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A Wedding Cake Guide for Beginners

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					    A Wedding Cake Guide for Beginners
    For a bride on a budget, paying $8 per slice for a wedding cake may seem outrageous! But what are the
    alternatives, particularly when you don't have any baking experts in your family? The answer is - making
    a wedding cake is really not that hard. This is an illustrated step-by-step guide for beginners to
    making and decorating a wedding cake.

    As long as you allow yourself enough time and patience and look for simple yet beautiful decorating
    techniques such as the ones included here, you should be fine. The instructions and decorating techniques
    are aimed at someone who has some baking experience, but has never made a tiered cake or a wedding
    cake before. I don't think a bride or groom should add making a wedding to their long list of things to do,
    but certainly one or two bridesmaids or groomsmen should be able to accomplish this feat.

    You should use a recipe specifically designed to be a wedding cake as it will ensure that it is sturdy
    enough, and that it makes the right amount of batter and icing.

    I use this recipe from epicurious.com and it is one I recommend. It makes three tiers of 12", 9" and 6", as
    well as a massive amount of icing. Best of all, it is truly delicious.

    On the last page of this step-by-step is a schedule for when you will need to bake and assemble each part.
    When ready, first assemble all of the tools you will need:


            All ingredients for baking and icing the wedding cake. The recipe above calls for 5 pints of
    raspberries but I find that due to spoilage, I need to buy 6 or 7.

            12", 9", and 6" cake pans, each 3" tall (available at craft stores and baking supply stores).

            parchment paper to line the pans

            a large serrated knife

            cardboard circles (available at baking and craft stores) in 12", 9" and 6"

            10 non-flexible straws

            an offset spatula

            a platter to serve the wedding cake on – perhaps a plank of wood wrapped in aluminum foil

            To add the optional monogram: a pastry bag with a round tip between size 3 and 7 for piping,
    and a toothpick for tracing the monogram.

            Fresh flowers for decorating. Ask your florist to order you unsprayed flowers.

            Many people find that a lazy Susan platter is helpful when trying to get a smooth surface on the
    cake, or when doing piped designs.

    Lastly, you will need to clear a large space in the refrigerator, perhaps taking out a shelf.

    Once you've baked the wedding cakes, it is on to step 1 – cooling and torting the wedding cake

    Please note: This recipe makes a three-tiered wedding cake, each tier containing three layers.
    To avoid confusion, I will refer to each of the three parts of the totally assembled cake as a
    tier, and to each horizontal slice of those tiers as a layer.

    Step 1: About two days before the wedding, bake the wedding cakes. Let the cakes cool for 30 minutes,
    then run a knife around the inside of the pan, turn pan upside down and slide cakes out. They will still be
    slightly warm. After the cakes completely cool, then cover in foil until ready to assemble.

    When ready, take the largest of the 3 tiers, and with a serrated knife cut into 3 equal layers. This seems
    tricky, but go slowly & you shouldn't have a problem. If you are not using a thick filling, such as the
    raspberries, preserves, and icing that I use, you may wish to level out each layer using a cake leveler.
Please note: This cake makes a three-tiered cake, each tier containing three layers. To avoid confusion, I
will refer to each of the three parts of the totally assembled cake as a tier, and to each horizontal slice of
those tiers as a layer.
Step 1: About two days before the wedding, bake the wedding cakes. Let the cakes cool for 30 minutes,
then run a knife around the inside of the pan, turn pan upside down and slide cakes out. They will still be
slightly warm. After the cakes completely cool, then cover in foil until ready to assemble.

When ready, take the largest of the 3 tiers, and with a serrated knife cut into 3 equal layers. This seems
tricky, but go slowly & you shouldn't have a problem. If you are not using a thick filling, such as the
raspberries, preserves, and icing that I use, you may wish to level out each layer using a cake leveler.

Please note: This cake makes a three-tiered cake, each tier containing three layers. To avoid confusion, I
will refer to each of the three parts of the totally assembled cake as a tier, and to each horizontal slice of
those tiers as a layer.




Slicing the Wedding Cake in Preparation for Filling and Frosting the Layers
Nina Callaway
Step 2: Filling the wedding cake layers with preserves and fresh raspberries




Once you have sliced the largest tier of the wedding cake in three equal layers, place the bottom third on
a cardboard round circle, available from craft and baking stores. Spread a thin layer of raspberry
preserves on top, and then add a layer of fresh raspberries. These need not be densely packed, but should
be enough so that each slice will have several raspberries.


