Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sunflower Wedding: The Cake

  As you may know if you've been following me on Instagram, I was pretty busy last week preparing for my beautiful sister-in-love's wedding. I made quite a few things, but the biggest was the cake.

   I used the Chocolate Cake recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook for this cake, swapping out half of the butter for shortening so I'd have enough butter for the frosting. This was the amount of dry ingredients I started with... I ended up adding another 2 batches of the recipe to finish!
Photo from Instagram
  It took a lot mixing to get those dry ingredients combined! Once mixed, I weighed out 2 batches of dry ingredients and beat 2 batches of wet ingredients into that with a hand mixer, and repeated for every cake or set of cakes. I was really nervous about the outer edges over-baking, so I tried pinning some wet towels around the cake, but I couldn't get them tight enough that they stayed on. In the end I baked the larger cakes at 310 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 350. It did help, though the outside was still a bit more dry than the inside.

  I also have had trouble in the past with cakes sticking in the pans and breaking, so I greased the pans, added parchment circles to the bottom, greased the parchment, then floured the whole pan. It worked like a charm! I forgot the flour on one pan and it was hard to get out, but the rest literally fell out of the pans when I turned them upside down!
Photo from Instagram
  Including the time that the cakes were in the oven and I was just waiting for them, they took 12 hours to mix and bake. Including hands on time only, it was more like 6 hours.

  Once the cakes were baked and cooled, I made a batch of extra-thick frosting and piped a dam around the edges of each layer (I considered torting the layers, but my knife skills are pitiful and I didn't want to ruin it) then filled it with homemade chocolate mousse. I used a triple batch of this recipe, because I only had cocoa powder, but used less gelatin (because I only had 4 teaspoons) and added a miniscule amount of guar gum and xanthan gum.... less than 1/8 tsp each. It held up really well... there was a bit leftover and it was still fluffy and stable in the fridge for 6 days, at which point it was eaten. It was richer than I would have liked though.
Photo from Instagram

  Next I stacked the second layer of each tier on top of the frosting and mousse, then covered them and put them in the fridge overnight. Check out the size of this one! It's 14" in diameter. =)
Photo from Instagram
  The next morning I made some more frosting, thinner this time, and did a crumb coat on all of the cakes.
Photo from Instagram
  And finally I frosted them all. My sis-in-love wanted it to look rustic, so the frosting went pretty fast. Most of the time frosting was spent mixing up new batches of it! I used frosting recipe from the back of a bag of C&H powdered sugar, but added 1/2 teaspoon almond extract to each batch.
Photo from Instagram
  Here are all the cakes, after 16 hours of work, ready to transport. I decided against stacking them first, because cakes are a pain to transport as it is, and stacked is even harder. I do want to try this method out sometime though.
Photo from Instagram
  The transportation was where everything went wrong. We have a 4-door car with 3 carseats in it, black with no air conditioning. We live in Arizona, and it was about 90 degrees outside, which translates to over 100 in the car even with the windows open. It's a 40 minute drive from our house to the church the wedding was at... you can figure it out. The frosting melted right off the sides of the cake on the drive! I was SO UPSET. I feel bad for the bride, who was trying to comfort me on the eve of her wedding. I just wanted that cake to be perfect for her and it looked like it was going to be a disaster. I finally, at the suggestion of several relatives, scraped as much melted frosting off the sides as I could without getting crumbs, and popped the cakes in the fridge at the church. The refrigerator there didn't work very well, so it took about 3 hours for the frosting to firm up again... I even stuck it in the freezer for an hour! After the rehearsal dinner, I took the cakes out one at a time and re-frosted them as well as I could. They didn't end up quite as pretty as the first time I frosted them, but it did work. That was a horrible situation! I wish I'd thought to borrow someone's air-conditioned vehicle for transporting the cake! I'm just really glad I brought it the day before the wedding instead of the day of, since I wouldn't have had time to fix it on the wedding day.

  After the wedding ceremony I brought the cakes out side to the reception area and stacked them, added a bit more frosting to cover the small cracks between layers, and tied on some raffia. We were originally going to add sunflowers and roses to the cake but there was some miscommunication. I bought gumpaste to make the flowers, and it turned out that the bride wanted real flowers on the cake. Then we found out that the flowers were not organically grown, so we needed tiny vases to keep them from touching the cake... but we couldn't find them in time for the wedding, and by the time I realized that I didn't have time to make gumpaste ones. I ended up just setting vases of flowers on the table. The topper is a Willow Tree figurine (affiliate link).

