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 »
The cake is baked! 16 total hours of bake time later and we’re moving on to getting these layers prepped for decorating. If you’re just joining this trio of wedding cake posts, you can start here to read more about the project I’m working on for a friend (and to find a bookmark-worthy chocolate layer cake recipe).
Back to the cake! After my cake layers had spent a night and day in the refrigerator, they were at the perfect chilled temp to work with. First up was applying a buttercream crumb coat. This is a must for three reasons: fondant (our very top layer of ‘icing’) isn’t super tasty and guests will enjoy the sweeter buttercream underneath, the crumb coat helps to disguise the chocolate cake (turning it into a white base for the fondant) and the fondant will go on that much smoother and easier with such a well-formed base. Actually, after much fondant experimenting I have come to prefer two coats of crumb coat and if you give this a try (even for a smaller birthday cake), I think you’ll find that it makes things worlds easier, too!
Now to share a few tried and true recipes.
Adapted from Savory Sweet Life (a post which also shares several great tips and pics for following along)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream. (Note: I accidentally bought salted butter and therefore omitted the third ingredient on this list)
3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I opt to leave this ingredient out for any icing that will be piped onto the outside of the cake and vanilla -unless you use clear vanilla – leaves your icing a bit off-white in color)
up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
1. Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar (in 1/2 c or so increments) and turn your mixer on the lowest speed until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time.
2. Optional: seal up frosting in a tight container and refrigerate until necessary. You’ll want to give the icing plenty of time to come back to room temp and to whisk up again before using (which is why I only refrigerate icing if I must – there’s a risk that you might lose it).
Milk Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
Adapted from this Food.com recipe
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup seedless red raspberry preserves
2 tablespoons butter
1. In a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Add the chocolate chips, preserves, and butter and begin stirring slowly with a wooden spoon, shaking the pan occasionally to immerse the chocolate and as much of the preserves and butter as possible.
2. Remove from heat once chocolate begins to melt and continue to stir. The butter and preserves should prevent the chocolate from thickening up and the ganache is ready once all ingredients are melted.
3. I found that adding 3 parts ganache to 1 part buttercream resulted in a thick icing ideal for the filling in my cake layers.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan, reduce to a simmer and remove from heat when your sugar water becomes slightly thicker. You can flavor with really any sort of additive (lime juice is great on a white cake, for example) but this is a step that helps to moisten thick, beefy cakes.
Alright, here’s the basic assembly of one tier of this three tier cake: foam core (should already be at the base of the cake layer you refrigerated), cake, simple syrup brushed on with a pastry brush, a smooth coating of ganache, raspberries halved, repeat until you have four layers. A large dollop of buttercream on the top and then a pastry spatula for smoothing out over the top and sides. Forgive the nighttime pics!
This first crumb coat layer is really to seal in the filling and the loose crumbs of the chocolate cake. It will likely be rough (unless you’re a serious pro) which is why I inevitably do two. Back into the fridge it goes!
You’ll notice that I try to use towels under each tier and that’s to help keep the space clean but also so to help aid me in getting the bigger layers out. I can casually pull on the edge of the towel closest to me and that slowly delivers the heavy tier right into my arms.
All three tiers get an overnight chilling once again to really help firm up the cake before we add the final layer of buttercream and fondant.
Now it’s time for crumb coat #2! The first coat is well chilled and this second coat should smooth right on.
This is the coat that needs to establish a little structure for under that fondant. If you’re after nice tight corners and edges, here’s where icing can be built up and shaped. It doesn’t have to look perfect – after all it’s going to be covered – but it will provide the pliable base that the fondant can then be smoothed over.
Here’s a little trick I’ve learned with tiered cakes. Sometimes all of your layers don’t bake evenly and one might be a bit shorter than the others. I make up the difference with foam core (just like the foam core used to help refrigerate the layers) and then cover that foam core in icing just like it’s a cake layer. I’m usually the one also cutting the cake so I’m well aware of the faux portion . Here’s an example, it’s the top tier but it’s about 1/2″ shorter than the other two. I’ve added three layers of foam core to the base and will frost! Shh… if you don’t tell anyone I won’t.
I then added a layer of buttercream over the foam core to blend it in.
I’ll preface that fondant and I have a love-hate relationship. I loooove how it looks on a cake (hiding all of those frosting flaws with no risk of a melty, droopy cake) but a I am not a fan of rolling it out, dealing with cracks and creases (that really can’t be put back correctly once it happens) and then smoothing it perfectly onto the top of a cake.
Favorite fondant tools that make the process much easier include:
A lazy susan (this is not the same one that I borrowed from a friend for this cake but is similar – have to get me one of these for frosting and fondant), fondant easy glide smoother, favorite new fondant brand, a sharp knife to cut the fondant edges, rolling pin (we used the usual kind but this would have been worlds easier since there wouldn’t have been dents from the edge of the pin) and flour to prep your surface and avoid any sticky spots.
