Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tales of a Tiered Cake – The Final Recipes

the cakemod

If you’ve been following along, I know you’ll be as excited as I was to have the cake come out so great.!!! Everything went as planned. The frozen cake did not weep – we skewed the lids slightly to allow moisture to escape and they didn’t need blotting at all. The recipes will follow but I wanted to share some more close-ups of the cake first. I want to re-iterate that although the recipes are mine, the design of the cake came from Dede Wilson’s book The Wedding Book. She used real flowers and I created mine out of sugarpaste, using directions from Scott Clark Woolley’s book Cakes by Design and his DVD, The Amazing Art of Gum Paste Sugar Flowers. Before I start with the perfected recipes (previous recipes included all of the mistakes that I’ve made along the way), I’d just like to share a few more photos.

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the cake sugarpaste rose 3

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This was my open rose that I adapted from the directions for the Gallica Rose,
from Scott Clark Wooley’s book.

If you plan on freezing each tier and then assembling them on delivery day, you’ll need a large standing freezer. D0n’t forget to also check the size of your refrigerator. It has to accommodate at least a 14-inch round cake board and height clearance of at least 15-inches, plus another shelf for the 5-inch top tier. If you can’t fit all three cakes in your refrigerator, you might think twice about making a tiered cake, or at least you’ll have to arrange for space elsewhere.
The first thing to figure out when making a tiered cake is how many people you need to serve. That will help determine the sizes of the tiers. The other consideration is the size of your oven, refrigerator and freezer space. I have a huge freezer, but my refrigerator won't accommodate anything larger than a 14-inch platter, so 12-inch is about as big as I like to go. Don’t forget that you need a sturdy base for this large a cake and it’s usually 2-4 inches larger than the cake that goes on it so that’s why I’m making the 12-inch base tier. I’ll be putting the cake on a 14-inch drum while refrigerated and then placing that whole assembly on a 16-inch cake drum for presentation.

According to Wilton, a 12-inch tier should serve 55 people. Here’s an example of how you would cut a 12-inch tier:

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This should give you an idea about how to figure out how many your tiers will serve, should you want to change the size of the tiers.

I figure that my 3 tiers should serve 90-100 people, if all of the tiers were the same. Since I’m making some white and some chocolate, there will be people who want a taste of each, so this size cake should be good for my party of 65. (I actually had plenty of cake left – the entire 6-inch tier has been placed back in the freezer ).

In addition to the cakes, icing and filling, I’ll need cake boards for the bottom of the cakes, supports to stick into the tiers and the base boards, masonite or cake drums, to support the cake once it is completely tiered. Since I’m freezing it frosted, I also like to have extra-long heavy duty aluminum foil and some kind of box to put each tier in. This year I was able to to find the perfect plastic box at one of the storage stores in town. The hard part about finding a box is that it needs to be rigid enough so that it won’t fall in on the cake and it needs to be at least 6-7 inches high.

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So, to sum up, here’s the extra equipment you would need to make a tiered cake:
1. Cake pans in the sizes you want (12, 9 and 6 for this recipe)

2. Cake boards for each tier (cardboard is fine) – I like to use the same size as the cake .
3. Supports – I use straws because they're very easy to cut, not dowels, which need to be sawn. I think I will need 8 to support the 9-inch tier and 4 –5 for the 6-inch glass plate.
4. Masonite or drum boards to support the entire cake ( I used 14-inch and 16-inch)
5. Heavy-duty aluminum foil and parchment paper. XL or XXL storage bags (these are big enough to hold pillows, etc. In the supermarket with the plastic bags)
6. Boxes for freezing the cakes (preferably plastic) – 14-inch x 7-inch high the larger tier, 12-inch for the 9-inch tier and 8-9-inch for the small tier
7. Either a cake saw or a long serrated knife for leveling the cakes

This one came from
8. Decorating equipment – spatulas, (see photos below) icing bags and decorating tubes (maybe #17 and #22 shell tubes and a 1/2-inch plain tube). Cake decorating comb.
9. A large rose nail is helpful in getting the 12-inch cake to bake in the middle. Bake-even Cake Strips by Wilton (4-pack sold will help the cakes rise evenly.
10. Instant-read thermometer is essential if you are not using pasteurized eggs.
11. Separator plates – 8-inch and a scalloped 7-inch plate (more details in the Assembly section below)
12. 6-7-inch clear plate with a raised rim (more details are under the Vanilla Cake section)
13.Needlenose pliers or tweezers bought especially for the kitchen!
If you want to make the sugarpaste flowers, you should start that at least several weeks ahead of time as some of the steps require drying time. You’ll need tons of supplies for the flowers. See these posts:

