Tuesday, July 1, 2008

project wedding cake: the cake is baked

the wedding cake is baked!

[Previous Project Wedding Cake episodes: An Introduction, Mango Curd]

That’s right, folks. The. Cake. Is. Baked. I mean, sure, it’s not filled. Heck, I haven’t even tracked down Indian or Philippine mangoes yet, bought the chocolate for the ganache filling or successfully tackled Swiss Buttercream, but we’ve got time for all that–FOUR WHOLE DAYS in fact. Pshaw, it should be nothing at all.

12-inch chocolate cake

But the cake is baked! I made the 12-inch square chocolate cake layers on Saturday and the 10-inch and 8-inch vanilla cake layers on Sunday, which if you’re keeping track at home is nine squares of parchment paper, washings of the Kitchen Aid bowl and beater, nearly four pounds of butter, three boxes of cake flour, a five-pound bag of sugar and at least one minute and twenty seconds of projecting Bakers Joy spray, which was indeed the Joy of my cooking this weekend. They are each frozen and wrapped in triple layers of plastic wrap and separated by cake boards.

cake flour

All of the dishes are done and the cleaning lady will hopefully not break up with us when she sees what this process has done to the kitchen floor. And walls. And surfaces.

eggs, eggs, eggs

The cakes, by the way, are the bomb. Although I have a few white cake recipes on this site, I have yet to find one that I swear by, but this one is now definitely in the lead. I could imagine using it for cupcakes and birthday cakes and trifles and you-name-it. It’s tender and moist with a most delicious batter and crumb. I’ll probably brush the layers with some lime-hinted simple syrup just to ensure it stays as moist as possible until serving time, but it doesn’t even need it.

endless parchment liners

I also have a chocolate cake recipe on this site I think is Amazing with a capital-A, but I was worried about using it for the chocolate cake layers because it is so soft and so moist, it’s not easy to move around. I will continue to use that for birthday cakes and cupcakes but when you need a sturdier and still abundantly delicious chocolate layer, this is it.

butter, butter, butter

The vanilla layers will be filled with the aforementioned mango curd, and although the original chocolate cake recipe I used called for a raspberry filling, I know how Chocolate People are, and will instead fill it with a brandied chocolate ganache. The combination of brandy in the filling and coffee and cinnamon in the cake creates great cake; intense enough for the chocolate-obsessed groom (and mine!) but grown-up and complex enough to hold it’s own next to a lime-zested vanilla cake with mango filling. Gah, I can’t wait.

this baker's joy

[Updated with] Some baking notes: For all of my worrying about how I would bake these beasts, I can’t believe I forgot to tell you how I handled it! In short, I took most of your advice, which fell into three categories: the majority of you didn’t think I needed to use the heating core, most of you agreed the wet strips were helpful but not mandatory, and a whole lot of you thought that an even better approach was to simply bake the cakes at a lower temperature. In the end, I did a combination of the wet strips and the lower temperature for a few cakes, and realized the time that I forgot to put the strips on that the lower temperature was enough to get the cakes to bake quite flat. There will still be a tiny bit of leveling needed, but a whole lot less than I’d expected. Thank you!

Next up: I will try and hopefully triumph over Swiss Buttercream, test it on a cake left out on the counter under the skylight for hours and see how it holds up in a container overnight. (I need to get the cake to the restaurant at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, and will understandably be much happier if I can have the extra frosting I’ll need made the night before.).

One year ago: Classic Madeleines… it was a simpler time, yes?

Chocolate Butter Cake
Adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

One thing that is cool about this cake is that it is essentially one bowl, not following the regular cake pattern of creamed butter and sugar, eggs added one by one and then alternating dry and wet ingredients. That’s the good part. The bad part is that because of the curious way of assembling the cake it is imperative that you scrape down the bowl often, all the way to the bottom, overdoing it even. Otherwise, little deposits of unmixed butter or flour will sneak up on you.

The cake is insanely moist and while quite chocolaty, not so much that it is overwhelming–i.e. a perfect balance. We used a larger version of this recipe to make the 12-inch square bottom tier of a wedding cake.

Makes one 8-inch square, three layer cake

3 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
3 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch square cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and buttermilk and blend on low until moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Whisk the eggs and coffee together, and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only until blended after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans; each pan will take about 3 1/4 cups of batter.

4. Bake for 38 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully turn them out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely. Remove the paper liners only when they are cool.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

This might be one of the best yellow cakes to come out of my kitchen, and I will certainly be coming back to it to try it in cupcake format soon. My notes are the same as for the chocolate cake above: you cannot scrape the bowl down enough. Otherwise, the cake is really quite simple, a relief when you’ve got, oh, 6 layers of it to bake.

Makes one three-layer 9-inch round cake [Equivalent in batter to an 8-inch square; we scaled it up for a 10-inch square/middle tier of the wedding cake]

3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter; our 3 cups batter into each pan.

4. Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5. Turn the layers out onto wire racks by placing a rack on top of a pan, inverting it, and lifting off the pan. Peel off the paper liners and let cool completely. When the layers have cooled, place a cardboard cake board on top of a layer, invert again, and lift off the rack. To make the layers easier to handle, wrap them on their boards completely in plastic, so they don’t dry out, and refrigerate them.


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