Making a Wedding Cake | 1,101 views
Considering I've made quite a few wedding cakes, my procrastination on putting together this instructable is slightly shameful. Making a wedding cake is fun, boring, painful, exciting, tiring and something that will fill you with pride, whether it's for yourself or a friend. There's little better than watching people enjoy something you've created.
The cake in this instructable is a two-tier fruit cake, decorated with gorgeous bright red poppies. This is a design specific to my friends' desires, but I have attempted to expand the instructable to cover making wedding cakes in general, from the ambitious planning stages to the nervewracking final set up. This may have led me to ramble a little more than I should, but buried amongst that are the little tips tricks I've picked up along the way.
The only way to learn is to try, fail, try again, so get out there and give it a go.
Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment
For the fruit mix (makes enough for a 9 inch round cake):
800 g sultanas
320 g raisins
185 g currants
155 g glace currants, quartered
250 g pitted prunes, chopped
125 mixed peel
250 ml brandy (this can be partially or completely substituted with fruit juice)
55 g brown sugar
80 g marmalade
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1/1 tsp ground nutmeg
For the cake batter:
250 g unsalted butter
230 g dark brown sugar
2 tsp grated orange zest
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tbsp black treacle
250 g plain flour
60 g self-raising flour
You will also need spoons, scales or measuring cups, bowls, and other general kitchen equipment, and cake tins. For the cake pictured I made a 9 inch and a 7-inch cake, both of which were quite deep, which used 2x the fruit cake recipe in all. Adjust this according to the size of your tins.
For those without scales, a good weight to volume conversion guide can be found here.
For the poppies:
Flowerpaste (red and green)
Wires (gauge 30 and 24)
Poppy petal cutters
Edible glue (CMC)
Petal dust (red, black and green)
Pliers and wire cutters
Petal veiner (or a modelling tool and some patience)
For icing the cake:
A cake drum for the base (I used a 12 inch)
A cake board for the top tier (I used an 8 inch)
Cake smoother (optional but very handy)
Turntable (optional, I manage without one at home, but it does help to get a smooth even finish)
Small sharp knife
Cake boxes if you will be moving the cake to another venue
Step 2: Planning
When making your own or someone else's wedding cake, timing is key. You will need to work out how much time you realistically have in the week leading up to the wedding and plan things accordingly. Decorations such as flowers, toppers and some royal icing shapes can be made quite a while beforehand to remove the stress in the immediate lead up to the big day.
Planning your time can affect everything about your cake, right down to the flavour. Filled sponge cakes are best baked as close to the day as possible, and baking enough for a couple of tiers can take a lot of hours in mixing, baking and cooling. Opting for a traditional fruit cake, on the other hand, allows you to make the cake in advance. In fact, this is preferable since an important step in making a fruit cake is feeding it with a regular spoonful of brandy or sherry every few days for at least a couple of weeks, to make it gorgeously moist and alcoholic.
The type of cake and tightness of time will also affect your icing decision. While it doesn't have the best taste and is often left on the side of the plate, sugar paste (fondant) will keep a cake fresh under it's a protective layer for a couple of days and provides a smooth, clean surface to adorn with decorations. On the other hand buttercream or ganache, while tasting delicious, should be applied as late as possible, the night before at the earliest, which could leave you panicking over last-minute problems.
Once you have decided on the cake flavour, you've got to make sure you've got enough of it. I have provided a table of rough portion guides for a few sizes of cake, based on the small servings you typically get at a wedding. If you are planning on being generous, make more cake, it's pretty simple.
Once you have those initial considerations out of the way you can start planning. Look for inspiration, take it, twist it and make it your own. Sketching out a rough idea of the cake, even it ends up looking little like it, can help keep you focused throughout the process.
When you know what cake you're making, and how it will be iced, you can think about other decorations. These are usually matched to the colour, theme and flowers of the wedding, sometimes picking out a bride's favourite blooms or choosing a colour to tone with the dress or bouquet.
Professional wedding cake makers sites are a great source of inspiration, and it's amazing what can be done with sugar in the right talented hands. Use them to inspire you, rather than intimidate, and if you're feeling a little scared just look at the prices feel smug at what you're saving, at the sacrifice of your free time of course.
Some beautiful sites for inspiration by London cake makers are:
Little Venice Cake Company
If you're looking to stand out rather than make a traditional centrepiece, Charm City Cakes is always full of crazy ideas
Step 4: Decoration
A cake can be decorated in any way you can imagine, as you can soon find out through a google search, but wedding cakes tend to keep to the traditional lines of flowers and piping.