Triple Cherry Wedding Cake with Kirsch Buttercream and Chocolate and Yellow Cake Layers
Serves 80-100 people
A cake of this size takes many days to make and has so many ingredients, that rather than list them all to begin, I’ll list the ingredients as you’ll be making the cake.
The cake begins with the cherry filling, to allow it time to marinate at least 2 days

Triple Cherry Filling
2 pounds frozen sweet cherries
1/2 cup Manischewitz™ Blackberry wine (or Kirsch liqueur)
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup orange juice
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups dried tart cherries
4 cans cherry pie filling

Over a bowl, defrost the frozen cherries in a colander, reserving the juice. Transfer the juice to a medium pot. You should have about 1-1/2 – 2 cups of juice (press on the cherries to extract more of the juice). Add the wine, and simmer until the mixture is reduced by half. Add the sugar and orange juice. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the cinnamon and the dried cherries. For more flavor, you can cut the sweet cherries in half (or not, if this is too much trouble). Stir them into the warm wine mixture.
Stir the canned cherries into the above cherry mixture. Transfer the mixture to a storage container, and refrigerate for at least 2 days and up to 2 weeks. As the defrosted cherries marinate, they will actually get firmer and tastier, while the dried cherries will get softer and plumper.
Chocolate Wedding Cake12-inch tierIn a home kitchen, you’ll probably only be able to make 1 layer at a time (that’s the most my 5-qt. mixer can handle), so you’ll need to repeat the recipe to make the second layer.

10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons oil

3-3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (488 grams) all-purpose flour, measured by fluffing, scooping and leveling
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

20 tablespoons (10 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla

4 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 cups sour cream, room temperature
1-1/4 cups milk (skim or regular), room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Grease a 12-inch x 3-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and then spray-grease and flour the pan. If using Bake-even Cake strips or something like that, soak them in water and then wrap them around the outside of each pan. Place the chopped chocolate and the oil in a microwave-safe container. Micro-cook on medium (#5) for 1 minute. Stir and then reheat in 15-second increments on medium power until the chocolate is melted.
In a small bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set it aside.

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In a mixer bowl, combine the butter and both sugars. Beat on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is uniformly smooth and creamy, and well aerated. Beat in vanilla. Add the eggs, beating for 1 minute after the addition of each egg, and scraping down the bowl a few times. On low, beat in the sour cream and chocolate. On low, in 4 additions, beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour.

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To get the cake to bake well in the center, use this tip from Frosted Betty ( : “…put a greased and floured flower nail, pointy side up, in the center of the pan, before pouring in the batter. After the cake is inverted, you can take the flower nail right out…)
Spoon the batter into the pan.
Bake for 60-70 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Set the cakes on a wire rack. Immediately, run a knife around the edges of the cakes, using an up-and-down, rather than a sawing motion. Cool completely. Invert the cooled pans onto a board, and rap the pans sharply to get the cakes out of the pans. Remove the parchment, and re-invert the cakes so that they are right-side-up (I like to have the bottom layer on a cakeboard the same size as the cake – 12-inches in this case. The cake will be slightly smaller, having shrunk a little while baking. This will give you a little space that will actually help you ice the cake) . The other layer should be re-inverted onto a piece of wax paper and slid onto a board (any size) Trim the cakes to get them level and to reduce them to the thickness you desire (1-1/2-inches usually is a good thickness). You can use a cake saw (I like Wilton's), or a long serrated knife.

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Wrap the top layer in aluminum foil, and freeze it. It will be much easier to place it on the cake if it is frozen. The other layer can be wrapped in aluminum foil and kept for up to a day while you prepare the frosting and get ready to assemble, or it can be frozen for later use. For long-term storage, a double layer of heavy-duty, long foil. Make sure that instead of just overlapping the ends, you roll up the foil, so that air won’t get in. When done, you can put the whole thing in a zip-top bag and then pop it into the freezer.