After reading recommendations online I gave this fondant brand a try, but I actually ran out mid-cake and sent my dad to the craft store to pick up uber expensive last-minute fondant and loved, adored, sang praise for this brand (see pic above). I would say it’s worth the cost difference, especially if it’s your first go around with the stuff. (If you are looking for a cheaper bulk fondant though – and you need like 10lbs of the stuff – then I would recommend this brand, which is what I used for my wedding cake back when.)
Side note is that I needed ~7lbs to cover a 12″, 8″ and 5″ set of tiers.
You need muscles for this next step! I recruited another wedding guest/house guest to help me roll out the massive sheets that we needed and he was a huge help. This would have taken me hours alone. To transfer fondant to the top of the cake, consider rerolling it around your rolling pin and then unrolling above the cake – or wedging your arms under it and carefully lifting it up over the cake. About a foot is all you’ll want to travel so make sure you’re rolling out your fondant close by your cake workspace.
You’re aiming for about 1/8″ thick which also means that your final fondant coat is quite thin and easy to tear – but any thicker and it will surely crack on you. My method is to start with the corners (because a square cake can be tough!) and to move inward on each side. Just keep on smoothin’.
You can see my corners above start to cave in a little, which is why a really sturdy, chilled buttercream shape is essential.
The last step in applying the fondant is cutting the edges with a sharp knife.
And perhaps another once-over with the smoothing tool (which is awesome, by the way!).
These shots are from my easiest layer (aka the magical fondant) while my others were quite a bit tougher. You can repair minor tears with just a bit of water (or light pinching). Or better yet, you can cover them up with flowers, ribbon or burlap and lace! Which this cake happily called for anyways.
Whew! There it is. See you all very soon with the final cake!
Tags: Desserts, Recipes, Tutorial, Wedding, white
Posted in DIY, Recipes, Tools of the Trade | 6 Comments »
We have a new rug in the living room! This little addition may have gone unnoticed (it looks just like our old rug after all) except that I was so SO thrilled with our new rug purchase that I had to share it here so that I could recommend a favorite rug to any future white-shag-rug-shoppers out there.
I love a white rug. Even though they can be tough to maintain (with a busy house, a baby and a dog) I make every effort because to me that classic, easy look is so very much worth it (plus finding anything else at a reasonable price for a large room is so tough!). Sadly, our previous rug underwent some serious water damage last month when carpet cleaners from a Groupon deal accidentally cleaned the area rug on top of the rug pad and pulled all of that recycled rug pad color right up through the carpet fibers leaving big brown water spots all over:(. We tried to reclean it three times before we finally gave in to replacing it.
But! Not long after we said goodbye to a favorite plush play mat, I found this guy on Overstock. Huge rugs are hard to come by at a good price, and since I still have to figure out the whole reimbursement situation with the local rug company, I was very wary of purchasing anything that we couldn’t afford if we ended up having to pay for the new one out of pocket.
Yay for Overstock! and yay for the plushest, softest rug we have ever owned in an awesome size and at an awesome price. I ended up purchasing during their 15% off rug sale (going on through today) and bought this huge 7’6″x9′x6″ for $239.50 along with this rug pad (which we then cut to size) for $63 + $2.95 for shipping. I’ve shopped, I’ve searched and you just can’t beat it. Truly, truly.
We’ve had this rug for a couple of weeks now and it’s our favorite play spot in the entire house. We unload blocks and legos and books and play, play, play. I use it for short yoga sessions at the end of the day, we watch movies curled up with pillows, we crawl, we sprawl and we relax in its coziness.
Any reservations about a huge rug at this crazy reasonable price are absolutely gone! It feels just like a plush shag Pottery Barn or West Elm rug (in my world that’s the high end budget) and it’s a necessity in our house since our living room is very much Liv’s full time play room.
And yes, Bodie hair blends right in – total plus, but we do vacuum it often. Being the shag rug that it is a good vacuuming is recommended to get rid of the initial shedding anyhow.
When it comes to keeping rugs clean, shag rugs are my best friend. Any funky spots get a bit of spot cleaning and a little trim (aka just cut those bad fibers right out and give the rug a nice tousle). Good to go. I mentioned a while ago that I buy two rug cleanings per year off of Groupon for bigger issues, too. That $40/pop every six months is worth every penny for all of the area rugs and couches in our house – but next time I will make sure that the carpet cleaners are the well-reviewed Yelp types that separate rug pad from rug and don’t work directly on wood floors – also so bad for the house with all of the water they use. Ah well, live and learn. No major harm done and now we have an awesome new rug!
PS more living room posts right here.
Tags: Accessories, Decorating, Home, Living Room, white
Posted in Home, Our Living Room, Renovating Adventures | 5 Comments »