latter to most cakes prebake.
If you do end up with a tiny extra lip like above, a simple serrated knife should do the trick. Start at each corner and work your way towards the center.
You can use this technique to slice thick layers in half (my ideal cake layers are 1/2-3/4″ tall and four layers thick per tier).
If you’re keeping track, this three-tier, four-layer-per-tier cake calls for about 6lb of butter, a 5lb bag each of flour and sugar, 3lbs of cocoa, 2 dozen eggs, a half gallon of buttermilk and 12 parchment squares. Dang.
Next, I cut out foam core bases for each layer of the cake. This is crucial if you make the cake in advance and require refrigeration or freezing. Even if you’re brave enough to bake the entire thing the day before, you’ll want at least one foam core (or store bought cake board) per tier to serve as your sturdy cake tier base.
An exacto knife is super for this.
Each layer of each tier received a foam core base and a healthy wrapping of seran wrap before they were stacked in the fridge. I baked nearly all layers on the Wednesday prior to the wedding which meant that the plastic wrap didn’t have to be terribly tight or thick, but if I were baking cakes a couple of weeks in advance (as I had originally intended) I would opt for at least three layers of wrapping and zero exposure of cake before freezing and finally moving to fridge five-seven or so days in advance.
The above was my stash as of last Wednesday, Thursday brought with it the baking of at least one more layer for each tier plus a whole lotta buttercream and ganache. Oops on that little corner peeking out.
See you all here tomorrow! Where the baked cake gets its delicious raspberry ganache filling (another to-die-for recipe), buttercream crumb coat and fondant shell.
Tags: Desserts, DIY, Tutorial, Wedding
Posted in DIY, Family & Friends, Recipes | 9 Comments »
I mentioned a while back that I travel quite a bit for work. The plus is that I have the awesome opportunity to work from my home office 90% of the time. The downside being that I do pack up my office, Liv and myself for a week every month/every other month to travel up to the Monterey Bay area (Northern California) to touch base with our corporate location. BUT Liv travels with me! How fun is that? And she gets to play with her grandparents while I’m at the office (I hail originally from Santa Cruz which is in the Monterey Bay area).
Over the past six weeks alone I’ve made three trips up to Northern California and back down to San Diego (for various work, weddings and family related events) and it occurred to me that I might share a few tips that I’ve learned over the past year and a half (and 40+ flights!) on traveling with an infant and then a toddler solo. Feel free to share your thoughts and your own tips in the comments below! Let’s get a little group think going on the best traveling dos and don’ts with kids.
1. Carry as little as possible. I’m sure this is true across the board, but when traveling alone with a baby carrying the bare minimum is really a plus. I can say with a slice of humble pie that I’ve been that crazy lady wheeling carry-ons, a diaper bag, individual brown bag sack lunches, baby on hip, stroller filled with my laptop and camera bag, coffee perched in one hand, boarding pass in the other while hurriedly weaving my way down to a various gate. Stressful.
About five flights in as a new mom I figured it out. Now I always check my one carry on (and it’s always one for a reason, see #3), take advantage of priority family boarding and bring just one small bag with me on board (sometimes two if my destination calls for my camera). We’ve really nixed toys, reading materials for Mom, pack n’ plays (though I do try to arrange one at my destination, otherwise we co-sleep) and travel high chairs for a very simplistic load. But I haven’t given up my brown bag lunch, coffee, diaper bag and laptop case, I’ve instead consolidated them into one easy solution.
Here we are at my parents with my travel/diaper bag. I worked with Etsy artist ThreadBeat to customize a herringbone patterned messenger bag that fits my laptop, notebooks, a few board books for Liv, snacks, lipgloss, keys, a change of clothes, a paci for take off and landing, a spare diaper, a small pack of disposable wipes (for everything), a loose scarf that acts as an impromptu blanket – each with their own little spot. The bag is usually quite stuffed when it’s at full capacity! The best part is that when we arrive at our destination the messenger bag transforms into a briefcase.
And the most important customization? Pockets on the outside large enough for a sippy cup for Mom and one for Olivia.
Traveling can get a little stressful (long layovers, bumped flights) and my travel coffee mug (with extra snug lid) is a necessary treat. Sometimes I swap out a skinny thermos for an even tighter lid on long, cross-country flights when there will be lots of marching through airports and plenty of Starbucks.
2. Be prepared. My favorite flights are the Southwest one hour hops with a plane that is less than half full. These are the flights where the attendants happily let me bring my Combi Cocorro on board (gushed all about why I love this guy for toddlers and traveling here) and I’m able to schedule a flight around Liv’s nap time. When she’s hooked into a car seat there’s a 50-50 chance she’ll be snoozing for the trip and that can make all of the difference! Note: falling asleep happens during take off and the rise in elevation – don’t miss the opportunity to offer a pacifier, sing soothing songs softly and drown out light.
