In Part 1, I discussed all the considerations necessary in the Design phase for a special occasion cake. I gave all of them some thought and came up with a new cake concept I couldn”t wait to make. Join me below?
First, what did I decide on in the design phase? Here are my answers:
Theme- It was a wedding! My uncle and his partner of 17 years were marrying and asked me and my wife to be the witnesses at their wedding in San Francisco last week. (They plan to have a party/reception for friends and family later this year.) I made this cake as a surprise.
Structure- I chose a tiered structure of round layers.
Environment- It’s February, rainy out, and the cake didn’t need to leave the house. There wasn’t much chance of it getting too hot in here because it’s pretty much impossible to get this house any warmer than 58 degrees in the winter anyhow.
Transport- None! They were at our house before and after the ceremony so the cake could be displayed and served in the same spot it was made.
Flavor(s)- I gave this one a lot of thought and settled on an almond-infused white cake with a matcha green tea buttercream. One of the grooms loves almond pastries; the other loves tea. I thought this flavor combo would work well together and be a fun combination of their favorites.
Party Size/Number of Cake-Eaters- There would only be four of us. I wanted to send them home with extra cake, of course. So I did a 4 inch tier atop a 6 inch tier. That gave us somewhere between 10 and 16 slices.
Prep time- The wedding was on Monday and I had all of Sunday free. So I made the entire thing that day, from baking to buttercream-making to assembly and decoration.
Equipment– I had all the equipment I needed to make round tiers– pans, cake boards, etc.– on hand, so two round tiers it was. Plus it’s a nice traditional look for a wedding cake.
Using the almond cake with matcha green tea buttercream icing flavor profile to influence the look of the cake, I planned flush tiers (no separation between them) of a green tea buttercream iced cake framed by white frosting pearls. The matcha green tea powder produced a natural (actually surprisingly dark) tea green-colored tint to the buttercream.
Using a go-to formula for white cake, I swapped vanilla extract for almond and added some ground almonds to the batter. I was careful to line my cake pans with parchment paper, in addition to spraying them with oil, for easy release. You can tell that cakes are perfectly ready when they pull slightly away from the pan– a good thing, as the oven in this house is far from calibrated. After 20 minutes or so to cool on the rack, you can run a butter knife between the cake and the pan to make sure it will release perfectly when you invert it onto a plate.
To get the perfectly flat-top look of a professional cake, I used a large, sharp serrated knife to evenly trim off the “dome” that rose atop each cake in the oven.
When stacking cakes into tiers, there are a couple of important steps to making sure they don’t collapse into each other. One is to build each tier on a cardboard cake round. Set your first trimmed layer (for the largest of your tiers) on the cardboard round, set it on a cake spinner (a worthwhile investment– it will allow you to get a professionally-frosted look during the finishing phase), and ice the middle before placing the other matching trimmed cake layer on top of it. Then ice the tops and sides. Set that tier aside and repeat all steps with any smaller tiers.
To assemble, you need to sink supports into the middle of each tier that has to support a tier above. Since my 6 inch tier only needed to support a 4 inch tier, a single plastic straw sufficed. I sunk it in just slightly offset from the middle of the cake, pulled it out, snipped it at the frosting line, and then returned it to the hole. Using the remaining straw, I did it again, slightly offset from the center on the other side. The tops of the straws were now flush with the top of the tier and would support the weight of the cardboard and cake above.
I combed wide horizontal stripes– for a slight layering effect– into the buttercream with my icing spatula into the sides of the cake, and piped white buttercream pearls around the base of each layer. Finally, I piped the grooms’ first initials– J and S– onto the top tier.
Mission Cake: Accomplished!