Making My First Wedding Cake (Am I Being Overambitious?)

Decorating By Sock Monkey Updated 8 Sep 2014 , 11:47am by Sock Monkey

Sock Monkey Posted 2 Sep 2014 , 11:25am
post #1 of 22

Hi, I'm new to the boards, but did start a thread about this last week. I don't think it's been posted because there was some message about a moderator having to approve it. Please forgive me if the other thread crops up at some point.

 

I have been asked by two friends of mine to make their wedding cake, because they follow other things I've done and would like me to do it. I've provisionally said yes, but do keep worrying I'm being overambitious in taking on such a task. They've said they're not particularly fond of traditional wedding cakes (I assumed they meant tiered fruit/sponge cake) and are happy to see what I can come up with. I'm working with the theme of "chocolate hazelnut" at the moment because the bride loves Nutella so much. It's not going to be on their actual wedding day, but at an informal reception for friends the next day (only family are attending the wedding).

 

My current thoughts in terms of structure is 4 layers of chocolate sponge with two layers of hazelnut praline buttercream and a central layer of chocolate buttercream. I'm hoping to cover with the same chocolate buttercream and attach panels of chocolate to the outside, like this http://www.marthastewartweddings.com/sites/files/marthastewartweddings.com/imagecache/wmax-520/ecl/images/content/pub/weddings/2010Q3/mwd105617_sum10_panel3_hd.jpg. I was hoping to place macarons upright around the top of each tier instead of the raspberries.

 

The practical things that are worrying me:-

 

1. It's a four hour drive to the venue - will buttercream last that long in a car (it'll be Feb in the UK, so probably quite cool) and into the evening?

2. Will the chocolate panels stick to the buttercream and stay or would I better using a ganache? I can do fondant icing, but wasn't sure that would work with the chocolate panels.

3. I haven't stacked a buttercream cake before, so what's the best way to go about testing? A couple of two tiered trials or have a full-on trial? Am I likely to ruin buttercream cakes by stacking them?

4. Would it be difficult to cut cake that has chocolate panels like that without them shattering?

5. What would be a good filling for a macaron that has to sit out for a whole day? I would normally use a ganache, but worry it would get a bit melty after too long out the fridge.

6. Am I taking on too much?!

 

Hope that all makes sense!

21 replies
Snowflakebunny23 Posted 2 Sep 2014 , 12:28pm
post #2 of 22

Hey!  Welcome - how many tiers are you planning to do for the cake?  All 4?  Because that is a LOT of cake :-)

 

In answer to your questions...

1) yes, a buttercream-covered cake will happily sit out for that long assuming it is a butter/sugar buttercream...you do want to keep it cool though, not from a 'going off' point of view but from a 'stop it melting' point of view.  I know some venues have heaters out in the winter so make sure it's not right next to it for example.

 

2) The chocolate panels should stick fine to buttercream providing it hasn't crusted but you may need to add extra where there is overlap to make sure they have plenty of buttercream 'glue'.  I would take spares just in case.  You could do fondant and then stick the chocolate on top - it would work but, like you say, may taste a little funny.  That said, you can buy chocolate fondant :-)  Bear in mind as well though that you will probably be able to see a bit of the buttercream through the white chocolate because they are so thin so if you are using white chocolate shards, I'd use plain buttercream as opposed to chocolate buttercream.

 

3) I would test at least a 2-tier, probably a 3 and if you can, go mad and make the lot.  I did my first buttercream covered wedding cake 3 weeks ago and I actually transported the whole thing in separate tiers and stacked it there.  It was only 40mins away but the road was the road from hell.  Maybe some fellow UK-ers who have worked with buttercream can advise more on that.  Before that one (a 3-tier) I made a 2-tier and sent my other half to work with it and told him to drive as badly as he wanted to check it survived!

 

4) Yes, when you cut it, they will probably shatter/fall off..but it's all going to be eaten anyway, so who cares??! yummy :-)

 

5) I'd use white chocolate ganache...it'll be fine.

