Making a wedding cake is probably one of the most intimidating things a home cook could contemplate. It's right up there with curing your own salami or butchering a cow, things best left to the professionals. But if you're fine with small and simple, with a lot of fresh flowers to hide and distract from the flaws, then let me encourage you, dear readers, to make a wedding cake! It's really not that hard!
Some friends who were married last month returned from their honeymoon and promptly put out a call for a party at their house. They hadn't had a cake at their wedding, choosing instead to have small, fingerfood-style sweets after the meal. So I decided to surprise them with a little wedding cake for the party.
It took a small part of my morning to make the layers (a little over an hour with clean up) and about the same amount of time to make the frosting and decorate the cake later that afternoon. I didn't go for piped decorations and multi-tiers, so that kept the skill factor low and the over-all look very simple. But still, I'm happy with the results and so were my friends.
What I learned:
• Choose a good cake recipe. I used this one by Dorie Greenspan and it was perfect. It came together rather simply (using a stand mixer) and produced a nice, medium-grained crumb that wasn't too delicate to handle. (I doubled the recipe for the cake pictured, which fed 20 people.)
I also used Dorie's meringue-based frosting, which was a breeze to work with. Making the frosting is a little tricky, what with having to whip a meringue over simmering water, but not impossible. I actually found it kind of fun, like a chemistry project, to watch the egg whites and sugar transform in to a thick, snow-white, sticky, fluffy, marshmallow-like cloud!
• The cake is filled with strawberry jam. The trick is to pool the jam in the center of the layers, so that when it starts to ooze and spread, it doesn't run out of the cake and down the sides. A thicker jam is better, too.
• You don't need fancy equipment. I couldn't find my spatula, so I just used a butter knife to frost the cake. A spatula would have been easier and maybe resulted in smoother sides, but the knife worked fine in a pinch. A hand-held as well as a stand mixer were very helpful, but not necessary if you're willing and able to whisk by hand.
• It's never about perfection. And it's always about love. So relax and have fun!
(Images: Dana Velden)