One of the first few wedding plan decisions I made–before we even settled on a date (Memorial Day 2015) or a band (first Johnny Kongo and the All-Stars, then switched it up to The Stilettos)–was that I was going to bake my own cake.
Unfortunately, for an OCD, baking enthusiast like myself, I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Because if I didn’t bake a cake, a pang of regret would chart out a little space in my gut as I cut the cake at the wedding–a pang of regret that would last for the rest of my days as Casey’s wife. Because when else will I be able to bake for so many people I love? Alas, Operation Wedding Cake(s) begins!
Here are some fun facts that will make you think I’m less crazy:
- I’ll be practicing my cake and frosting recipes beforehand, and have already made many before.
- I’ll be baking my cakes in advance and freezing to reduce pre-wedding workload.
- I’ll be enlisting the help of family members and bridesmaids with the frosting, transportation, and cutting of the cakes.
- I’m not going to tackle some 3-tier, fondant-wrapped behemoth. I don’t like fondant anyway! And who wants to try to cut a beast like that? No, instead, I’ll do a series of cakes/pies with a theme.
I’ve already decided on my theme: nuts. Is a coconut a nut? I sure hope so. Everyone–except for people with nut allergies–loves nuts! Johnny Cash even wrote a song called “Everyone Loves a Nut” (though it appears he is referring to a crazy person, not a seed encased in a hard shell).
Originally, the first cake I had in mind was an Almond Joy Cake: buttermilk cake, chocolate filling, coconut buttercream, shredded coconut, and almonds on top. But now I’m thinking of doing a Samoas Cake (presuming a coconut can pass for a nut): butter cake, chocolate filling, dulce de leche buttercream, shredded coconut. The other nutty creations in the queue: Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, Pecan Pie, and a Carrot Cake with Walnuts. Casey has also requested an amalgamation of Snickers, Reeses, and Oreos for his groom’s cake, so I’m thinking of doing this in tart or cheesecake form. And then I’ll make 100-some buckeyes (a nut from the Buckeye tree, also a peanut butter fudge ball dipped in chocolate) to scatter around the dessert table.
The first project up in Operation Wedding Cake(s) was the Almond Joy Cake. I made the buttermilk cake layers several weeks ago, froze them, and recently revived them for a friend’s birthday, stacked with chocolate ganache, cloaked in dulce de leche buttercream, and decorated with the autumnally-hued Reeses Pieces because fall-like temps were in the air. Side Note: after reading the ingredients in Reeses Pieces, I have decided never to eat them again! There’s no chocolate to speak of and they contain mostly “defatted peanuts” (whatever that means) and other mysteriously ambiguous inputs.
Samoas Cake, Minus the Coconut!
(High Altitude) Buttermilk Cake (adapted from Sweetapolita)
- 5 whole eggs, room temperature
- 1 egg yolks, room temperature
- 1-1/4 cups (297 ml) buttermilk, shaken
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract OR Princess Bakery Emulsion
- 3 cups (345 g) ap flour, sifted
- 1-3/4 cups (400 g) sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon (17 g) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
- 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small even pieces
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 c water
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment rounds.
Whisk together eggs, yolk, 1/4 cup of buttermilk and vanilla. In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With a pastry cutter or your hands, work butter into flour mixture until it resembles wet sand. Add remaining buttermilk to flour-butter mixture and mix to combine. Stir in egg mixture a little bit at a time, and then stir vigorously until just-combined for one minute.
Divide batter amongst pans and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick emerges with a few crumbs. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.
Trim cake tops to level surface. In microwave, boil honey and water to form a syrup. Brush cakes all over with syrup to lock in moisture. Wrap generously in plastic wrap, then in foil, and freeze.
- 12 oz bittersweet chocolate (next time I think I’ll use semisweet)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Heat cream and pour over chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir to combine. Refrigerate until it reaches desired consistency, about 20 minutes.
Dulce de Leche Buttercream (adapted from The Cake Blog)
- 4 egg whites, or 1 cup egg whites
- 16 ounces (454 grams) granulated sugar- 2 ¼ cups
- ½ ounce (14 grams) corn syrup, 1 tablespoon
- 16 ounces (454 grams) unsalted butter softened but not warm- 2 cups (that’s 4 whopping sticks!)
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dulce de leche (I homemade dulce using Alton Brown’s recipe)
Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 2-4 minutes on high in 30 second intervals whisking well after each 30 second heating. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Be careful not to cook the egg whites (I did just a little bit and strained the mixture to get rid of the solid strands). Pour the syrup into a cake pan or shallow metal bowl and chill in the freezer for 20-30 minutes until it is cold.
Meanwhile, beat the butter in a mixer for 2 minutes on high until it’s light in color and aerated. Add the cooled syrup in two additions to the butter beating 1 minute after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat 30 seconds until smooth. Add the dulce de leche and beat until smooth.
Can be used immediately or stored in the fridge allegedly for two weeks. Rebeat to revive.
Decoration: Reeses Pieces
Not the best lighting, as usual, but here she is pre-Reeses pieces.
The Result: The cake looked beautiful, but I felt that it was a little dry. The buttercream was great, but could have used a little more salt. The chocolate ganache filling was too bitter.
- Add a little more wet ingredients to the batter, and bake for a slightly shorter time for a less dry cake.
- Use semisweet not bittersweet chocolate for ganache. Use a bit more cream.
- Freezing the cakes worked very well, as did refrigerating the ganache. Make-ahead strategy still intact.
- Buttercream is a bitch. It still managed to curdle a bit so I tried various strategies of refrigerating and rebeating, as well as microwaving a small portion of frosting, returning to the bowl, and rebeating. Also, just more beating. Always more beating. That seemed to work.
- Don’t get overzealous win microwaving those egg whites with sugar! They cook before you know it.
- Buy an offset spatula and a rotating cake stand.