Flowers can come three ways; sugar, silk or fresh. Silk flowers are artificial and can be bought from many cakes or florist stores. They are very easy to work with, and to reuse, but can look quite fake. Fresh flowers add an instant wow, and can be perfectly matched to the rest of the wedding flowers. However certain types of flowers, such as lillies, are poisonous and cannot be used on cakes. Sugar flowers are handmade from flowerpaste, a very pliable sugarpaste that dries hard and brittle. This can be manipulated and coloured, and if made by a good sugar artist the flowers are indistinguishable from real ones until you take a close look.
I find making sugar flowers calming, there's something quite zen about the repetitive task of making petals, and it gives a great sense of achievement, but it does take some time. If making your own flowers it's best to start early. The cake I made uses my friend's favourite flowers, poppies, made from sugar, and making 12 of these took me a good couple of days. The method for the poppies can be used for other open petalled flowers, such as open roses and anemones.
The most traditional flower, of course, is the rose. These can be made using the same method as in my chocolate roses ible, simply build up the layers of petals until you're happy with the size and look of the bloom. For any other flowers, an internet search will find you hundreds of tutorials or invest in a good book with high-quality pictures.
While I'd love to go into the many options of cake decorating, right now I don't have the time, so just a brief mention of royal icing. This is made using icing sugar and egg whites, or from a pre-bought mix, and is a pipeable icing that dries very hard. It can be coloured before piping, or painted after, and is great for adding detail such as beads and borders to the cake. While I used none on the poppy cake, a sprinkling of piped pearls or a bead border around the top edge can be great for covering up flaws and cracks in the icing, while enhancing the overall look of the cake.
I've rambled on a bit here, but it boils down to this. Whatever decoration you choose, study it, plan ahead, and have fun doing it. Otherwise, what's the point?
Step 5: Making Poppies: Preparation
Sugar flowers are beautiful things. With care and patience, they can be delicate facsimiles of real blooms, created using an edible medium which will last for months if kept dry and cool. As well as cakes they can make good display pieces, a sort of floral sculpture. The flowers are made from flowerpaste (gumpaste) , a very elastic sugarpaste that can be rolled and manipulated into realistic petals that dry hard and brittle.
As with sugarpaste, flowerpaste can be made at home with the addition of strengtheners such as gum tragacanth, or bought from any cakecraft shop. Once the made the flowers are very fragile, so take care. I've had many painful moments when a rose has slipped out of my grip, and there are only so many flaws leaves and royal icing can hide.
It's best to prep a few things before beginning work on the poppies, First, get some edible glue, or mix some up easily by adding a small amount of CMC (a powder kneaded into sugarpaste to give strength and flexibility) into some hot water. Allow to cool and it will thicken up into a clear glue. This will keep for a few days.
Next work out how you will dry the flowers. The flowerpaste will take a few hours to dry out enough to not lose its shape (longer if the room is humid). It is often best to dry flowers hanging upside down so the petals fall nicely, though this does depend on the type of flower. To do this bend the end of the wire a little and hang them off whatever you have handy. The could be a rail, jewellery stand, tacked up piece of string or my latest discovery, a martini glass.
Now you're ready to start.
Step 6: Making Poppies: Seedheads
When making any flower you start with the centre and leave it to dry hard to provide a stable base for the creation. For the poppies, the centre is the seed head. This is made using some pale green flower paste. Either buy the paste coloured or colour it yourself by adding a small amount of green food colouring paste and kneading it through to an even shade. Take a 24 gauge wire and use some pliers to bend a small hook onto the end.
Take a small ball of green flowerpaste, roughly half an inch diameter, and roll it into a cone. Dip the hooked end of the wire into your edible glue and then insert it into the pointed end of the cone. Pinch the paste around the wire to secure it, and then smooth down the sides and flatten the top out a little.
To make the seedhead markings, take some tweezers and pinch small lines into the flat top of the seedhead in a cartwheel type pattern.
Hang up the heads to dry, ideally overnight.
Step 7: Making Poppies: Stamens
While the seedheads are drying you can start work on the stamens. These tend to come in bunches of around 100. Divide these into smaller groups of about ten. Take one group, make sure the heads are roughly level, and brush the middle and up to a centimetre from each end with edible glues Squeeze the stamen threads together to bind them, and let dry. Do this with each small group.
Once dry cut each group in half, and trim so that when placed at the base of seedhead the stamens protrude a little over the top.
Now you can attach the stamens. At this point edible glue will probably not be strong enough, so use some high tack non-toxic glue such as PVA. For each seedhead, you will need four or five small stamen bunches arranged evenly around the head. Glue the stamens to the base of the seed head, squeezing the end tight to the base and the wire to make them stick.
Leave to dry.
Step 8: Making Poppies: Inner Petals
Poppies are quite a simple flower to make because they only have four petals, two inner and two outers, The two inner petals will wire to give them support.