I have yet to buy a seat for Liv and when she’s a lap child flights tend to take on a new challenge entirely. When I suspect she’ll be riding with me for a long flight I avoid nap times like the plague because sleeping while sitting while on Mom’s lap is out – and a whiny, tired toddler makes the entire flight tougher on everyone. Thankfully traveling is becoming second nature to Liv and she doesn’t mind the change of scenery so much.
These days I realize that catching up on my latest This Old House and Martha while in flight is a thing of the past, so instead I pack useful travel tools such as toddler-friendly books (best, easiest toy! we can flip through the same board book five times picking out first shapes then colors then animals then counting the animals…) to keep us all entertained.
3. Pack like a pro. This is two fold: it’s extra important for me to have an organized checked bag as it is for my carry on to be well-stocked.
I’ll start with the carry on. As mentioned above, my staples are minimum but mandatory (nothing like being stuck in a city overnight without a few bare minimums). For Liv, that includes: change of clothes, diaper, wipes, snack trap with dry snacks, easy meals (string cheese + cheerios + apple slices), board books, paci (for take off and landing to help her ears – suckers, a bottle or nursing works equally well depending on age), sippy cup full of water (can be switched out with milk at destination but not while flying since liquid will inevitably end up on Momma). For me: light scarf (impromptu blanket – no jacket necessary since lugging child + car seat down airplane aisle = sweat), similar snacks to Liv, travel coffee cup (I fill it with water once on my flight to rehydrate and to avoid little plastic cups on the seat tray with swinging toddler arms), light make-up (what I could survive with if my bag didn’t make it).
Oh, and of course my favorite accessory. Have I ever introduced you to my purse for the last two years? It’s an iphone case + wallet (best invention ever – until it slips out of your bag during landing and is left on the plane floor) and it’s this plus a lip gloss in my back pocket. That’s it these days. Other odds and ends can go in the diaper bag or purse or briefcase or whatever else I’m toting that day – but because this wallet makes me carry just the bare minimum, it’s pretty much what makes getting out the door for me possible hands free:
Items I avoid in my carry on: toothbrush/paste (if I get stuck in a city overnight the hotel will have these staples), gooey snacks (most fruits, yogurt, etc that result in sticky hands, faces and clothing ), bags or purses without shoulder straps, games that require noise or moving around, crayons (that roll easily from a tray).
Next up is my actual checked bag. I limit myself to one piece of checked luggage because even the short distance from the car to the gate check-in area and vice versa can be quite a bit of work for a mom with a stroller, carry on and one piece of roller luggage. Any more and I’d surely tip over.
My checked bag usually consists of work-related outfits as well as down time/casual wear and sometimes even dresses for events and what not so I try to pack strategically. One outfit per day, one or two extra just in case. One pair of long jeans with heels and another shorter version with flats (jeans and blouses are work appropriate, thank goodness). PJs, toiletries, curling iron, a couple of rolled summer dresses. On top of that is a layer of Liv clothes and a few more toys, I purchase disposable diapers at my destination and we use the snack trap and sippy cup all week from the flight for Liv’s eating utensils (though sometimes I throw in a soft spoon or kid’s plate/tupperware, too).
I’ve developed a little packing trick that makes it easy to see that I have everything that I need and to find a certain item in a jiffy. On my frequent trips I always pack the same item in the same place. Always. PJs are upper left corner, tops upper right. Miscellaneous tanks, camis, belts in the lower right and shoes in the lower left. When Liv is fast asleep at night in our room I can reach into my bag in the dark and find my pajama pants easily! Items are stacked, rolled or wedged in, outer wear is draped across the top.
You’ve all heard of the color rule, right? Sticking to a few different shades (such as blues and greens) so that everything in your bag goes with everything else? Well I’m not that packing savvy but I do tend to stick to brown or black. Black shoes, black belt, black jacket, or the opposite. I don’t think we’re nearly as matchy-matchy today so matching brown pumps with a black cardigan is really no biggie to me, but if you’re nervous of over packing choose one and stick to it.
As far as airport-friendly accessories, this is the set up that I roam airport terminals with.
Our BOB stroller easily holds the toddler Combi car seat (with the safety harness and all), delivering us quickly to our gate destination. I gate check the stroller and sometimes the car seat (when there’s no room for a freebie seat) and bring Liv and my tote down the aisle. This awesome car seat is light enough for me to carry and snap in too, if that allows.
There you have it! My thoughts on traveling with a baby and how easy it can be! Just a few steps that help to make traveling slightly less stressful – then it’s time to enjoy the ride .
Here we are on our first cross-country trip. This was back when I could carry Liv around the airport in a sling! (A huge plus when a baby can’t yet hold her own head up.)
Any travel tips to add? We might have a pretty lengthy plane trip coming up and I’m in need of a few successful strategies for keeping an 18-month-old happy for hours on end in a confined space .
Posted in Family & Friends, Favorites, Tips & Ideas, Travel Adventures | 10 Comments »