From girlhood days on, most brides dream of a multitiered wedding cake with ethereal grandeur. However, for the novice home baker who generously offers to execute the ambitious project of baking such a cake, perfection is often elusive.
True, they say, do-it-yourself is chic nowadays--but, to bake a wedding cake at home? Even the thought might well quickly be dismissed at the sight of a traditional creation in a bakery showcase. But, they also say that today anything goes in wedding cakes. Aha, does that mean that classic rules can be broken? If so, that would make life easier and more rewarding for the preparer.
Let's start with the cake itself. In the beginning there were heavy fruitcakes. Then white cakes took over and have since become traditional. Now, however, the white cake's marriage with glorious white icing is losing its spark. Beneath the elegance of the still favored white frosting--which can be anything from an ivory butter cream to meringue, whipped cream or cream cheese icing--today may lie a luscious chocolate mousse cake filled with fresh raspberries. Other surprises could be a lemon cheesecake, a buttery rich dacquoise, or a 24-carat carrot-nut cake, whatever the bride or groom desires.
How about a black and white cake? According to Zella Junkin, consumer affairs manager of Wilton Enterprises, this is no longer a shocking request for the cake decorators at the Wilton Bakeries in Chicago. "We get orders to make black and white cakes decorated with black roses and baby's breath," she said. "Although the general frosting preference is still white, white icing is being accented with mauve or rose, peach, lavender or whatever colors they (brides) want in their dresses," Junkin continued.
What other changes are we seeing in the modern bride's dream cake?
Wishes are being fulfilled in table tops adorned with decorations ranging from iridescent glitz to nostalgic lace. The ultimate wedding cake will have a cascade of flowers--either butter-cream drop icing flowers or sugar pastillages of orchids and orange blossoms. By far, the most beautiful cover-ups (this really makes life easier for the cake baker) are clusters of fresh, fresh flowers or silk flowers (only those with an aura of class, please), enhanced with satin ribbon loops, poufs of fine nylon tulle or lace. Fresh roses are often chosen, from casual older blooms to perfect buds, from pastels to bright red, all seemingly reflecting the bride's personality.
We've also seen whipped cream frostings embellished with shaved white chocolate curls or "bark," and dusted with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Chocolate leaves, white or dark, can be very effective with fresh or chocolate roses.
Even the old-time favorite ornament on the top cake (which is often saved by the couple for their first anniversary) is being replaced by a refreshing nosegay or an arch made from a small vine of flowers trimmed with tulle and bows. There even are edible moldings of tennis racket or golf club sets for a sports-minded couple, or a violin or piano for the musically inclined bride. The smaller groom's cake, which is still popular in the Midwest, according to Junkin, could be a nut torte, a gooey chocolate cake, or any flavor cake decorated to reflect the groom's hobby or profession.
A Pleasure for Bakers
Rather than becoming a stressful project, preparing a modern wedding cake could turn into pleasure for bakers. "They should allow themselves plenty of time to bake the cake ahead, or even freeze the cake itself," Junkin advised. Instead of freezing, the cake layers could be be prepared about two days in advance, put together with butter-cream icing or other nonspoil filling and covered with a crumb-sealing coating of warmed jelly or butter-cream frosting.
"Planning is the big thing, so they (home bakers) have everything they need. Beginners should choose a simple design and practice using the pastry bag on an upside down pan," Junkin said.
Making the layers stable in a tiered cake is a structural engineering feat in itself. Although there are pillars and dowel kits available, the brightest new solution from Wilton is the Floating Tiers Cake Stand Set ($59.99) The contemporary stand consists of a sturdy metal rod that fits at the edge of the cakes rather than through the center and holds three round racks for the smooth-edged separator plates. It gives you a lot of flexibility in the type of cake, in transporting, assembly of the layers, as well as in cutting the serving pieces.
Here are some more tips on preparing a successful tiered wedding cake: