Who got married? Nobody, yet. I'm making a wedding cake for a friend in November and let's just say I need a little practice. I've never made a wedding cake before. I've never had any desire to make a wedding cake before. But you do crazy things for friends, so I thought I'd better do a few test runs so I don't ruin her wedding by mistake. (Sure, she says she doesn't care how it looks—only how it tastes—but take it from the woman who ended up buying two wedding dresses because she thought, who cares about the stupid dress? You WILL care. You'll care a lot.)
Test Run No. 1 was last week's Waltham Fields fundraiser. They needed dessert to feed a crowd and I needed someone to eat 100 pieces of cake—someone that's not me—so it worked out well. Since it was a farm fundraiser, I stuck to vegetable-themed cakes, for which I have many awesome recipes if I do say so myself. The bottom tier was carrot cake, the middle tier was chocolate beet cake, and the top tier was butternut squash cake, all slathered in cream cheese frosting. Waltham Fields donated all the veggies. I donated many, many curse words as I attempted to assemble the whole impossibly heavy thing and then fit it into my refrigerator.
The process of baking the cakes went fine, though six cakes in one day was a new record for me. The assembly is what takes forever. You have to trim the cakes to be perfectly flat and level, shaving off microscopic crumbly layers over and over because you keep making things worse. You have to whip up at least five batches of frosting. Each tier is a double layer cake, so you fill and frost two stacked cakes for each tier. (Some bakers cut each layer in half horizontally so each tier has four layers, but I was suicidal enough as it was. Plus, that's the wrong frosting-to-cake ratio in this case.)
I like to apply a crumb coat to layer cakes, which means you apply a really thin coat of frosting all over to trap the crumbs and then refrigerate the cake until the frosting stiffens to lock them in. Then you can apply a final crumb-free coat afterwards. Sounds easy, right? NOT!!! It's really hard to get the frosting to be completely flat and wrinkle-free. It doesn't want to be that way at all. Every time you lift up your icing spatula, it leaves a mark. And every time you set it down to erase the previous mark, it leaves another mark. It's an endless maddening cycle, but, whatever, I did the best I could.
Here's the real problem, though. Once you get all of your cakes nicely frosted and you're feeling fairly proud of yourself, how the fuck do you then stack 20-pound cakes on top of each other, all perfectly centered, without leaving draggy marks in your nice frosting job as you pull your fingers out from underneath? Can somebody please tell me? Because I'd really love to know.
The other problem was that the finished cake was so heavy, I literally could not lift it. I couldn't do it! You may remember how much trouble I had carrying a regular-sized carrot cake a short distance last year. I've been working out, I swear, but the cakes keep getting bigger. I don't know how much this cake weighed (my kitchen scale doesn't go up that high), but here's a quick estimate based on the ingredients I used: 10 pounds of sugar, 5 pounds of cream cheese, 4 pounds of butter, 4 pounds of vegetables, 3 pounds of flour, 2 pounds of oil, 2 pounds of eggs, 1 pound of nuts, 1 pound of chocolate, and the board weighed 3 pounds. If I know simple arithmetic, that means the cake must have weighed at least 455 pounds. Luckily, Husband is strong. (I'm pretty sure he was sore the next day, but he'll never admit it.)
Here's another thing I learned: disassembling and serving wedding cakes is an unbelievably messy process. There's a reason why they take the cakes in the back to slice them: There's cake and frosting flying all over the place. I think the caterers who observed my amateur cake-wrangling skills were horrified. Once you take the tiers apart to slice them (and you need to do that or else you'll end up with an engineering disaster), the frosting in between the tiers gets suctioned right off by the cake directly above it. That means half the pieces end up with no frosting at all. Mind you, I had a GIANT bowl of leftover frosting back at the house that I could have used, but I didn't think I'd need it. None of my Wedding Cakes for Dummies books I took out of the library mentioned the bald cake part. They were all, bring a little frosting for last-minute touchups!, so I brought my little sandwich baggie of frosting that I then had to smear across 45 pieces of cake in a nearly invisible layer.
This is why you need test runs.
Anyway, all three layers were moist and delicious, and the cake as a whole didn't come out half as hideous as I thought it would be. I went for the rustic, spackled look, as you can see, adding a little texture to the sides to hide imperfections. I should probably practice piping frosting embellishments one of these days, but, for now, I'm just glad I have another 3 or 4 months before I have to do this all over again for Test Run No. 2.
(and, if you're wondering, no, those are not Martha Stewart's stupid truffle eggs. They're Jordan almonds, the ubiquitous Italian wedding favors, which just happen to work perfectly for springtime cakes.)