 

6) You don't say how many stacked cakes you have done or how much involvement you are having in the day itself.  All I can say is make sure you have PLENTY of time, and than add on another few hours.  Plan everything and have a backup.  My first wedding cake (in fact, my first cake over 2 tiers) was a 4-tier, 20kg wedding cake for my fiance's best friend.  You have to start somewhere but you also have to be prepared for disasters and have ways thought out how to fix them.  My biggest concern for you would be the drive time - 4 hours is a long way.  If it were me, I would do the buttercream and wrap the tiers up so they didn't crust.  Transport in pieces and stack/decorate there.  Much less risk.  Definitely put the fruits/decorations on there, otherwise you risk bits flying going around a corner and breaking something.

 

Good luck!

-K8memphis Posted 2 Sep 2014 , 12:49pm
post #3 of 22

Ai think that so long as you figure out how long it will take you to make and decorate -- multiply the time needed to do the last minute things on your list by two and the rest of the list by three times as long you should be good --

I mean if you are doing chocolate panels successfully then the ganache in the macarons should be no problem --

then for delivery seal up a cold cake not frozen into a corrugated cardboard box and if it was real hot you could put some freezer packs in there too but probably not needed in February --

i would recommend that you do a complete cake in advance and drive it around to work and school and wherever probably have to let it stay in there parked for a while to total four hours so that you get the level of concern/expertise needed to successfully deliver 4 hours away -- then of course set it all up -- there's no better way to learn what you need to learn --

yes you are biting off a lot but you can do it

Sock Monkey Posted 2 Sep 2014 , 1:09pm
post #4 of 22

Snowflakebunny23 - Ah, I forgot to say, I don't know how many tiers or size yet because I'm waiting to hear from the couple about number of guests. Probably three tiers at most, I'd have thought. I also failed to explain that I was thinking of using milk or dark chocolate pieces for the outside, so don't need to worry about the buttercream showing through. I did one two tier stacked cake a few years ago, but that was just fondant and just for a child's birthday party. This feels much scarier!

 

Would the buttercream still be moist enough for the chocolate to stick to it with clingfilm on during a four hour journey? I was planning to stack at the venue, because I'd be terrified it'd all fall over turning a corner!

 

K8memphis - I did say to my husband the other day, that maybe I should drive a trial cake around and leave it in the car for the maximum amount of time to see how it goes. The average temp for Feb last year was 2.8C/37F for Feb, but sometimes it's cold enough for snow, so it's usually pretty cold.

 

I might be able to drive up the day before if I could persuade a friend to let me use their kitchen. I suppose I could either take the cakes at the crumb coat stage or even just the cake layers and pretty much do everything there. I'd be more worried about the ganache in the macarons with that plan, but nothing's set in stone, so I can change my mind about those.

___

 

About stacking buttercream tiers - I was thinking about putting a thin cake board on top of each tier (apart from the top one) AND underneath each cake, to minimize damaging the buttercream. Is this the best way to go about this or am I making it more complicated than it needs to be?

___

 

On a slightly related note, does anyone know how cake portions work if I were to do a two tiered cake with tall bottom tier? Do you cut the bottom pieces in half or something? I mean something like this (I love that chocolate leaf design too!)

 

Snowflakebunny23 Posted 2 Sep 2014 , 1:59pm
post #5 of 22

Sounds like you have some good ideas to get things going :-)

 

Cling film should work fine to stop the edge drying...just wrap some around the outside and then pop the chocolate bits on later on.

 

I was just thinking - you mention keeping the buttercream un-damaged, but it isn't going to be visible will it?  If you have the chocolate shards around the outside and then the macaroons on top, then you don't need to worry too much if there is the odd little finger mark :-D

 

With the supertall tiers, i would vary the portion sizes by how deep the tier is.  My cakes are just under 4" deep per tier so if the cake was around 8", then it would just be twice the servings.  If it was 6" deep, I would say it yielded 1.5 times the servings - does that make sense?  Don't forget as well though that with a super-tall tier, you have to dowel internally - you can't just keep stacking cake on top of itself... xxx

Snowflakebunny23 Posted 2 Sep 2014 , 2:02pm
post #6 of 22

ps. when you say you're worried about the ganache in your macaroons, what about it is concerning you mean?  I cover all of my cakes in ganache before fondant and they stay firm but not hard :-)

-K8memphis Posted 2 Sep 2014 , 2:10pm
post #7 of 22

Ahave you worked with chocolate to make plates and leaves and things?