To make the petals take some red flower paste. Roll it out fairly thin, but leave a raised ridge down the middle. Cut out an inner petal.
Take a 30 gauge wire, dip it in edible glue, and carefully insert this into the raised ridge. Gently pinch the edges of the petal to give them a little realistic frill. If you have a petal veiner, lay the petal in the venier and press down firmly. This will give the petal veins and contours to make it more realistic, This can also be achieved with some patience and a thin modelling tool.
Hang the petal up to dry, and make some more. You'll need two inner petals to each flower you're making. On this cake, I used 9 poppies but made 12 to be on the safe side since delicate flowers and my clumsiness are not a good combination, so made 24 inner petals.
Once dry you can attach the petals to the stem using florists tape. Tear off a length of the tape. Position the two petals just below the seedhead, and wrap the tape tightly around the three wires. It can be tricky to get started since the petals get in the way, but once the tape has looped around and begun to stick to itself you can push it up the stem a little bit to the base of the petals. Cover the length of the three wires in tape, wrapping it around tightly.
Step 9: Making Poppies: Outer Petals
The outer petals of the poppy are not wired. Simply roll out some red flowerpaste thinly and cut out two large outer petals. Frill and vein these in the same way as the inner petals. Brush a little edible glue onto the base of the petals.
Take your partially completed poppy and secure a large outer petal to each side, filling the gaps between each of the inner petals. The outer petals will be attached to the base of the inner petals and a little of the wire by the glue, completing the structure of the poppy.
Hang the flowers up to dry.
Step 10: Making Poppies: Leaves
The poppy leaves use a generic leaf shape to give a little more interest to the flowers. They are wired in the same way as the inner petals.
To make the leaves roll out some green flowerpaste quite thinly, leaving a ridge down the middle. Take a 30 gauge wire, dip it in some edible glue and insert it carefully into the ridge. Cut out your leaf with a craft knife or some small scissors. Alternately you can buy a variety of leafcutters from any cakecraft shop.
Using a thin modelling tool or small knife, gently score in some lines to vein the leaf. Make at least one leaf for each poppy and leave them to dry.
Step 11: Making Poppies: Adding Colour
To give the poppies a vibrant colour and realistic sheen, you will need some petal dust. This is a coloured powder that is brushed onto sugar flowers to deepen or enhance the colours. To use it, simply tip some of the powder onto a piece of kitchen tissue, dip a small dry brush into it and dab off the excess on the tissue.
Gently brush red petal dust all over the petals of the flower. Use black dust to add detail to the centre of the seedhead and the base of the leaves around the stamens. Use deep green dust for the leaves.
The dust can be pretty messy and will brush off your flowers and mark your cake if it is not set. To set the colour, steam the flowers. Boil a little water in a saucepan, and hold the flowers over the steam one at a time for a few seconds, until they have a satiny sheen. Hang up the flowers to dry. Do the same with the leaves.
(To get more accurate patches of colour you can mix the petal dust with a little clear alcohol to make a paint. This can be used to add delicate detail to petals, such as the spots on a lily, or to paint a design onto the fondant of the cake itself.)
Step 12: Making Poppies: Assembly
To finish off the poppies attach one or two leaves to each stem by securing the wires together with flower tape, in the same way the petals and seedhead were joined.
Trim the stems with some wire cutters to the appropriate lengths. You'll want a fair few short stems to make the posy for the top of the cake, around six flowers. The extra flowers to adorn the sides can have longer stems.
Step 13: Making the Cake: Fruit Mix
For this particular cake, both the flowers and the cake can be made quite far in advance, which removes a lot of stress from the wedding week itself. Like all traditional fruit cakes, the cake is made in advanced and soaked in small amounts of liquor ( I used brandy) over a few weeks or months. This will be familiar to anyone who has made a Christmas cake.
The base of any fruit cake recipe is the fruit mix. The cake batter is essentially just there to hold all of the dried fruit together. Although I have provided the recipe I used, as long as you end up with roughly the same total weight at the end you can alter the proportions to your taste. In this recipe, I was short on mixed peel and currants, but bulked up with dried apricots scrounged from my baking cupboard. It's a very flexible type of cake.
Weigh out all of the dried fruit ingredients and put mix them together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl whisk together the alcohol, sugar, marmalade, cocoa powder and spices. Pour this over the fruit and mix together well. Cover the bowl with some clingfilm and leave overnight, to allow the fruit to soak up all the flavours.
Step 14: Making the Cake: Cake Batter
To finish off the cake mix, make the batter by beating together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between each one to avoid the mixture curdling.
Once the eggs are fully mixed in, stir in the lemon-orange zest and the treacle. Add the flour gradually, folding it into the mix.
Stir the fruit mix into the finished batter, making sure to coat all of the fruit.
Continue in part 2
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