Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wedding Cake

Do-It-Yourself Wedding Cake Guide
By Jeanette Shinn

Recently I stopped in to visit a friend who runs a wedding cake supply store - a store that caters to pastry chefs, caterers, and hobbyists. During the course of the conversation she told me something that surprised me at the time, though in hindsight it shouldn't have: She said that this year she is being inundated with brides asking about how they might be able to bake the wedding cake themselves.
After all, said one, isn't it just flour, eggs, and sugar? Well, yes... and definitely not. A wedding cake is made up of those things, but on that level a Picasso is just oil and canvas. It is not the components that make up a masterpiece, it is the craftsmanship of the artisan.
That said, it is possible for a bridal party to create their own DIY wedding cakes 'in house', there by saving money, if they tread carefully and follow a few easy guidelines:

Use a Cake Mix: Surprised? Don't be. Not every scratch recipe can be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled and even a small wedding cake takes multiple recipes per layer. Cake mixes can be multiplied. The exception to this is the situation where the bride wants an eight inch cake on every table as the centerpiece and chooses to use something else as the wedding reception design focal point. Moreover, cake mixes survive because they have come upon a formula that makes the cake reliable - and the last few days before the wedding is not the time to discover something doesn't work.
Use Buttercream Icing: The pastry chefs that I know assure me that Buttercream is far easier to work with than any other form of icing out there.

Use a Cake Stand: Every other method of presentation requires something to be inserted through the bottom layers of the cake to provide stability. With a cake stand all one has to do is to place the wedding cake tier on the appropriate plate and slip it into place on the stand. Thus, no significant room for error.

Use Fresh Fruit, Flowers, Crystal Cake Jewelry, or? for Cake Decorations: Those hand sculpted sugar lilies on cousin Jen's wedding cake were gorgeous, but unless the budget allows the hiring of a craftsman the chances of getting enough that look good for a wedding cake are not good. Instead ice the cake smooth and then ask the florist to adorn the cake with flowers, or pile each of the layers with the fresh fruit of the season, or accent the cake with a display of items (clean of course) that represent the couple.

Take a Cake Decorating Class: More than one, if time allows. Taking the time to take a class through a local craft store, will do more than provide instruction on how to decorate a cake - though even learning the trick to smooth icing is worth the cost - it guides the individual in the purchase of the tools that they will need. This will save far more time and frustration than most imagine.
Of course, consider the option carefully before committing. Do-it-yourself wedding cakes might sound doable but remember, the cake has to be made in the last couple days before the wedding when there is little time for error or finding a bakery if things go wrong. Still, there is something quite personal and even a little bit romantic about a wedding that has been staged by the bride, groom and all of their loved ones. Whether it is a do-it-yourself Aunt making the wedding cake or a close friend the labor of love is intensely beautiful.

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