Step 3: Adding Cream Cheese Icing to the Wedding Cake Layer
Then add several spoonfuls of cream cheese icing, placed in dollops around the wedding cake bottom
layer. Using an offset spatula gently spread the icing over the raspberries, trying to create a level surface.
If you have put too much on, you can gently smooth it down over the sides of the layer, but don't worry
about getting the sides smooth at this point.

Once you have done this, place the middle layer on top, and repeat the process. Finally, stack the top
layer on top of that layer, to create a three-layered bottom tier of your wedding cake.


Step 4: Icing the three layers with a "crumb layer" of icing




When you have three layers of the biggest tier of the wedding cake assembled, so that there are two
layers of raspberry preserves, fresh raspberries, and cream cheese icing between each layer, then you can
place dollops of icing on the top of the assembled cake.

Again using your offset spatula, smooth the icing down over the top and the sides of the cake. This is
called your "crumb layer" of icing as it will catch all of the crumbs and seal them in. Place the tier in the
refrigerator to firm up for 20 to 30 minutes, while you assemble the other tiers.

Repeat the above process with each of the other two tiers, slicing each into three layers, placing on
corresponding size cardboard round, and filling each layer with raspberry preserves and fresh raspberries
before frosting with cream cheese icing.


Step 5 - the critical step of adding support and stacking the layers
At this point, you have three crumb-layer iced wedding cake tiers. You have the option of simply icing and
decorating these tiers individually, and setting them up on a table decoratively, or using a tiered wedding-
cake stand. This option means that you don't run any risk of collapsing, although you lose the drama of a
three-tiered assembled wedding cake.

This is also the point that I suggest you stop, and leave the remainder of the decorations for assembling
the morning of the wedding, at the wedding site if possible. Be sure to bring all of your supplies, including
all the rest of the cream cheese icing with you.

The next step is to use plastic drinking straws to support the other tiers of the cake. Insert one straw into
the center of the bottom tier, and make a mark with a pen about 1/8" above the icing.

Remove this straw and use it as a guide to cut 4 additional straws of the same length.

Reinsert the center straw, and insert each of the remaining straws into the bottom tier of the wedding
cake in regular intervals, about 2 inches in from the edge. Then place the bottom tier on the serving
platter.

Place the middle tier of the wedding cake on top of the straws. It should thus provide a level surface for
the middle tier to rest on. If it is uneven or unsteady in anyway, perhaps you need to either recut the
straws, or add a little more frosting between the tiers.

Repeat the process, measuring and inserting five straws in the middle tier to support the top tier.
Step 6: Creating a smooth final layer of icing on the wedding cake




You should now have a mostly-assembled three-tiered wedding cake, although it's icing still looks a bit
dodgy. You need to cover the crumb layer of icing with a smooth final layer of icing. To do this, start from
the top of the cake and dollop some icing on the top, and on each of the horizontal tiers. Spread the icing
into an even layer, covering all the tiers of the wedding cake.

Then, get a large class of warm to hot water, and a metal spatula. Dip the spatula in the warm water,
then smooth over cake. Use the warm water frequently to help you remove any crevices or imperfections.

You can decide how "rustic" or "perfect" you want your cake to be. I was making this cake for a casual
affair, so I appreciated the hominess of a cake made with hand-made love. If you're going for the smooth
look, be aware that you'll never get it as smooth as cakes covered with fondant, but that fondant is not a
good idea for beginners. If you want this cake without fondant to be very smooth, be prepared to spend
an hour or so on this step.

A third option is to use a decorating triangle to add even ridges around the outside of the cake.


Step 7: Decorating the Wedding Cake - Simple and Easy Ideas
Now comes the fun part - decorating the wedding cake! If you have experience with a piping bag, you
may wish to add piped icing in a basket weave pattern, shells around the outer edges, or dots along the
inner edges. I don't recommend this if you don't have much experience with a piping bag.

Since this cake has raspberry filling, you may wish to place fresh raspberries all around the inner edges of
the tiers. When you are filling the layers, simply set aside the most beautiful berries for decorating.

Another simple decorating technique is to pin a ribbon around each layer, such as that seen here. Cut
each ribbon to length and wrap around wedding cake tier, tucking the end under and securing with a
pearl-headed pin.

