Monday, April 20, 2009
39 (million) easy steps to making a wedding cake, Part Two: icing the cake.
Icing a cake really isn’t that difficult if you know what to do, and if you get good at it then it doesn’t take that long either. Unless you start work at 1:00 am after a performance and a cast party and work until 4:45 am Saturday morning, then it seems like a long time. But I made all the fillings and icings and iced six tiers in that time so there wasn’t any grass growing under my feet. I don’t usually do that but it turned out fine. My husband was in bed clear on the other side of the house and I was able to have all the lights on and the music up without bothering him at all.
I made a white chocolate marzipan filling and a chocolate hazelnut filling, and those are recipes I don’t share. Yumm! And I decided to mix the white and chocolate cake layers together. So the first step is retrieving the layers from the freezer and unwrapping them to cut. I used a big expensive serrated blade knife that I called “the sword” for cutting cake when I worked as a professional cake designer but a cheap electric knife works ok.
I hurt myself with that sword once, I was cutting toward my hand and giving some real pressure to a especially hard frozen cake. It was for a wedding on New Years Day and so there wasn’t anyone else around. Something slipped and that knife ended up between my thumb and my thumb nail back about a third of an inch in. I was working alone in the bakery that evening and there was no way to get around the deadline of the cake so I had to think fast. I found the superglue and poured that into the wound, put the thumb nail back in place and taped it all up tightly and put on a glove. I cleaned up the mess and got back to work and had that wedding cake done in time for the reception. And I kept gluing and taping that thumb nail back together until the wounded part grew out and my thumb is perfectly fine now. All that to say that cutting a frozen cake can be dangerous so be careful! Put your hand on top of the cake and cut toward the center of the cake while turning, do not aim at your hand and keep your fingers out of the way!
Trim the top and bottom of each layer, especially when using a white or yellow cake, make sure to remove all the brown “skin” the cake gets on top and the part next to the pan. This gets rid of all the hard and dry parts of the cake, and believe me, it makes a difference in how people experience the cake! Layer the cake with fillings, being careful not to fill so much that the filling will migrate. You want flavor without adding bulk. When all the layers are stacked the carefully trim the sides of the cake until you are back past the brown dry edges. Trim to level the top if needed.
Now you are ready to apply a thin “crumb coat” of icing to the cake. Do this immediately because you don’t want the trimmed cake drying out. Seal in all that moisture right away with a thin coat. You can either set the cake back in the freezer until you have a firm surface or just wait for the icing to solidify a bit while you are working on other tiers.
Finally, come back and add the final coat of icing starting on the top and then doing the sides with a long icing knife. As long as you keep icing between your cake and your knife, you won’t bring up crumbs from the crumb coat and you can get an excellent smooth surface this way.
Now for a wedding cake I will take an additional measure to achieve a smooth surface. Fill a clean spray bottle with cool water and spray the cake thoroughly while spinning it on the turn table. Carefully work all the marks out of the icing keeping plenty of water between the knife blade and the icing. Work the top first then do the sides. This should result in an ultra smooth cake if done properly. Don’t remove icing from the cake, simply allow the water and very gentle pressure to augment what is there into a perfect porcelain smooth surface. Clean the board and allow the cake to dry and then you are ready to decorate as desired.