Monday, April 20, 2009

39 (million) simple steps to making a great wedding cake! (Part One)

Last week I made a wedding cake for my parent’s 50th anniversary celebration. I thought I’d share some of the steps along the way. It’s really not that difficult to do, but messing it up isn’t that hard either. So here are some things I’ve learned over the years making wedding and special occasion cakes. Everyone has seen the beautiful cake that is a disappointment to taste, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Some people think cakes made from scratch are best, but I don’t agree. I start with a cake mix and add all the stuff it says on the box, just in a slightly different formulation.
It’s pretty simple really, two cake mixes, (I have always used Duncan Hines) six jumbo eggs, 1 cup canola oil (for chocolate I sometimes use a good olive oil) and 1 cup water. It makes a thick heavy batter that requires spreading in the pan. And I always add 1 cup applesauce to chocolate cake, you never really taste it (unless the apple sauce is too strong) but it does wonders for the texture and moisture content of a cake.
Spray the pans with baker’s joy and divide the batter between pans. In this photo I’m baking a 14 and a 6 inch round, so the two mixes work out perfectly.
Most people over bake cakes, they want a toothpick to turn out dry but that also means the cake will be dry. The better test is to keep a timer and watch a few key elements: first, if you open the oven door and the whole cake jiggles, it’s is not ready to be touched, very carefully get that oven door closed! If you lightly touch the cake and it leaves a dip, the cake is almost done but not quite. It should spring back when you touch it.
The cake will start to shrink from the sides of the pan and that is your second indicator. Use an oven thermometer and do your best to keep the temperature at an even 350 degrees. My oven is an old one and bakes a bit unevenly so that is one thing to keep in mind, sometimes one layer will be finished and the other one will not be.
If you want two layers inside your cake, then bake two layers for each tier. Some people use deeper pans and bake a large layer and then cut it. I know it’s more work and more baking time but I think the cake is better if baked in the 2 inch pans as opposed to the really deep pans.
When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately cover it with waxed paper and flip it on to a board.
Get the cake pan off as soon as you can and wrap the cake in plastic wrap, sealing it as much as possible. It is important that you don’t leave the cake out on a wire rack or allow it to dry out while cooling, this just makes a dry cake with a hard crust. Yuck!
As soon as it has mostly cooled the cake should be moved to the freezer. This will help to preserve the moisture content of the cake and make it possible to do things like bake a cake on a Tuesday and then serve it on a Saturday like I did.

More info and photos coming. Stay tuned.

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