The Wedding Cake Diaries II

And with that, it’s all over. I suddenly understand how it must feel the day after your wedding. You’ve worn the dress, the speeches have been made, and most importantly, the cake has been cut. A year and a half of planning and nervous excitement culminated this weekend with over one hundred somewhat drunk, happy guests throwing themselves around the dance floor, myself included engaging in, what I thought was impressive but probably quite alarming, intense flamenco dancing as I charged around after my scared friends.

Joelle and, her husband (!) James had a wonderful day. The church and reception hall were bedecked with sunflowers and Joelle sparkled and beamed as she walked up the aisle on her dad’s arm. We all piled into a blue double-decker bus and were ferried to the reception where we sipped endless glasses of Prosecco, slurped up Pad Thai noodles and then I spilt red wine all over the table. It was a day full of laughter, crazy cossack dancing and a bouncy castle. Ultimately though, dear reader, the day had come for the wedding cake.

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Following my previous post, the wedding cake was at the half way point – all three tiers were safely baked and tucked away in the freezer. I ordered the construction essentials – dowels, boards, cake boxes, and artisan white chocolate – from Amazon and sat back, reassuring myself I was mid-way through the process, there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises ahead. Dear reader, how wrong I was.

So please, make yourself comfortable. Let me take you through the journey of making your friends’ wedding cake, hopefully calming nerves, preparing you for what’s ahead and reminding you not to dream too big…

The icing

To kick things off was a whole day’s work in the kitchen. The cakes gently defrosted overnight and, in the morning, I set to work on the fillings and icing.

Each tier required a different filling – salted caramel buttercream, passion fruit curd and chocolate ganache. Once these were ready, taking most of the morning and part of my sanity with it, it was time to make the white chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream icing. Moussey and light, Swiss meringue buttercream encompasses cakes like a fluffy marshmallow pillow. While this whisked away in the free-standing mixer, I sliced the cakes in half.

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I baked two cakes for each tier to ensure they had a good height and could feed all the guests. The sponges were sliced in half with my friend Hannah’s handy cake leveller, a worthwhile investment if you plan to make many wedding cakes. Slow and steady slicing produced two precise discs of cake.

With the cakes halved and the smooth, glossy icing waiting, I couldn’t delay the moment any longer – it was time for the turntable. One disc of sponge sat on top of a cake board. I piped a boarder of buttercream then spread the centre with dollops of filling. Another disc of sponge on top. Sponge, filling, repeat. Any icing squidging out the sides was smeared flat.

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When icing a cake you usually need to cover it in a crumb coat. This traps all the naughty crumbs so they don’t dislodge into your pristine white icing.

wedding cake diaries nigellaeatseverything.com

One thing I’ll mention – you will always need to make more icing. No matter how much you have multiplied the quantities, you will need to make more. Be prepared for that moment when you’re running low, one cake is only half covered and you still have a naked bottom tier. A quick excursion to the supermarket though, sporting a sugar splattered t-shirt and leggings, is always rewarding.

After setting the crumb coat in the freezer it was time for the top coat. Due to crumby edges and misshapen cakes it was difficult to get the sides perfectly straight with no brown sponge peeking through. To make matters worse the soft icing picked up every fingerprint and was so creamy and yielding every slip of the hand made a gaping hole in the surface. After painstakingly carrying the cake to the safety of the dining table the smallest brush with my arm would mean back to the turntable we go!

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Finally, ten hours later I had three smooth sided cakes ready for their dowels, and packing into cardboard boxes for the journey the next day.

wedding cake diaries nigellaeatseverything.com

The transporting

Before you stack sponge cakes they need necessary structural support. Plastic dowels are ideal for this and can be trimmed to the height of your cake. Four or five dowels evenly spaced around the centre of the cake will support the upper tiers and allow it to stand, all being well, throughout the day.

I slipped the tiers into their boxes, each a size larger than the cake. The boxes were snugly packed into the boot of my car, nestled on top of a towel and padded with a fluffy blanket.

The car crawled down the road, my heart pounding at any bump or jolt. Suddenly Manchester’s pot-holed roads had become crumbling mountainous tracks, and an emergency stop from 20mph became a tyre squealing brake. Somehow we made it to the venue without any incidents or collisions, but it was a little frustrating that any dislodging of icing was just made by me accidentally touching the cakes not transporting it miles in the car.

The decorating

And, finally, the big day was here.

It was my moment of truth. The time had come to stack the cakes.

I arrived at the venue well equipped with dowels and florist wire for the floral decorations, scissors, spatulas and a sturdy knife, and excess buttercream to cover those gaping holes earned in transit.

First, the bottom tier – chocolate and vanilla marble – was carefully placed on the wooden presentation board. Now, to stack the two smaller cakes on top. Using the spatula and knife for leverage I could get my hand underneath, however it was next to impossible to get a grip on the cake as it was slippery with icing, smearing all over my hands. Meanwhile, the cake was top-heavy, wobbling this way and that, and any moment I could see it toppling over and splattering all over the floor. By sheer determination I heaved the cake on top, it landing just off-centre, and the sides of the cake covered in smeared pock-marks and grubby fingerprints. Finally, somehow – I’ve blacked it out – all three tiers were stacked. With the extra icing I covered holes and spots, however, the buttercream had split (a cruel twist of fate) leaving the patches looking curdled.

wedding cake diaries nigellaeatseverything.come

There were some rough indents in the icing that couldn’t be touched up so these were ideal locations for the flower decorations. Joelle had chosen sunflowers so three mini ones sat waiting for me in a vase along with white roses, gypsophila and ruscus. Using dowels and florist wire I pushed the shortened stems into the cakes, filling in sections with billowing bunches of gypsophila and tendrils of ruscus.

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Everything considered, when I stepped back to take in the finished cake, I was very proud of myself. It was never plain sailing, and throughout the day I was certain it would collapse thanks to my poor construction skills, but it all stayed intact, and the best part was the guests enjoying every mouthful. Thank you Joelle and James! I wish you every happiness together!

wedding cake diaries nigellaeatseverything.com

I couldn’t have achieved this cake without the invaluable advice from my friend Hannah, a professional baker with her own cake business. Should you need a cake or are looking for a bespoke caterer take a look at her amazing website: www.hannahmatilda.com

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