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The freshest way to make the cake is to assemble the entire tier- cake through frosting and then freeze it. Directions for freezing will follow the assembly instructions.

Simple Kirsch Meringue Buttercream
Real buttercream is quite different from bakery frosting in that it’s much less sweet and has none of the grit associated with frostings made with powdered sugar. Making buttercream can be very difficult, because in the traditional version, you have to cook a sugar syrup to softball stage and then get it into the beaten eggs or whites without any of it getting on the beaters or bowl, where it will form hard sugar lumps or threads. This simplified method can be made in half the time, with half the skill. I use pasteurized egg whites that come in a carton. They should contain nothing but pure egg whites. The brand that I’ve found to be tried-and-true: always whipable - is Organic Valley Egg Whites. You can separate out pasteurized egg whites if you prefer. Just make sure that not a single drop of egg yolk gets into the egg whites. You can also use regular egg whites, but you’ll have to cook them differently to make sure that all bacteria gets killed (directions will follow). As with any recipe containing stiffly beaten egg whites, all utensils and tools must be completely grease-free. Wash them thoroughly and for extra measure, you can wipe with a towel moistened with vinegar (rinse and dry afterwards). By the way, I use all butter for the best taste and mouthfeel, but you don’t want to do this if the cake will be sitting out in a warm room. It will be fine for up to 7 hours at room temperature.

Kirsch Meringue ButtercreamMake this recipe twice for a 12-inch tier
240 grams (8 large) pasteurized egg whites -- (I use Organic Valley Egg Whites, in a carton)
3 tablespoons water
2 –2/3 cups superfine sugar (or you can buzz it in a coffee grinder)
21 ounces unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup kirsch
corn syrup (optional)

Remove the butter from the refrigerator and cut it into tablespoon-size lumps so it can soften while you prepare the eggs.
Boil 2 inches of water in a pot into which your metal mixer bowl will fit. Place the egg whites into the
clean, grease-free mixer bowl. Whisk in the water and sugar.

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Place the bowl over the simmering water, and whisk –stir constantly until the mixture reaches 120-130 degrees, about 1-3 minutes (very warm to the touch, if you don’t have a instant-read thermometer). The mixture will be very warm, and the sugar granules should have dissolved. Remove the bowl from over the water. If you see any un-dissolved sugar crystals in the bowl, wipe these off with a paper towel.

Beat the egg white mixture , increasing the speed to medium-high to high speed , as quickly as possible without having the egg whites splash out of the bowl. Beat until the mixture looks like thick shaving cream, and the egg whites and bowl are cool - about 20 minutes. (because of the huge amount of sugar in this recipe, they probably won’t be stiff, but will be more marshmallowy with peaks that slump over ). This is easiest done with a standing mixer using a balloon whisk. To hasten the process, wet a towel and place a few cupfuls of ice chips into it. Wrap it up and place this under the bowl so that it in constant contact with the bowl.

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By now the butter should be at cool room temperature. If you press down on it with your thumb, it should yield readily, but should not be soft and melty. If too soft, refrigerate it just for a few minutes to firm it back up. Place the butter into a large mixing bowl, and beat until creamy. On low, beat in 1/3 of the whites. Repeat with the remaining whites, 2 more times. When all of the whites have been added, increase the beater speed to medium-high, and beat until the mixture curdles,

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and then smoothes out into thick and creamy frosting, about 10-15 minutes. Beat in the extract and liqueur . If the buttercream is not sweet enough for your taste, you can beat in corn syrup, to taste.

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Buttercream can be made ahead and refrigerated, although it is easier to work with when fresh. Chop up the cold buttercream and put it on a tray, so that it will come to cool room temperature faster. Transfer it to a bowl, and beat the room temperature buttercream as above, until creamy and smooth.
You can use the kirsch buttercream for just the outside, or both the outside and inside of the cake. If you want to use a light chocolate buttercream between the 12-inch layers, use the following:

1/2 recipe of kirsch buttercream
3 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons hot water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Microwave the chocolate, water and butter on medium power (5) until the chocolate is melted, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture cool, and then stir it into the buttercream.
If using regular egg whites (not pasteurized from a carton or shell), you’ll need to cook the egg whites to kill bacteria. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and water (add in 1 tablespoon more water) in a shallow metal bowl. Simmer 1-inch of water in a skillet. Have a rubber scraper, instant-read thermometer, a timer and a large mixer bowl near the stove. Place the bowl in the simmering water and cook the egg mixture to 160 degrees F. (30 – 60 seconds), rapidly stirring with a rubber scraper and checking the temperature every 15 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large mixer bowl and continue with the recipe.

