Bridal Shower Cake Brings Smiles and Tears

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I can’t tell you how incredibly excited (more like nervous) I was to receive my first commissioned cake order for a bridal shower.  There was no room for error for this special occasion, so I scoured all my cookbooks and school notes for the perfect cake and icing complement. This cake had to be foolproof, visually appealing and super tasty! Apart from a bridal party colour scheme suggestion, the client gave me total creative discretion on the cake for roughly three dozen attendees.  I chose a basic vanilla sponge cake from a strawberry shortcake recipe I had previously made in my baking class coupled with a cream filling with fresh strawberries. To top it off, I decided upon vanilla buttercream icing. Again, I had recent experience from class creating a chocolate buttercream icing, so simply omitting the chocolate ingredient seemed easy enough.  The client needed the cake for Sunday morning which became my biggest logistical challenge as I had baking courses Friday night and all day Saturday. To pull everything together in time, I needed to prep the icing on Thursday, make the cake on Friday and completely decorate and ice it Saturday evening.  In theory it was a perfect plan.  The outcome, however, was quite different with a few tears and hard lessons learned in the process.

Vanilla Sponge Cake

Yield- one 12X17 cake or five 7″ round cakes

15 eggs

450g sugar

10g vanilla

450g bread flour-sifted

Directions for cake

Pre-heat oven 400F

spray your choice of pan with baking spray and line bottom with parchment paper

1) with a stand mixer with whisk attachment beat eggs, sugar, vanilla on high for 7-12min/until ribbon stage-high volume

2) with the help of another person (trust me this is important) have one person SLOWLY pour flour in a steady stream while you fold into egg mixture.

Note: this is where you are going to get either a flat dense cake OR a high airy volume sponge- take time and fold batter down and up as you are turning bowl

3) pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 min /should spring back when touched in centre

4) cool on wire rack

Cake Ingriedents

Cake Ingriedents

Preparing Pan

Preparing Pan

Beating eggs,sugar,salt

Beating eggs,sugar,vanilla

Beat to Ribbon Stage

Beat to Ribbon Stage

Cake batter into prepared pan

Cake batter into prepared pan

Baked cake

Baked cake

Cake cooling on wire rack

Cake cooling on wire rack

Filling

2L whipping cream

500ml whip topping

6pints strawberries

Directions

1) remove stems on berries and cut into very fine slices

2) whip whipping cream to stiff peaks

3) whip whipped topping to stiff peaks

4) fold whipped topping into whipped cream

-place in fridge until assembly

Simple Syrup

454g white sugar

480g water

60g triple sec (or alcohol of your choice)

Directions

1) bring sugar and water to boil

2) add triple sec liquor

Italian Buttercream

(Yield – about 1400g)

454g egg whites

907g white sugar/divided into 680g and 227g

250ml water

10g vanilla

1350g unsalted butter (about 3 lbs) softened and cubed

I know thats a ton of butter!

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Butter cut into cubes

Butter cut into cubes

Directions

1) combine water and 680g sugar in medium size saucepan

2) stir just until combine

3) heat on medium heat until softball stage (116C or 240F) MUST use a candy thermometer- do not stir

4) while sugar is cooking place egg whites and remaining 227g sugar in stand mixer with whisk attachment

5) when sugar on stove reaches 110C or 230F begin to whip egg whites and sugar on medium speed

– the egg whites should achieve soft peaks by time sugar on stove reaches soft ball stage

6) in a SLOW steady stream pour the hot sugar syrup down side of bowl with egg mixture- while mixer is still going (be VERY careful as syrup will be extremely hot)

7) whip until the mixture has cooled down (continue to feel bottom of bowl) when bowl has cooled down to luke warm you can add vanilla

8) while mixer is still going (speed 4) add butter cubes slowly

9) cream to a smooth consistency (this will depend on what you are doing with icing) whether just masking cake or piping

Pay attention now, as here is where I admit where I accidentally blew it! I made my buttercream icing on Thursday without issue and put it in the fridge. On Saturday night, I removed it about an hour before I started cake assembly. It was rock hard!! I needed a chisel to release the icing!  Mortified, I did the most logical thing I could think of – I put a little icing into the mixer with the hopes of beating it back to its desired creamy consistency. What happened next was nothing short of disaster. The icing separated into a curdled soggy mess! I thought maybe I hadn’t cleaned the bowl well enough after whipping the cream and it had adversely affected the icing. So I scrubbed the bowl like a germaphobe before dumping more rock hard buttercream into my mixer and then repeated the process. The result?  More curdled soggy mess!  Having now wasted half my icing. I thought, “If I add icing sugar can I unsplit this mess?”  Firm, NO.   To determine where I went wrong with my icing I turned to Google where I soon learned that buttercream should not even go in a fridge. I also learned that buttercream can sit out on a counter just fine for a couple of days, but there is no way on earth to restore split buttercream icing. The warmer air and whipping combination was a major faux pas. I read one woman’s food post indicating how she had rescued her cold hard buttercream by slowly heating the bowl with a hair dryer. So up to our bathroom I went with my large bowl of icing in hand and great hopes of salvaging what little was left. I was really desperate in terms of time and had already invested plenty of that, eggs and butter into the recipe. Fortunately the hair dryer tactic worked and I was able to rescue the remaining balance.   But now I didn’t know if I had enough icing to finish the cake.  Keep reading to learn more of my mishaps.

