A Guide to Wedding Cake

       January 1, 0000    1249

 

Ideas for Cakes
The designs of the wedding cake can reflect the style of the wedding as much as the couple's taste. In planning its appearance, you might take inspiration from the details of your wedding (seashells, ferns, or autumn leaves); the flowers of your bouquet or centerpieces; or your monogram. Of course, the inside is as important as the outside, so choose your favorite flavors and fillings.

A multitiered cake with intricate icing and decorative details typically conveys formality. A silver footed cake stand or a table covered with a luxurious cloth is a fitting way to display it. But a cake can be as whimsical as the day will allow. Buttercream icing, in particular, lends itself to a more casual presentation. Fresh edible flowers can be strewn over the tiers for a lovely, natural effect. A less formal creation might rest on a round cake board with the exposed edge wrapped in ribbon. Even a sheet cake, specially decorated, has its own charm. Look through the pictures of cakes and see what appeals to you most.

 

Working With a Baker
Once you have some ideas for the style of the cake you want, it's time to look for a baker. Your caterer may handle the preparation of the wedding cake in addition to the menu, or he may recommend talented bakers to do the task; your wedding coordinator, banquet-hall manager, and florist can often suggest some names as well. You may need to book a well-known baker a year in advance, but the typical lead time is three to six months.

Most bakers calculate the price on a per-slice basis. Several factors influence the pricing, including the ingredients, what part of the country you are marrying in (you'll pay more in big cities), and the complexity of the design. Handmade flourishes, such as marzipan roses and crystallized-sugar flowers, are labor-intensive and may be priced individually. You can save money by ordering a smaller cake for displaying and a sheet cake in the same flavor for serving.

Cakes 101

Flavors
Wedding-cake layers are often basic white or yellow cake, but they don't have to be. If you love chocolate, lemon, carrot, or spice cake - or any other flavor - request that instead.

Filling
Choose a filling - such as lemon curd, whipped cream, or chocolate ganache - to complement your cake layers.

Icings
Buttercream: a buttery, soft icing or filling that can be blending with anything from apricot puree to burnt caramel and spread over a cake or piped in patterns. Buttercream is never bright white - it has a creamy color that can be tinted any shade. Because buttercream melts easily, a cake that's iced or filled with it must be kept refrigerated in warm weather. The cake should be removed from the refrigerator and brought to room temperature just prior to cutting and serving it.
Fondant: an ultra-smooth, pure-white sugar icing that is rolled out and draped over cake tiers. Its matte finish is an ideal canvas for appliqués; it even helps preserve the cake.
Ganache: a rich frosting or filling made from nothing more than chocolate and heavy cream. Ganache doesn't hold up well in humid weather. Meringue: a mix of egg whites, sugar, and a touch of cream of tartar that produces a fluffy but stable frosting. It also lends itself to sculptural piped decorations, such as flowers or airy peaks.
Mousseline: an icing or filling enriched with whipped cream for a light, smooth texture. You could have mousseline buttercream, for instance, flavored with chocolate or fruit.
Royal Icing: easy to make with confectioners' sugar and egg whites (or meringue powder). Royal icing is light and airy and may be flavored with any extract. It dries hard and is best for piping delicate, long-lasting details.

Decorations
Piping: The simplest technique of cake decorating, in which icing is squeezed through a narrow opening, can produce an astonishing array of details - ruffles, swags, swirls, bows, petals, leaves, shells, dots, zigzags - depending on the tips you use. Buttercream, royal icing, and meringue all perform well with this method.
Fresh Berries: Choose fruits that are in season; strawberries, blueberries, and currants hold up beautifully. Fruits work best if left whole, since slicing will cause their juices to run, adding unwanted color to the icing.
Gum paste or pastillage: a sugary dough that dries very hard. The perfect medium for very precise details, such as tiny flowers or the "stitching" on icing ribbons.
Marzipan: a paste made of ground almonds and sugar, used for delicious embellishments such as flowers and fruit.
Real flowers: Edible flowers, such as violets, pansies, and roses, must be grown pesticide-free. Nontoxic flowers may decorate a cake but must be removed before serving. Toxic flowers shouldn't be used on or near the cake.


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