Assembling The TierTo begin the chocolate tier, one 12-inch layer is frozen. The bottom layer is on a 12-inch cake board.

Fit a large pastry bag with a coupler, so that you can easily change pastry tips, and put a 1/2-inch plain tip on the bag. Fill the bag with some of the whipped buttercream. Pipe a line of buttercream around the perimeter of the cake so that the cherry filling will not ooze out the sides or poke through the side frosting.

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Spoon on an even layer of cherries, using about 4 cups of cherry filling.

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On top of the cherries, spread an even layer of chocolate buttercream, just so that the cherries are covered. Next the frozen cake layer gets placed on top, with the bottom of the cake facing up. This will give provide a nice smooth surface on which to place the frosting. Place the cake on a decorating turntable for icing.

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The next step is to crumb-coat the whole cake with a thin layer of frosting. This is to trap in crumbs, smooth out holes, and provide a nice base-coat for the final layer of buttercream. The crumb coat does not have to be perfectly smooth. After crumb-coating, place the cake in the refrigerator until the frosting is firm.
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For the top coat of buttercream, I like to start on the sides, then do the top, and then finish the sides again. Other decorators start with the top. Spread the frosting on with a decorating spatula, using the size you are comfortable with. I use mostly a 7-inch, and a 14-inch for the top.

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When you get close to having the final coat, the spatula can be heated in hot water and then glided over the frosting. This will melt it slightly, making for a smoother coat. If you have trouble getting the sides perfectly smooth, you can pat on nuts or grated chocolate, or for the more formal look of a wedding cake, you can use a comb to put a decoration on the sides.

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Because I’ve used the bottom cake board as an icing guide, I know I’ll have enough frosting to use the comb without the cake showing through.

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The cake gets refrigerated until the buttercream is firm. Once the cake is cold, the little “nubs” you see in the design made by the comb can be smoothed out from the warmth of a pushing them down.

For the supports for the next tier I like to use plastic straws, because they’re so much easier to cut than dowels. Look for nice fat straws like the ones you find at the movies or some of the fast-food chains. When you push the straws into the cake, there will be some cake in the straws which will act as extra support for the tier above. First , mark where the 9-inch tier will rest and then put supports closer to the center than the marks to make sure that the supports are totally under the next cake tier. An 8-inch plastic separator plate is great for marking the cake. It has little feet on the bottom raising it off of the surface of the cake.
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The straws should be level with the top of the cake, not sticking up, as in the photo, below.

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Mark the straws with a pencil, remove them with kitchen-only needlenose pliers or tweezers, cut them and then place them back in the cake. The tier is now ready to freeze. At this point you can’t wrap it in foil anymore. You’ll want to place the cake on a larger cake board (14 or 16-inches depending on your storage space. Place it in a box that is at least as wide and at least 7-inches tall. The best box to use is a rigid plastic storage container because then you’ll have no fear that the box will fall in on the cake, ruining all of your hard work. Once the cake is snugly and safely inside, wrap the whole thing in an XL or XXL storage bag, and set the whole thing in the freezer.

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Vanilla Wedding Cake Tiers
Makes one 9-inch and one 6-inch tier
With a 5-quart mixer, you’ll be able to make the batter for the two upper tiers in one batch, but it will also help if you have two ovens or one convection oven, otherwise you would have to move the cakes halfway through baking, and this is not recommended.

4-2/3 cups all-purpose flour, measured by fluffing, scooping and leveling
1-3/4 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks + 5 tablespoons (14 ounces) unsalted butter
3-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla, or to taste
7 large eggs
1-3/4 cups whole milk

2 recipes Kirsch Buttercream (see above directions – should be enough for assembling the cake, as well)

Preheat the ovens to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (325 convection) with a rack in the middle of the oven or upper and lower thirds if using convection. Spray-grease two 9x2-inch round cake pans and two 6x2-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper, spray-grease the entire pan, and then flour all of the pans.

