Thursday, July 11, 2013

Creative Cakes 101 (part 1) ...



Marlene Terry

Used to do it all the time ... make and decorate cakes.
Started with birthday cakes and graduated (after years of practice) to anniversary cakes and last but not least, wedding cakes.
Don't know what made me think after 20 years or so, I could just pick up where I left off and do it again. But because it was a good friend who asked me, I thought I could at least give it a try.

The first thing you need to know is a standard wedding cake weighs about a ton. ... Well maybe not a ton, but no matter how hard you try not to, you start out with six, lighter than air, layers in order to make a three-tier cake, and end up with a weighty, monstrous memorial to marriage that at times makes you wish you had a crane to lift it.

Thought it would be fun to take you along with me on my latest attempt to create a "simple" wedding cake. So with the best intentions here we go:

Step No. 1: Bake the cake.
I personally like using standard cake mixes. It takes three mixes to make one 14-inch round layer. And we'll need two layers (six cake mixes) for the bottom tier of this medium-size wedding cake; 1 1/2 cake mixes for each layer of the middle tier and just one cake mix for both layers of the top tier. That is as long as the top tier is no more than six-inches in diameter.

Mixing up the cake is easy. Just follow the directions. But before the baking can proceed  it's important to grease your cake pans with more shortening than you ever thought possible. Then flour each one as well, so the baked cake will slip easily from the pan to the cake board.
In my kitchen greasing the pans means I'll also have greasy plops that fall from my hands onto the floor, counter and stove. Plus, there will be shiny, smooth fingerprints to clean off almost everything, including the refrigerator that I opened several times, mid-greasing, in order to get out the soda that will sustain me through the trying times ahead.

After baking you'll need to level each cake layer before dumping it onto a cake board.
Of course there are professional leveling tools available that make this step quick and easy. But what fun would that be?
To add adventure to the experience some cake makers prefer using a knife long enough to slice off the top of the baked layer while resting the knife's tip on the cake pan for a guide.
However unless you're in possession of a knife with a 24-inch or longer blade, the layers of a large cake may not turn out as level as you hoped. In that case you might want to try my trick.
 ... And yes, I thoroughly clean off all the crumbs from my hubby's hand saw before I return it to his tool box.

Once the layers are baked, cooled slightly, leveled and successfully placed on cake boards you can wrap each one loosely in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer. ... That's when you'll first notice the mass of the cake has increased dramatically.
... But then what could a stick of butter, three eggs and a cup of oil x 10 cake mixes weigh?

Tune in tomorrow for Creative Cakes 101 (part 2): Assembling the cake, sealing, testing the frosting for taste (my favorite part) and preparing for "the storm."


♦ Hope you'll let me share your stories and photos here at my new residence "In a Nutshell." Email me at nutshellstories@gmail.com.