Assembly of cake

1) once cake is completely cooled cut in two and brush syrup on crumb layer

cut cake with soaked syrup

cut cake with soaked syrup

2) place crumb cut side up and add cream filling and smooth to edge of cake

Adding cream filling

Adding cream filling

Evenly spread cream to edges of cake

Evenly spread cream to edges of cake

3) add thin layer of strawberries on top of cream

Add berries on top of cream

Add berries on top of cream

4) add another layer of cream filling on top of berries (you need this layer of cream so 2nd layer of cake has something to adhere to) plus it is just tasty

2nd layer of cream on top of berries

2nd layer of cream on top of berries

5) add next cake layer ( if only doing 2 layers then place 2nd cake layer crust side down- so top layer is smooth for icing

Adding 3rd layer of cake

Adding 3rd layer of cake

Note: my cake was 2 recipes of the sponge cake cut into 4 layers/Yes that’s right I made this cake twice- 30 eggs later!

6) ice a thin layer on top and sides – so you will have no issues with crumbs

Crumb coat

Crumb coat

7) you can decorate your cake with just simple icing on top and sides OR you can omit buttercream icing all together and mask with whipped cream filling (very tasty) but not a very long shelf life

– since I was making this cake for a bridal shower it had to be pretty

practice rosettes

practice rosettes

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practice with flowers and pearls

practice with flowers and pearls

– I piped giant rosettes all over top using a pastry tip #848/since my icing misfortune I needed to make sure top was nice and I would just do a simple mask on sides instead of my planned rosettes for sides

In keeping with Murphy’s Law I ran out of icing with about 4 rosettes still to pipe and no sides yet completed.  I now had a big decision to make: either make another batch of buttercream (which would take more time and money) OR clean off all existing icing and start again using  canned icing. Option B was incredibly tempting as I had purchased the Betty Crocker stuff on sale (4 for $5) just days earlier to purely practice my icing skills (cross my heart). I let my hubby be taste judge between the canned icing and buttercream.  He said the buttercream was without doubt superior. Big surprise there. I already knew I couldn’t make this special cake in good conscience with canned icing, so at 9 p.m. that Saturday night I did another store run for supplies to make another buttercream batch.  The cruel joke and personal torment continued as my new buttercream icing was not identical in colour to the icing already on the cake. I later spoke to my Chef at school and even she could not explain why this occurred with identical ingredients.  At this stage I begrudgingly moved on knowing full well I didn’t have enough icing to replace the initial batch I had already piped.

Top finished minus a couple missing rosettes

Top finished minus a couple missing rosettes

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– I added lilac candy pearls in the center of each rosette

Added lilac pearls

Added lilac pearls

– I added small royal icing flowers that I had made earlier in my cake decorating class. I also painted them with edible metallic silver to add some sparkle

Royal Icing flowers

Royal Icing flowers

– I added silver pearlized sugar sprinkles all over top of cake

Silver pearlized sprinkles

Silver pearlized sprinkles

– I placed some artificial flowers in corner in brides colors

Artifical Flowers

Artifical Flowers

– lastly I added the congratulation banner (hubby helped me) used chalkboard pennant tags – perfect as bride-to-be is a teacher

Pennat Banner

Pennat Banner

Placed safely in its box my masterpiece was ready to transport. I was very pleased with my first cake effort.  Sure the icing was not a perfect match, but I hoped with all my decorations nobody would notice the slight colour difference between the top and sides. The client lived about a 20 minute car ride away. I convinced my hubby to hold the cake (it weighed a ton) in the back seat while I drove painfully slow trying to avoid bumps and pot holes.  Things seemed to be in good shape until we drove past the correct street and had to double back down a side street with endless bumps. I heard an awful thud behind me which I knew was not good. Hubby proclaimed that a chunk of icing had fallen off the side. OMG – some damn pot hole had just ruined hours of meticulous work! I hoped the damage was minimal and could be easily fixed at the delivery point. When we arrived at our destination and investigated how the cake had fared I thought I would cry.  Chunks of icing had fallen off every side!  I apologetically showed my customer her daughter’s bridal cake and she said she loved it.  The lady said she would simply smooth out the sides herself (to be flat iced) and not to worry.  I was so embarrassed and discouraged by its presentation, I didn’t even want to take any money for the cake.  How could I possibly charge for a disformed bridal cake?   She paid me at her discretion and I sadly drove home having lost significant money and self-esteem, but also having learned many valuable lessons from my first sale experience:

1) DO NOT put buttercream icing ever in the fridge

2) NEVER try to re-whip buttercream icing as it will end badly

3) If you are going to apply heavy icing to the sides of a cake be certain icing is quite firm and the appropriate thickness (generously piped buttercream was obviously not the best choice!)

4) Prior to transporting a cake, I suggest letting the cake cooly set and harden for a minimum couple of hours to minimize potential shifting/settling during delivery

Despite all of my above issues, I am still glad I had the opportunity to make this cake. I received an email from this customer the next day indicating everyone loved the cake and it was delicious! Another lady who sampled a piece also requested the above cake recipe.  In the end it seems as though everything worked out and there is nothing wrong with feedback like that.

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One thought on “Bridal Shower Cake Brings Smiles and Tears

  1. Pingback: The Pavilion’s Top Three Wedding Cake Trends for 2014

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