Make sure that the cake layers are cold and firm when you do this so that the buttery icing won't stain the
ribbon.
I've chosen perhaps the simplest and most elegant decoration of all - decorating the wedding cake with
fresh flowers. Ask your florist to order extra unsprayed flowers for decorating the cake, matching those
they will use in the bouquets and centerpieces. Then lay the flowers around the cake in an even fashion,
or cascading down one side. The flowers seen below are pink and white roses, and purple mini calla lilies.
Mini calla lilies work well because you can wrap the stems around the tiers. For roses and other flowers,
cut the stems short and insert them barely into the cake. If you have any trouble getting flowers to stick,
use a hairpin!




Step 8: Decorating the Wedding Cake Platter




Don't forget to consider decorating the wedding cake platter! You may wish to simply lay rose petals
around the bottom, such as what is seen in this picture. You could also cover it in more fresh flowers,
placed all the way around the bottom edge of the wedding cake. A third option would be to drape fabric
matching your theme colors, covering any exposed parts of the platter. Or, you could place objects that
reflect your theme - for example, cover the platter in seashells for a beach wedding.

Of course if your platter is beautiful, you may not want to cover it at all!
Optional Step: Adding a Monogram to the Wedding Cake
While I don't recommend that beginners do piped designs on a wedding cake, it is relatively easy to add a
monogram. To begin, use a toothpick to trace your monogram onto the cake, such as seen in the picture
below.
Take a small amount of icing in a separate bowl, and add food coloring until it becomes the desired color.
Get a disposable pastry bag or a disposable zip top bag and cut off 1" of the tip. Insert the base end of the
coupler inside the bag, a round tip on the outside, and screw on the ring part of the coupler. Using a
plastic spatula, put in about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the colored icing.

Practice on a plate piping an even line, and following a pattern. Then simply follow the traced monogram
on the wedding cake. Try to have a steady hand, and have confidence in your abilities.

If for some reason you don't like the results, you can use an offset spatula to scrape off the colored icing,
and then re-ice with the white icing. For more hints on using a pastry bag, click here. A second option
would be to make some royal icing, and pipe the monogram onto parchment paper, several times in case
of breakage. Let it dry and carefully lift off of the paper. Spread a little more regular cream cheese icing
on the area that you want the monogram, and press the royal icing gently into it.

If for some reason you don't like the results, you can use an offset spatula to scrape off the colored icing,
and then re-ice with the white icing. For more hints on using a pastry bag, click here. A second option
would be to make some royal icing, and pipe the monogram onto parchment paper, several times in case
of breakage. Let it dry and carefully lift off of the paper. Spread a little more regular cream cheese icing
on the area that you want the monogram, and press the royal icing gently into it.


The Finished Wedding Cake! and a Schedule for Assembling




Here is the finished wedding cake, complete with roses and mini calla lilies decorating it, and a piped icing
monogram.

If you wish to make this wedding cake, here is a sample schedule of how much time it takes:

Step 1: Baking the cake: 1 hour of active time + 1 hour of baking
Cooling: 30 minutes + several hours
Slicing the tiers into layers: 5 minutes

Step 2: Adding filling: 5 minutes for each layer, so approximately 30 minutes total

Step 3: Adding cream cheese icing: 2 minutes per layer, so approximately 15 minutes total

Step 4: Creating a "crumb coat": 5 minutes for each tier, so 15 minutes total

Cooling "crumb coat" layers: 10 to 30 minutes
Step 5: Creating supports with straws and stacking layers: 5 minutes

Step 6: Adding final layer of icing and smoothing it: 20 minutes to 1 hour, depending on level of
smoothness desired.

Step 7: Decorating the wedding cake: the sky is the limit. It only took me 5 minutes to add the flowers
seen here, but if you are creating elaborate designs it could take you much longer.

Step 8: The wedding cake platter: again, this will depend on what you choose, but can take as little as 5
minutes.

Step 9: Adding a monogram: 5 to 30 minutes, depending on your previous experience.

If you were to make this wedding cake for a Saturday afternoon wedding, you might bake the cakes on
Thursday night, then on Friday spend an hour completing steps 2-4. On Saturday morning, transport the
cakes and supplies to the site, then complete the remaining steps.

				
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