also servings are determined by footprint -- so if a cake is 8" tall and there is a board at the 4" mark -- that is in essence a two tier cake -- so twice the servings -- if a cake is 6" tall with one board on the bottom only -- it is only one tier where servings are determined by the footprint -- say an 8" cake that is 4" or 6" tall same 24 servings and the latter doesn't fit the dessert plates--

I would suggest that you watch some you tube videos for how to stack --

delivering a cake means it will be in and out of sunlight and at the mercy of the weather -- a 4 hour delivery is extreme -- the chocolate adds a greater degree of difficulty -- then trying to change work spaces on top -- you first need to focus focus focus -- determine your design because all the other questions depend on that --

Sock Monkey Posted 2 Sep 2014 , 3:24pm
post #8 of 22

I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me that you'd need to dowel such a tall cake, as it seems really obvious now! I guess that's why I joined this forum - thanks. You're right about the buttercream - it doesn't matter if it gets damaged a bit because it will be pretty hidden. An alternative idea to macarons was to use chocolate shavings/curls, but I think macarons will make it look more special.

 

I was only concerned about ganache in the macarons because I made a white chocolate ganache last summer that melted really badly once out of the fridge for half an hour. Admittedly, it was over 30C at the time, the flat I was living in was very hot and I know white chocolate is more temperamental. I was thinking of a hazelnut milk chocolate ganache for this. I didn't want any chocolate in the macaron shell as I like the idea them being the only thing that's coloured throughout the whole design.

 

I've not worked with chocolate much, only really for confectionery so I know how to temper, fill moulds etc. You're right about finalising the design. I'm going to email the couple this evening and chase up numbers of guests. I was thinking of doing a initial trial of just one tier in a 6" or 8" size in the next week or two and getting some sketches down to show the couple.

Snowflakebunny23 Posted 2 Sep 2014 , 3:29pm
post #9 of 22

I always learn stuff here :-)

 

With the white chocolate ganache, I usually go up to a 3.5:1 ratio or even a 4:1 depending on the weather.  In Feb, it shouldn't be too hot though...even up north :-0

cake4court Posted 3 Sep 2014 , 8:21pm
post #10 of 22

I love that cake in the pic! What sizes would you say the tiers are?

Sock Monkey Posted 3 Sep 2014 , 11:26pm
post #11 of 22

Quote:

Originally Posted by cake4court 
 

I love that cake in the pic! What sizes would you say the tiers are?

 

Which picture? I think the first pic (the square cake) has a 12" bottom tier, but I don't know about the second pic sorry.

 

I've now got a number of approximately 75 guests to cater for, but think I'll work to 100 (you can never have too much cake, right?) I've got the Wilton serving guide and read a few others, so hoping I won't mess the size up.

 

I'm also considering ditching the macarons. My current oven doesn't have a fan and I'm used to making macarons with one. I could use my parents oven, but it feels like I'm making things unnecessarily complicated. I've got some stuff to sort over the weekend then I can give it my full attention on finalising a design that I can trial, as I know I need to focus. All the advice so far is much appreciated and it's nice just to have people to bounce ideas off :)

cake4court Posted 4 Sep 2014 , 2:56am
post #12 of 22

the second pic...:-)

Snowflakebunny23 Posted 4 Sep 2014 , 10:37am
post #13 of 22

I'd say a 6" with a double-decker 8" below maybe?

-K8memphis Posted 4 Sep 2014 , 1:03pm
post #14 of 22

Amy guess would be smaller like a 6x4 or even a 5x3

Sock Monkey Posted 4 Sep 2014 , 1:07pm
post #15 of 22

All I know is that it was originally made for someone's engagement party, so that might give some idea to size. Unless it was a very very small party... I didn't even have an engagement party, nevermind such an amazing cake! I feel like I've missed out.

cheryl848 Posted 4 Sep 2014 , 2:17pm
post #16 of 22

practice, practice, practice.......

 

cheryl

Sock Monkey Posted 6 Sep 2014 , 11:45pm
post #17 of 22

I was thinking that SMBC, IMBC or ganache wasn't an option because they wouldn't last 1 1/2 days unrefrigerated (or survive the long journey), but I hear that's not the case? Well, I understand it's because either the eggs or cream are cooked, so it should be ok, in theory.

 

I thought, from a texture point of view that it might be better to have the hazelnut praline buttercream inside to be the same type as the chocolate hazelnut one in the centre and outside, but wondering what type would work best? Or does anyone think using ganache on the outside would work better from the point of view of lasting and/or holding the chocolate pieces in place?

