Last weekend we had my future sister-in-law ME’s bridal shower. I was pretty stoked to bake her a cake – it was my first big-time cake without the hands-on supervision of Thrifty Nana (my mom). For the girls’ Princess Tiana birthday cake last year, I did the cake-baking and base-frosting, but TN did the serious decorating.
TN took a cake-decorating class or two when I was a little kid when we were living in Utah. She’s had all the tools these many years and they get used at regular intervals (ie, when August and September rolled around for my sister’s and my birthdays). I’ve observed TN making and decorating many cakes, but have never actually done the decorating myself.
This was my chance, seeing as TN was in Michigan visiting our family out there (holla!).
First up, I needed to bake the cakes. I wanted it to be a tiered cake, so I needed different size round pans. I used two 9-inch pans and two 6-inch pans (these were about $4 apiece on average, but they will be re-used, trust me). I bought 3 boxes of Betty Crocker white cake mix and baked the cakes per box directions. (The crumbs of the cake can get into the frosting when you are frosting the cake, and chocolate crumbs in white frosting are much more visible than white cake crumbs.) I’ve made plenty of homemade cakes (remember the best chocolate cake in the whole wide world?), but when I make something like this, I want to make sure it comes out right the first time, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that a Betty Crocker cake mix will do just that.
I made the cakes on Thursday, so they could be frosted on Friday, and the cake would be ready for the party on Saturday. The cakes stayed out on the countertop, covered with a cheesecloth towel, during the day Friday. Leaving the cakes in the pan is helpful because when you trim down the rounded tops of cake, you just slice your knife across the flat top of the pan. **BE SURE to use parchment paper at the bottom of the pan so you don’t tear the cake when you take it out of the pan.**
My good friend, Special Guest Michelle (see her skills here) came over on Friday night to help me frost and decorate. Michelle loves to bake too, so she was all for helping me. She has never used the decorating tips before either, so this was new for both of us.
We made the traditional cake frosting – buttercream – I just found it on Wilton’s website, which is butter/shortening, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk/corn syrup (for texture). The directions are pretty straightforward.
Starting out, we had to even out the tops of the cakes and layer the matching sizes together. We put a dollop of frosting on the decorative silver board I got to set the cake on, then placed the base layer of the 9” cake. This will hold it in place. Another large dollop of frosting, spread out evenly across the top of the first layer, and gently place the second 9” layer cake on. Frost the cake with long, firm strokes (don’t laugh, there isn’t a better way to describe it) using a knife or, better yet, cake frosting spatula like I’ve got. When the 9” cake layers were even and pretty well covered, we placed the first, evened-out 6” layer of cake centered on it. Repeat with the top 6” layer and frost similarly to the 9” base cake.
Being new at this, Michelle (she did the frosting of the cake because I was skeeeered) and I didn’t know that the spatula strokes had to be firm and pressured. Being of analytical and spatial planes of thought, our husbands were hovering over us (despite the fact that they proclaimed they were going to watch the Twins game and not have anything to do with such tomfoolery) and eventually Mark (Michelle’s hubby) swooped in and took over the frosting duties.
I told Shaun in advance I’d want his and Mark’s input for inserting the wooden dowel through all layers of the cake to make sure it was structurally sound. This was accomplished without difficulty. Be sure you cut the dowel about ¾” shorter than the top of the cake so it doesn’t stick out. (Shout out to my co-worker EG for giving me the dowel!)
Mark made sure the cake was evenly frosted, and at this point we needed another batch of frosting. I didn’t want to have an all-white cake, and ME’s colors are a grassy olivey green (accent) and chocolate brown (primary). Mark tried making a brown frosting using cocoa powder, but I thought it looked rather inedible (I used more colorful language that rhymes with ‘duke’) so we settled for green as the decorating color.
I followed Wilton’s online decorating instructions and picked the decorating tip and technique I wanted to use. We saved the tops of the cake that were shaved off to even out the layers and it became our ‘test cake’. Look closely and you’ll see several different green patterns as well as the brown experiment.
I used the scalloped shell pattern and while I wasn’t nearly as skilled as TN, I didn’t do too badly. Three scallops of green around the layers.
We debated using the green sparkle gel to write something like “Congrats” on the cake, but there wasn’t a lot of room, nor were we convinced the gel wouldn’t run. See test cake. It was kinda goopy.
Fortunately, no writing was necessary because KD and Easy Mac had picked out a Bride Cinderella figurine for the top of ME’s cake. They loved it! I knew that, since the girls had picked it out, ME would love it too. I squished Cinderella down into the top frosting so she wouldn’t wobble, and the cake was DONE!
Frosting hardens slightly (outside only) overnight which is good or there would’ve been some KD fingerprints in the cake the next morning.
Now I just had to make it across big city for the shower! That was a hair-raising drive, but we did it! The cake fed everyone, with leftovers, and it really was perfect…a mini wedding cake, which is exactly what I wanted. J
Congratulations on the upcoming nuptials ME! Welcome to our crazy family!
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