May 9, 2012

Anatomy of a Wedding Cake

Posted by Ethne~

One of the crowning achievements of a Wolcott wedding is the wedding cake.  My wedding cake is, to this day, the most beautiful cake I’ve ever seen.
The top layer Aunt Pam is holding is about to become the
4th tier of my wedding cake; Shaun's groom's cake sat to the side
Fully assembled: she added pink roses just for me.

All of Aunt Pam’s cakes are beautiful, though.  She’s made them for every niece and nephew.  Imagine the work that goes into that – four full days of baking, assembling and frosting – and one hair-raising drive from Grandma’s house (where the cakes were made and frosted) to the reception hall to assemble and decorate with fresh flowers.

So here’s the labor of love in progress:

(1) I wasn’t there for the baking of the cakes, which occurred on Wednesday and Thursday.  Aunt Pam’s famous hummingbird cake was one of the layers – we all fight over it and I read that a hummingbird cake was the cake that Prince William requested for wedding cake when he married Kate last year.  I’d say it’s a cross between banana bread, carrot cake and pineapple upside-down cake.
A view of the hummingbird cake
The bottom layer - hummingbird - is HUGE: 16"

There are also layers of chocolate (which is normally my favorite but can’t compare to hummingbird), yellow and the bride K requested strawberry cake too.  Aunt Pam is careful to bake enough cakes so the top cake is saved.  She personally wraps it for freezing to eat on their one-year anniversary.
Tiny strawberry cake - Aunt Pam and her frosting
were very popular with the girls

 (2) The next step is frosting the cakes.  Aunt Pam uses Bettercreme frosting, which comes in milk-carton type cartons and you whip it in in the mixer until soft peaks form.  It’s light and fluffy.  Bettercreme is perfect for any type of cake; you can color it; and it can be mixed with softened, whipped cream cheese, which Aunt Pam does for the hummingbird layers.
The cartons of Bettercreme frosting
The frosting was also very popular with moi

(3) Aunt Pam evens out the cake layers till both top and bottom sides of the cakes are flat.  She then places a nice layer of frosting between the two cake layers and levels things out with wedges (from the evening-out process) of the cake and extra frosting. 
These two layers baked really evenly, but you can see that the frosting
is thick in some places in the middle to level things off; the bottom
of the cake is placed on a giant lazy susan
Rubber gripper sheets are put between the cardboard cake
plate and the more formal plastic plate - no slippage allowed!
I use this type of stuff to keep my rugs in place on the floor;
Aunt Pam is ingenius!

She frosts a very thin layer over the double-layer cake so crumbs don’t get into the visible frosting layer.
The thin layer is applied underneath
and then the thicker frosting layer doesn't
get cake crumbs in it

(4) Frosting is very time intensive.  In fact, Aunt Pam started frosting the cakes on Friday at noon and didn’t finish until midnight.  I suggested she use the wavy frosting technique like she used for my cake; that goes a little faster.  She probably uses the smooth frosting technique more, but I personally prefer how decadent the wavy frosting looks.
Fully frosted - wavy technique

(5) Somehow in the midst of all of this, Aunt Pam dashes out to buy fresh flowers because she believes that is the most beautiful way to finish cake decorating.  And she’s right, the color is amazing.  K and Z’s wedding décor was rustic, so there were a lot of reds and turquoise colors to work with.  And rest assured: Aunt Pam washed all of the flowers, including the violets she picked from Grandma’s back yard.
Thrifty Nana carrying out the pail of flowers - I caught her
with a bite of food in her mouth - sorry Mom!

(6) Nicole and I drove the cakes from Grandma’s house to the hall.  Aunt Pam followed us and as we pulled out of the driveway you could see the stress on her face.  She would’ve shot poison darts with her eyes if we hit a bump in the road wrong!
See the distance in the cake layers?  Those are
the hollow tubes
Whew!  We made it safely to the reception hall

(7) Wedding cakes are almost always in a prominent location at the reception; preferably the cake gets its own table so Aunt Pam can cut and serve the cake (which she insists on so each guest can pick the type of cake they want – nothing else will do!) once the bride and groom cut into it.  Aunt Pam sticks open cake tubes into the cake in a square pattern that matches the short legs of the stand on which the next smaller layer is placed.  The tubes should stick out of the cake about an inch.
Pushing the base tubes into the cake
Placing the feet of the next cake onto the tubing of the lower cake
Another layer going up - with a daring pillar!

(8) Any accidental (or purposeful if the little kids are around) smudges into the frosting are patched with extra frosting that is brought along and then Aunt Pam puts flowers in a pattern that she creates as she goes.  It’s edible artwork, my Friends.
Bride and groom are not at the top
but in the middle - as though they are
dancing under a pagoda
Flowers being placed
Isn't it DIVINE?
Except for the cake top being saved for Z & K's one-year
anniversary, this was eaten down to crumbs even too
small for a mouse

The next day we always eat whatever scraps are leftover, and I was shocked when I saw there were hardly any at all.  There’s no better compliment to a cake artist.
Cake finally assembled - now time to cut it all up

Cutting the cake!
Happily ever after!

I’ll ask Aunt Pam if she’ll let me share the hummingbird cake recipe, so keep checking back!

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