Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Celebratory Wedding Cake (aka "My first fondant cake without class instruction")

On Friday, I found out one of my coworkers didn't show up to work because he was getting hitched at City Hall. What's with all the couples getting married on Leap Day? The joke is that he only wants to celebrate his anniversary once every four years...

Anyway, I figured I'd make him a cake. It would be my first fondant cake without any class instruction and I was a little nervous, but hey, I needed to start somewhere.

I also used this as an excuse to finally try a recipe from The Cake Bible, given to me by a friend on my birthday. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to think when I first flipped through the inside. I'm a very visual person, so I normally get cookbooks with beautiful pictures (and a 4+ star rating from Amazon of course). But this particular friend of mine (the gifter) makes beautiful (and delicious) cakes, and if she swears by this book then who was I to judge a book by its lackluster print?

After reading a few, I selected the Golden Genoise cake with Berry-Grand Marnier mousseline buttercream.

Challenge #1: I had no idea what genoise cake was really supposed to look or taste like. It's like asking a sculptor to make a statue of your mother with no picture.
Challenge #2: Buttercream. The last time I made it, I failed miserably. And that was with an easier recipe from Martha Stewart. Would this prove to be a big flop as well?

This time, I was determined to give myself plenty of time to bake. I would bake the cakes on Saturday, make the buttercream on Sunday and put it all together Sunday night. Except things never turn out the way it's planned and I was occupied with random errands and events on Saturday.

Then I told myself I would bake the cakes Sunday morning before church. Yeah, right. All I really got done was measuring the ingredients, laying out all the kitchen tools, and clarifying the butter. By the time church was over, I was already stressing that this grand idea would never come together. Plus I realized I forgot to buy some essentials like a cake box and pearl dust!

Not good.

Thankfully, my husband offered to help and while I rushed off to Michael's, he helped me make the beautifully golden cake layer (thanks, honey). The smell hit me when I came home and opened the door. It smelled like madeleines, and I am already plotting on using this recipe to make a dozen of the seashell treasures next time.

As I prepped the ingredients for the buttercream and read through the recipe one last time, I read with a sinking feeling the footnote warning: "Make sure the softened butter for the buttercream is not too warm or it will curdle. It should still be cool to the touch, about 65 degrees" Oh, crap. I had left the butter out too long (about four hours) and it was definitely in its 70's and very warm at that point. So I had to take out fresh sticks of butter and wait for it to soften a bit.

Once I started working through the buttercream recipe though, I felt confident. The egg whites were peaking, the butter was creamy, and the sugar syrup was at its precise temperature. No problem. Then I got to putting in the last part of butter and it started curdling.

Oh, crap again. I was about to admit defeat when my husband the hero comes in, takes a look, whips up the cream at a higher speed and miraculously saves it (maybe it wasn't so miraculous, but it seemed like it). The buttercream was severely alcoholic with 1/3 cup of Grand Marnier, but hey, a lot of a good thing can be a good thing.

When the two layers of cake were cool, I stacked them with buttercream in between and then stuck it in the fridge for a few minutes while I prepped the fondant. I'm too lazy to make my own fondant, so I purchase them by the pound directly from my instructor, who sells them at a really great price (almost cheaper than making my own). I still had to make the fondant soft and malleable enough for my use though.

As I rolled out the fondant, I tried to make it thin. (Thin is in, as my instructor always says). Unfortunately I was leaning on the anorexic side because as I covered my cake, one side of the fondant cracked. I could have dissipated into tears, but one of the beauties of fondant is that you can always cover it with more fondant. So that I did. I decided to cut out some fondant flowers, brush them with pearl dust, and "glue" them (with sugar water) over the unsightly crack. Then I went ahead and decorated the whole cake with that pattern.

For a finishing touch, I encircled the cake with a brown silk ribbon, and topped them with Unazukin wedding cake toppers I originally was going to use for my own wedding reception in SoCal, except that these babies didn't arrive from Japan in time. Oh well, now they would be put to good use! I also printed out a picture of City Hall and stuck it in the back to make it entirely relevant to my coworker's nuptials.

Here's the picture of the cake:

Oh, and in case you're not familiar with Unazukins, they are little Japanese toys that nod or shake their heads to your question. So one of my coworkers (a man) asked loudly, "Will you marry me?"

The little groom nodded his head twice, while the little bride shook her head no.

Happy wedding to all you leap-year newlyweds!


Jess said...

your picture isn't working!

tigerfish said...

Such a lovely cake. You have the talent. You don't need classes!

Patricia Scarpin said...

It looks perfect!

Jo Boston said...

You, my dear, are turning out to be a cake ARTISTE! It is so cute! I agree with tigerfish: you do not need classes!

Mona said...

That cake looks so cute, especially the dolls :-)


Chinese Liaison said...

Great cake. Fondant is too much work for me. BTW - the chicken turned out awesome. thanks for the comment.

Mrs. B said...

Good job, Jen. One suggestion for butter that is too warm, cut it into small pieces, put on a plate and stick in the freezer for a short time. It's quicker than starting over with new sticks, and the temp of each piece is more uniform than one large stick.