  The bride and groom cut and served the cake to all of the guests, after eating some themselves. (Aren't they adorable?) =)

  I made 172 servings of cake, not including the top tier. I'm really glad I didn't put a 16" tier under that as I'd considered doing, since there was quite a bit leftover.

  Here are some cake stats, interspersed with photos of cake:
 In all I used:
22 1/2 c flour
16 1/3 c sugar
6 1/3 c cocoa powder
12 1/2 tsp baking soda
10 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 3/4 c butter (7.5 sticks)
3 3/4 c shortening
12 1/2 c water
10 tsp vanilla extract
20 eggs

2 tsp gelatin
9 TBSP water
1 1/2 c sugar
1/4 c cocoa powder
3 c heavy cream
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/16 tsp guar gum
1/16 tsp xanthan gum

15 lbs powdered sugar
5 c butter (10 sticks)
3 1/4 c milk
5 TBSP vanilla extract
2 1/2 TBSP almond extract

  Surprisingly, the total cost of the ingredients was only $47.30. I did buy most of them at Costco. =)

  The cake was approximately 2 feet tall, not including the topper. It weighed... a lot. ;-)

  I spent 12 hours baking it, 4 hours frosting it, 2 hours re-frosting it, and 1.5 hours transporting and assembling it, for a total of 19.5 hours. If I were getting paid $15/hour, the total cost of the cake would still be less than $300... that does not, however, include the cost of re-useable tools.

  Some tools I used (affiliate links incoming!) are:
Cake lifter
14" cake pans
12" cake pans
10" cake pans
8" cake pans
Plastic cake supports
14" Cake Circle
12" Cake Circle
10" Cake Circle
8" Cake Circle
Offset spatula
Most of those were bought at Hobby Lobby... some by me, some by my mother-in-love. =)

   I made one other food item... modeling chocolate sunflowers to top cupcakes... my mother-in-love made the actual cupcakes, but I stayed up until 5am the morning of the wedding making the flowers. I wanted to make 150 of them, but ended up with 111 because I didn't buy enough candy melts. I used 4 packages and should have used 5 or 6. Rolling them thinner would have helped too. ;-)

  It worked out anyway, most of the cupcakes didn't get eaten. I started out making the sunflowers pretty complex, but by the end I was just using a daisy cutter to cut two layers, pressing the centers together with a ball tool, and adding a brown center... the center was just a ball that was pressed into a sieve for texture. The original version looked like this and took about 4 times as long. =)
Photo from Instagram

  That's about all I have to say about the edibles I made, but I did make some other things for this wedding. A few of them are in the photos above, but I'll post more about those another day. =)

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. First, that looks delicious. Second, you are insane. I can't believe how much baking you did!! I made a lemon roll for a picnic a few weeks ago and felt like that was quite the ordeal, lol. Third, I was following on Instagram and couldn't believe how much stuff you were using. Good job!

    1. Thank you! I had quite a few people that said it tasted good.... it was a little richer than I would have liked but a nice change from standard white cake wedding fare. =)
      And yes, I know I'm insane. Every time I take on a wedding cake (this is my 4th) I realize how crazy it is... but worth it! I saved whoever was supposed to pay for the cake about $500. It really helped that most of the baking for a cake like this is pretty straightforward.... most of it isn't going to be hurt if you wait a few extra minutes, and the recipe isn't too complicated either. =)
      And seriously! For a cake that weighed over 40 lbs (I just figured that out) I'm still amazed at how little those ingredients cost... it ended up at just over $1 per lb.
      It was a lot of work, but other than the frosting melting, it was pretty fun. =)

  2. Charity, this turned out amazing! Great job! I am so impressed.

    1. Thank you so much! =) It took a lot of time, but it wasn't super-complicated... or maybe I just think that because I've spent quite a lot of time reading about making very complicated cakes. ;-)

  3. I am in awe of your abilities, Charity! I am so very impressed! The cake was beautiful and I know it tasted better than any of the standard cakes you can buy. You have a lot of energy, my dear friend. I can't believe what you get accomplished with three little ones to care for. It must be your youth. (I want some! :) )

    1. Thank you so much! Truthfully, this took a long time, but as far as wedding cakes go it was very easy. It did taste good. =) It was also a huge blessing that my husband had work off for the days surrounding the wedding, so he helped take care of the little girls' needs. =)