MKC Posted 8 Sep 2014 , 1:18am
post #18 of 22

AThe eggs is SMBC are cooked. SMBC will last a good 2 days out of the fridge....but not in warm weather due to it's butter content.

I use ganache for the exterior of my cakes. I find ganache better at keeping the inside of the cake fresh and keep the fondant nice and straight.

Sock Monkey Posted 8 Sep 2014 , 8:28am
post #19 of 22

Quote:

Originally Posted by MKC 

The eggs is SMBC are cooked. SMBC will last a good 2 days out of the fridge....but not in warm weather due to it's butter content.

I use ganache for the exterior of my cakes. I find ganache better at keeping the inside of the cake fresh and keep the fondant nice and straight.

 

The wedding is in February in London, so usually pretty cold! The only concern will be how warm the venue is.

 

I won't be using fondant on the cake, just pieces of chocolate on the outside, so the ganache will be exposed in quite a few areas. I think that's worrying me slightly, because it has cream in it and I don't want it to spoil. Is it weird to have SMBC inside, then a ganache or standard on the outside? I guess I'm a bit concerned difference in texture will taste a bit weird.

 

Also, with a standard buttercream, I know a lot of the discussion on here is US based, so I see a lot about using shortening (called Trex here) to get the buttercream to crust. Is that really necessary in cold UK weather, or would I be ok to use purely butter? I have made indydebi's buttercream, which held up really well during a heatwave at a charity event last year, but not sure I really want to be using Trex on a wedding cake. It's really not the most pleasant of ingredients...

Snowflakebunny23 Posted 8 Sep 2014 , 10:08am
post #20 of 22

The ganache will be fine, even with the cream.  I can't speak to the SMBC (I'm still trying to get a definitive answer about how long that can be kept unrefrigerated).  I bake my cakes on Wednesday/Thursday usually for a Saturday wedding, ganache on Thursday and they are at room temp until the Saturday.  I've eaten many of them myself and no problems.

 

I'm not sure about using pure butter but I use a 50"50 marg/butter mix for buttercream and that crusts fine.  I had a wedding fayre yesterday and had some leftover buttercream in a bowl and it was suitably 'crunchy'.

 

xx

MKC Posted 8 Sep 2014 , 11:26am
post #21 of 22

AYou have a lot of good ideas but you will definately need to test them all before you take on a wedding cake. You don't want to be stressed the week of the wedding. I'm sure you can find events / celebrations around your family/ friend where you could make them cakes and at the same time practice these new techniques.

I have had SMBC after 4 days at room temperature and it was still good. I just don't usually wait that long when making cakes.

The cake from Martha does not have exposed ganache...are you doing this one or the second picture you sent? Don't worry about different textures. It works very well and done by professional bakers..but I should try it.

Sock Monkey Posted 8 Sep 2014 , 11:47am
post #22 of 22

Quote:

Originally Posted by MKC 

You have a lot of good ideas but you will definately need to test them all before you take on a wedding cake. You don't want to be stressed the week of the wedding. I'm sure you can find events / celebrations around your family/ friend where you could make them cakes and at the same time practice these new techniques.

I have had SMBC after 4 days at room temperature and it was still good. I just don't usually wait that long when making cakes.

The cake from Martha does not have exposed ganache...are you doing this one or the second picture you sent? Don't worry about different textures. It works very well and done by professional bakers..but I should try it.

 

I'm planning to do a first test of one tier in the next fortnight, to see how the flavours work first, then probably have a go at stacking tiers at a later date (possibly around Christmas, so that there are lots of family around to feed it to!) I figure a 6" cake will be big enough to test the buttercreams, ganache and chocolate technique to start with. I think one of my concerns about SMBC is that in the past it's felt very soft, so I'm not convinced it would hold the chocolate pieces in place sufficiently. Perhaps I should try one with entirely SMBC (inside & out) and one with SMBC inside, ganache outside. And leave them in the car for a while.

 

The sides of the ganache/buttercream wouldn't be exposed on either design, but the top of each tier would be, if that makes sense? I was planning to leave it plain whilst I stack, then probably use chocolate shavings/curls, hazelnuts or crushed Ferrero Rochers to cover the exposed top area (because I expect I will damage it during the stacking process and want to be prepared to disguise that).

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