While the ovens are pre-heating, bring the butter to room temperature, by cutting it into tablespoon-size lumps. Measure out the milk and let it warm up to room temperature. About 5 minutes before starting the recipe, place the eggs (in the shell) into a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temperature.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Place the butter and sugar into a large mixer bowl, and beat for a full 5-7 minutes until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, adding them as each is incorporated into the batter. Scrape down the bowl and then beat for a minute to blend everything.

Alternately, add the milk and the flour, into the batter. Start with about 1/4 of the flour, and beat it into the batter on low. Then, by tablespoonful, beat in about 1/3 of the milk. If you add the milk too fast, or it’s not at the right temperature, the batter “breaks”, meaning that it starts to look curdled. Usually, when you add more flour, the batter smoothes out . Continue alternating until all of the milk and the last bit of flour has been incorporated. If the batter is curdled at this point, your final cake is going to be greasy. That’s why it’s so important that the ingredients be at the proper temperature. And make sure that you add the milk slowly, beating in a tablespoon at a time until well mixed before adding more milk.
Divide the batter evenly among all of the pans (I do this by weight, but you can stick a skewer into the batter and make sure that each pan has the same depth).

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Magic cake strips (also called Bake-even Cake Strips) on the sides of the pans help the cakes rise evenly without mounding in the center. The strips get dipped in cold water, squeezed and then wrapped around the pans. Mine are secured with Velcro. You can buy a set of varying lengths from Amazon.
Place the pans in the oven and bake the larger pans for 35-45 minutes and the smaller pans for 25-30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out absolutely clean.

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Trim, store and assemble the cake exactly like the chocolate tier. Put supports in to hold a 6-7 inch plate. The size will depend on what you can get to hold the champagne flutes. I bought the perfect plate at Michaels – a clear 7-inch plate with a raised rim, but flat center section 6-1/4 inches in diameter. It was in the candle section.
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Assembling the cake
You’ll want to take the 12-inch tier out of the freezer 36 hours ahead of eating time. Remove it from the plastic bag, and place it in the refrigerator with the lid slightly skewed to allow moisture to escape. 24 hours before eating time, you’ll want to take out the other two tiers and also place them in the refrigerator with the lids skewed. The two bottom tiers can be put together once the cakes have mostly defrosted – on the morning of the event, for example. Make sure you have everything ready to go, because you want the bottom tier very cold, so that you don’t mar it when you place the next tier. Besides the equipment to tier the cake, you’ll want to have some buttercream, nicely whipped and a pastry bag fitted with a coupler, so that you can change tips as needed. Set the 12-inch tier on a cake drum – this would be a very thick covered cardboard, because once you start tiering the cakes, they will be very heavy. I have two drums for the cake – a small one (14-inch) that will fit into the refrigerator and a 16-inch for the final assembly.

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Cut a piece of parchment paper, slightly smaller than the next tier, and set it in the center of the 12-inch tier. I had no problems with the frosting coming off with the parchment when the cake was served.

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It’s helpful to have 2 people to set the next tier on top of the parchment. Have one person placing the cake and the other ready with a wide metal spatula (or two) to slip under the cake so you can get your fingers out without marring the surface. If you do mar the surface, you might be able to fix it, or you can always put a flower in that spot!

After the tier is in place, place a shell tip on the pastry bag (size is by choice –maybe 22 for the bottom of the cakes and 17 for the top shells) and fill the pastry bag with some nicely whipped buttercream. Pipe shells around the base of both cakes and smaller shells around the tops.

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Place a parchment round on the top tier, that is about 6-inches in diameter.
Place this in the refrigerator until 5 –7 hours before serving time.

For the upper tier, you’ll need a scalloped 7-inch separator plate (white) with feet that aren’t too thick – so it’s best to buy it in a place where you can see it, rather than from a catalog.

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Michael’s is a good place, or a cake decorating store. The feet need to be thin, because you’ll need to twist them off with pliers. Since this tier is resting on top of the champagne flutes, it can’t have feet on it, but the little ridges left when you twist off the feet will give the plate a little “hold” so you won’t have to worry that a jostle will send upper tier toppling. Set the cake on the plate and then pipe buttercream around the top of the cake and onto the plate so that the plate no longer shows. Set this tier back into the refrigerator.

