Experiments with cake

So, I’ve volunteered to make my sister’s wedding cake, in January 2015.

I’ve decorated a few birthday cakes in my time, and my mother’s wedding cake, and I’ve signed up for an eveving cake decorating course just to get some better technique, so I’m feeling confident on the decoration front (famous last words…).

So, the things I want to figure out are:

1.  What cakes to use

2.  How much cake I need

3.  How I want to decorate them.

Actually I’ve just chucked 3 in for fun.  I mostly know how I’m going to decorate them, after a bit of consultation with the bride.

First, I’m hoping to avoid the whole cake stacking exercise by using a tiered display stand instead, most likely this one:

https://i1.wp.com/www.fieldsfabricsonline.com/assets/images/nmc/400728.jpg

which is available from fishpond for just under $100.  My only concern about it is that the sizes of cakes for each layer are, respectively, 10″, 8″ and 6″, or, for those of us who are more sensible and work with metric: 25cm, 20cm and 15cm.

Now, I made a 20cm cake last night (we’ll get to that) and it’s quite small.  Even if it were tall it would still be small.  And 25cm isn’t particularly big either.  The cake serving guide so kindly provided online by Lark Cake Shop (larkcakeshop.com/CakeServeGuide2.pdf) (the answer to number 2) suggests that even if you cut really mean “event style” sized servings, those three cakes would only serve 71 people, and I’m pretty sure there’ll be 100 people at the wedding.  I found a useful discussion of how many servings to make which suggested you should cater for 60% of the number of people invited, but my impression is that my sister will have a much higher response rate than that, and that if some people can’t come she’ll have a backup list to fill it in – the list is restricted by the venue rather than by available friends and relatives.  So I think 100 is likely.  Which would make 71 mean pieces mean catering indeed.

I’ve contacted a local wrought-iron artist to see what he’d charge to make something.  I suspect it will be a lot, but ordering one the right size from overseas wouldn’t be cheap either (http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Outstanding-Wilton-Garden-Wedding-White-Enameled-Metal-3-tier-Cake-Stand-/161204236268?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2588856fec) so it’s worth asking.

Anyway, on to the cakes themselves.

They’ll have white slightly rusticated icing, each with a flower on top something like the following (from Cakestar, by Jade Lipton, available at http://www.fishpond.co.nz/Books/Cakestar-Jade-Lipton/9780143565819).

Image

Not sure yet what colour(s) the flowers will be on each cake, but I’d aim to have them smaller than the diameter of the cake, unlike the one in the picture, which is larger.

Round the base of each cake there’ll be some hessian ribbon, with lace ribbon over the top, something like this:

http://i2.wp.com/upcycledtreasures.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/rustic-burlap-white-pink-wedding-cake.png?resize=597,898

So on to the first question: what cakes to make.

First, wedding cakes need to be able to keep a bit.  If there’s cake left over, people need to be able to take it home and eat it over subsequent days.  And even before then, the cakes need to be able to be cooked in advance so there’s time to decorate them, and not have to cook and decorate them all in just a day or two, which would be stressful.

The all-knowing internets tell me that mud cakes keep well.  My best friend and her mother, both accomplished bakers, tell me that nut cakes work well.  So for a start I thought I’d try the two things together, and make a white chocolate orange and almond mud cake.

I used the white chocolate mud cake, made with almonds, at http://www.aww.com.au/food/recipes/2013/4/double-decker-chocolate-mud-cake/ , as my starting point.

I only made half the recipe (the half without the cocoa powder) as it was a test cake and I wasn’t planning on layering things up.

I also reduced the amount of sugar, as comparison with other mud cakes and reading reviews suggested that otherwise it would be too sweet.   And I added 1 1/2 tsp of orange zest for the orange flavour.  So the recipe I ended up with was this:

White chocolate, orange and almond mud cake (attempt 1)

125g butter
90g white chocolate, chopped coarsely
3/4 cups (330g) sugar (we were out of caster sugar)
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
100g (7/8 cup = 220ml) almond meal
92g (5/8 cup = 155ml) self-raising flour
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 1/2 tsp orange zest

1. Preheat oven to 160 °C (140 °C fan-forced). Grease one deep 20cm-round cake tin; line base and sides with baking paper.

I preheated the oven as instructed to 140 fan-forced, but on later inspection it was probably more like 135, which may have been partly responsible for the later sinking.  In any case, I think the pre-heating for my oven should have been 150 fan-forced.

2 Combine butter, white chocolate, sugar and milk in a medium saucepan; stir over heat, without boiling, until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; cool for 15 minutes.

It got to cool for longer than 15 minutes because I was doing other things at the same time.  I’m not sure if that mattered or not.

3 Whisk almond meal and sifted flour into white chocolate mixture, then whisk in egg and orange zest. Pour into one of the prepared pans. Bake cake for about 50 minutes or until cooked when tested. Stand cake in pan for 5 minutes; turn cake, top side up, onto wire rack to cool.

I baked for 50 minutes in a 20cm tin and it was nowhere near cooked.  It needed another 20 minutes on top of that, and arguably could have had another 10 after that too.  At the end of that time it was a bit sunk in the middle, and the edges had shrunk away from the tin.

My learnings from this are;

1.  The cake is just slightly too dense and oily.  Next time I would reverse the quantities (by volume rather than weight) of almond flour and wheat flour.  The increased wheat flour should probably be plain flour rather than self-raising, to ensure it doesn’t rise too much.

2.  It needs to be cooked longer than the recipe says and/or at a higher temperature.  Next time I’d go for an hour at 150 fan-forced.

3.  I need a better 20cm cake tin for it.  The one I used was old, with a loose base, and I had to put the tin on a silicon tray to stop the batter from leaking into the oven.  I took this out quite early in the cooking.  Taking the tray out early in the cooking was probably a mistake as it likely contributed to the cake sinking a bit in the middle.

4.  Going for 3/4 of the sugar was still too much sugar.  I’d go for half next time.

5.  I’d add the orange zest earlier in the mixing next time, to reduce the likelihood of over-beating.  On that front, I wonder, if the melted chocolate/milk/butter mix was cooled enough, whether it would be possible to add in the egg before the dry ingredients.

6.  In spite of all the above, the cake tastes really good, and will have a good firm surface for decorating and density for cutting, and is definitely the right direction for the wedding cake.

My revised recipe, for next time, is:

White chocolate, orange and almond mud cake (attempt 2)

125g butter
90g white chocolate, chopped coarsely
220g (1/2 c) sugar (we were out of caster sugar)
125ml (1/2 c) milk
76g (5/8 cup = 155ml) almond meal
110g (7/8 cup = 220ml) self-raising flour
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 1/2 tsp orange zest

1. Preheat oven to 150 °C fan-forced. Grease one deep 20cm-round cake tin; line base and sides with baking paper.

2 Combine butter, white chocolate, sugar and milk in a medium saucepan; stir over heat, without boiling, until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; cool for 15 minutes.

3 Whisk orange zest into white chocolate mixture.

4  Whisk almond meal and sifted flour into white chocolate mixture, then whisk in egg. Pour into one of the prepared pans. Bake cake for about 60 minutes or until cooked when tested.  Don’t test too early. Stand cake in pan for 5 minutes; turn cake, top side up, onto wire rack to cool.

N.B.  If you want to try this yourself, and you want to make a proper cake, you’ll likely want to make two of these and sandwich them together with ganache or similar (I think raspberries in the filling would make a great accompaniment, but YMMV).  If you do try it, let me know how it goes!