For the past two days I’ve been cleaning chocolate ganache off almost everything in my kitchen. The month of cake finished on Saturday with the wedding of Supernurse and her handsome groom, but the clearing up lasted another three days! Today the last traces of cake have gone from my kitchen, the baking tins have been put away and I’ve once again got a little bit of time on my hands so I think it’s time to finish off this blogging series.
The past two weeks involved a great deal of cake experimentation and not enough time to write about them. Although we had agreed upon the flavours – raspberry and lemon; passion fruit and lime; chocolate, I hadn’t decided on the sponge for the fruit flavoured cake, nor had I worked out how much cake was needed for the wedding.
Supernurse and I spent a morning eating cake and studying diagrams of cake quantities and I wanted to err on the side of generosity as I am always worried that I will not provide enough food for people. This may stem from the time I cooked what I thought was a main course for 12 people, but it in fact was only supposed to be a starter for 4. No, I was not very observant in those days. Yes, we all enjoyed our spoonful of dinner. Eventually we decided to go for 10” doubled layered cakes for the two fruit sponges, and a 4 tiered chocolate cake. I intended to make two extra sponges in case there was a need for more cake.
In the week before the wedding (yes I am a deadline girl) I got serious with techniques. I bought baking belts – things kind of like bandages which you soak and wrap around your tins when they are baking to ensure that your cakes have flat tops. Amazing ! Who knew? They work. I don’t know how but it’s something about heat transfer.
Having discovered that the piping bag I’d bought was not really the right tool for the job a kind friend loaned me her piping nozzles and gave me a top tip to use plastic piping bags because they don’t leak. Amazingly I found that I could pipe in a reasonably competent way, which made me think that if I can do it then probably anyone can. I bought myself two good 10” tins. How did I know they were good? It’s actually very difficult to find any good advice on buying baking tins, but I read a lot of amazon reviews and spent more than a few quid on them. In the town where I live there is a kitchen gadgets shop and I went in to buy some cake boards. I was completely intimidated by the lady who asked me 20 questions which I hadn’t even considered about my cakes. I felt embarrassed to tell her that the wedding was by that stage only a few days away, and I hadn’t actually finalised what I was baking, nor how I intended to stack the cakes. I bought something that looked like a mini plastic radiator ( apparently plastic dowelling rods for stacking cakes) and came home not having a clue what I should do with them.
By the time I was fully equipped it was two days before the wedding. I still wasn’t sure what to do with the dowelling rods, nor had I decided how many cakes to bake. In the end I watched a youtube video about making naked cakes which solved the dowel rod mystery (place them in a square in the centre of the cake and cut them level with the top of the cake to provide a little more support), and I decided to make my 10” fruit flavoured sponges with 4 layers not just 2 for dramatic effect.
I spent the day before the wedding baking eight cakes, all of which were to be cut to make two evenly sized layers. I used the Martha Stewart sponge recipe, having tried out both my sponge recipes in the bigger tins and found that it was a much better bake. To fill a 10” tin I used 1 ½ times the quantities in the recipe. For the chocolate tiered cake I used a 10”, 9” 7” and 6” tin. I used my Mum’s all-in-one recipe which is an absolute beaut of a recipe. Usually I bake it in two 8” tins and used 8oz butter, 8oz caster sugar, 8oz self raising flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 2tbsp cocoa dissolved in 4 tbsp boiling water , 4 eggs. Everything is mixed together and popped into the tins. That’s it. Unfortunately I overfilled one tin and had a rather explosive-followed- by-sinking-cake, so I had to make 1 more cake than I’d intended but my family were more than happy to devour the reject. At the end of that day I made Passion Fruit Curd and the lemon and lime syrups and placed all the cakes in boxes overnight.
On the morning of the wedding I got up perhaps a little too late, and embarked on decorating and assembling the cakes. The wedding was at 12.30pm. We needed to leave home by 12pm. I fully intended to take photos of the decorating process but in the end I needed every minute I had to work on the cakes. I did manage to photograph them once decorated as I figured that if they all got mashed up on our way to the reception venue I should at least have some proof that at one point they had been beautiful.
We (or should I say ‘my husband’) discovered that plastic dowel rods are almost impossible to cut. I discovered that I should have measured how tall four layers of passion fruit cake would be before putting the cake together. It turns out that it is taller than any of the cake boxes I had. I also realised ( after piping the icing) that I really needed to refrigerate the cakes whilst we were at the wedding service, so that it would harden up sufficiently not to slide. The contents of our fridge were hastily removed onto the already full surfaces so that the cakes could chill.
Fortunately I am pretty low maintenance and only needed 15 minutes to get showered and dressed for the wedding so we left the kitchen looking like something had exploded and made it to the church in time.
The service was beautiful. I was asked quite a lot about the cakes by friends. No one seemed to believe me when I said that I hadn’t finished them. That made me worry a little but not too much! Like I said, I’m a deadline girl. We popped home to collect the cakes and set off for the reception. I was in the front seat of the car balancing a four layered, fully decorated cake on my lap. I was wearing a large bath towel. The cake was protected by tinfoil which was pushed away from the edges of the cake by marshmallows on cocktail sticks. Necessity is definitely the mother of invention. With the driver advising me on every turn – ‘brace, brace. We’re going left’ etc I managed to keep the cake upright and undamaged. A friend told me the next day that she had once travelled in the boot of a car holding cakes. I’m sure there must be a better way.
The husband and I assembled the cakes on their special display table. We didn’t drop them. We improvised decoration with raspberries around the bases and the end result was pretty good. The wedding had a safari theme and after tiering the chocolate cakes the final step was to place Mr and Mrs newly married Giraffe on the top. Mrs was keen to slide off but I planted her hooves firmly in the chocolate ganache and she appeared secure.
Happily the cakes weren’t knocked over / didn’t collapse/ cut well . I think people enjoyed the variety of three flavours. By the end of the evening the cake had all been eaten, and the plates had been licked clean of the icing (naming no names here – but you know who you are).
And so the month of cake came to an end. A happy end. When I said yes to the challenge I had no idea just how much work would be involved, nor did I realise how much I would learn about baking. I would have stayed within my baking comfort zone but now having pushed a little farther I’m keen for more cakeventures. Maybe not wedding cakeventures, and definitely only for those as willing to enjoy and celebrate cake as much as Supernurse! She was the ideal recipient and it was a real joy to be, as she said in her thank you card to me, ‘involved in the most important part of the day’.