5-7 hours before serving time, remove the cakes from the refrigerator. If you need to travel with the cake, you’ll need a large box to hold the bottom assembly, and some way to prevent it from sliding or touching the sides of the box. The small 6-inch tier can go in a regular cake-taker. Some foam matting is also helpful. If travelling, you might want to have some buttercream handy, in case of an accident. If you can, travel with someone holding onto the box. If assembling the cake at home, set the 16-inch drum where the cake will be shown – you can’t move it after the final assembly. Set the bottom assembly on the 16-inch drum. Place the clear plate on the parchment. Fill 3 champagne flutes with champagne and set them on the plate. Tie ribbons around the glasses, if desired.


Place the top tier in place. Set the flowers on, as desired. Depending on the location of the cake, you might need the flowers to look good from different angles (so you’ll place some facing front, some sideways, etc.
Enjoy the compliments and then cut and eat the cake!

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Tales of a Tiered Cake #10

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I’m not quite ready to post the final picture and the final recipes, but for those who have been waiting, I wanted to post some pertinent information.
If you’ve been following the series you’ll remember that I made the support straws in the 12-inch layer a little bit taller than level with the top of the cake.

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(the straws had to be cut shorter than shown above) . The purpose was so that the top tier wouldn’t be sitting right down on the frosting where it might come off when the tier was removed. The downside was that the cake would have to be moved after the tier was put in place and there was a possibility that it would shift while being moved. Luckily, it didn’t have to go in a car – just into the refrigerator, and the good news is that it didn’t shift.
There was quite a gap between the cake and the next tier – more than I thought there would be. I used a round piping tube to fill in this gap
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and then I used a fluted tip to pipe a decorative border around the cake.
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I had spent the morning making buttercream and here it was lunch time, so I had no alternative but to continue with my cake tiering with the whole family gathering to eat lunch – with me as entertainment! Can you see me sweating?
For the next tier level, I had decided to go ahead and cut the straws so that they were just level with the top of the cake, and to put a piece of parchment down onto the frosting and then set the next level directly onto the parchment. This was an idea that had been recommended to me by several decorators, but I didn’t necessarily trust the advice, because they had indicated that they didn’t really care if the icing stuck to the parchment. Well, I would be mortified to send out a piece of cake with no icing, and had planned to have extra icing ready in case the parchment failed ( I didn’t actually do that – it would have been impossible with an open kitchen and the caterers busy doing their thing in my kitchen).
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Here’s the good news for those who have been waiting – the parchment worked like a dream. NO ICING STUCK TO THE PARCHMENT!!!So, I’d have to conclude that it’s better to make the straws even with the cake. If the cake is level, the next tier will also sit level because you won’t have to fuss about getting the straws exactly the same height out of the cake. You also won’t have to worry about the tier shifting when you transport the cake. All in all, an easier solution from every perspective.
I’ll be working on the final post in this series over the next few days, so keep a lookout for the final picture and recipes. The cake was truly delicious- moist, tangy, silky smooth frosting. The guests were floored by the looks and by the taste. I was a happy camper…

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Crumb Cake Saga 3

Did I say that I was done making crumb cake? You knew that couldn't possibly be true, and you were right. My last version was pretty bad. I wanted the cake part to be thinner, but in order to reduce it by 1/4, I had to use 2 eggs and 1 yolk and some of the other ingredients also got rounded up or down. Not good at all. If I want the cake to be thinner I will have to reduce it from 3 eggs to 2 eggs. That might be too thin, but that will be my next try. As far as the crumbs go, all 3 versions were pretty good, with not much difference between them. I used the same amount of butter in all three versions: 1 with melted butter added all at once and cooled for 15 minutes, 1 with the melted butter added in by tablespoon until just the right crumblyness and the last made with cold butter, cut into the flour and sugar mixture. It was my least favorite being a tiny bit softer than the other two. My original recipe made with the butter added a little at a time was my favorite, having just a bit more texture that the cooled mixture. So it seems that the real difference would be in the amount of butter used. The more used, it seems the less crunchy the crumbs are. On the first try I thought that the crumbs were a bit too crunchy, but after the cake was placed in foil for a day, the crumbs were softer. I haven't tried using regular sugar instead of brown, or in place of part of the brown sugar, and that will also be my next experiment, since I have to make the cake again anyway...

But all this will have to wait. There are baseboards to clean, counters to seal, ponds to clarify and oh so many more tasks to do before the family descends upon us for our party next weekend.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crumb Cake Saga 2

You probably think that I've been loafing, because I did say that I was going to post the results of my last baking adventure with this cake, and I've been absent for a few days. But NO! I'm now on my 6th version - am I crazy or what! Aren't you glad that it's me doing all the experiments so that you can have the perfect recipe!

The last version was good but too greasy because so much of the butter leaked out of the crumbs. The next version was pretty good, but I couldn't take a bit out of a square and get
crumbs and cake all at once. I decided that the cake batter needed to be reduced by about 1/4 to make the overall thickness perfect for biting into. Also, I wasn't 100% certain what each different crumb technique would yield. So, for my last time making this cake (so she says), I made the cake part thinner, and I tried 3 different techniques for the crumbs- 1/3 with melted butter mixed completely into the flour and then rested for 15 minutes, 1/3 with melted butter, but incorporated by the tablespoonful just until crumbly, and 1/3 with cold butter cut into the dry ingredients. I'm waiting for it to cool, and will then be ready to post the final recipe. Stay with me - the end is near!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Crumb Cake Saga

Today was not a good baking day. I wanted to make a coffee cake for our out-of-towner brunch after the engagement party, so I began with my recipe for crumb topped chocolate chip poundcake ( see < I thought that if I made it in 4 mini-loaf pans with more crumbs, it wouldn't rise as high and then I could cut it into squares instead of slices. For some reason I thought this would be nicer than slicing the cake. What happened was that the weight of the extra crumbs ( which I actually pushed down some into the batter) prevented the cake from rising very much so that the cake was too dense and didn't cook very well. I thought that it tested done, but after the cake cooled and I cut one open, I could see that the bottom wasn't well cooked.

For the second try, I started with a different recipe - one of mine from Amazing Dairy-free Desserts, that is similar to the poundcake recipe above, but which contains more leavening. It also has a ribbon of chocolate, nuts, sugar and flour, but I didn't plan on using that. The original of this recipe was also made in a loaf pan, but I increased the batter by 1/3 and made it in an 9x13 - again thinking that squares would be nicer than slices. This cake was better, but was still not as light as I would have liked it to be. In addition, the crumbs were a bit too hard. They might soften up when I freeze the cake, but I thought that since I was going to make it again anyway, I might try changing the crumbs.

For the 3rd try, I again used the the second recipe above, but to get a more airy cake, I decided to use bleached flour instead of cake flour. Intuitively, you might think that cake flour would yield a lighter cake, but because the flour is so fine, the cake is actually more compact than one made with bleached all-purpose flour. Also to lighten it a little, instead of mixing the sugar, butter, flour, etc. all together, I thought I would use the more traditional method of beating the butter and sugar until light, and then beating in the eggs and finally adding the dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream. To get the crumbs softer, I not only used more butter, but instead of melting the butter, I used cold butter and cut it into the sugar/flour mixture until it looked like meal. Then I used my hands to form the lumps and scatter them on the cake. I'm waiting for it to cool for me to see if it is the way I want it. I guess I'll post that later today. One thing that was very noticeable - it took much longer to cook -43 minutes instead of the 35 that the 2nd attempt took. That one really has me baffled - the cake made with cake flour was denser, so I thought it would need the least amount of time. I've just cut the cake and it is much lighter than the original cake, but it was also kind of greasy. I think that a lot of the fat that I used in the crumbs seeped out and into the cake, making it too oily. The crumbs were nice though - a little crunchy on the outside yielding to a tender middle - and lots and lots of crumbs.

It's amazing how many variations for a cake like this you see out there. My original crumb recipe called for 20 tablespoons of melted butter, Martha Stewart's calls for 28 tablespoons of soft butter, Dorie Greenspan's calls for 24 tablespoons soft butter and Cook's Illustrated calls for cake flour instead of all-purpose, and 14 tablespoons melted butter, but handled differently than I did.

So, I can see that I need to bake at least one more cake. Maybe the cake that worked out well and either Cook's crumbs or Dorie Greenspan's.