Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to Make a Wedding Cake: Lemon Chiffon Wedding Cake

Steven's Instagram of the girls
Thanks to Val for all the cake pics...I of course didn't take any
When one of my best friends called me in March asking if I would make her a cake for her August wedding in Seattle, I quickly agreed. I then ignored the obligation for the next four months.  Around mid-July as I was preparing to celebrate her bachelorette party I realized I needed to put some thought into this cake, and I made a couple "tester" lemon cakes, in Aspen, at 8000 feet.  About a week before the wedding my mom, who had graciously offered/ been bullied to help, asked me for a grocery list so that she could pick up what we needed.  I panicked. At the time I was running around as a bridesmaid in another friend's wedding and trying to mentally calculate how much flour/sugar/eggs/etc we would need.  I came up with rough estimates and hoped for the best.  I landed in Seattle on Tuesday night 4 hours later than my planned arrival time.  My sister very kindly picked me up from the airport and drove the 2 hours to my parents house arriving at the door just after 3:00am.  Wednesday morning we woke up and started baking.  We baked for about 6 hours on Wednesday and 5 more on Thursday. Friday we spent about 2 hours putting the cakes together with filling and crumb coat, and Saturday we did the final frosting and assembly, which took about 1 hour.

What I learned:

1. Making a cake in a city where you don't live is difficult because of timing.
2. If you can pre-bake the cakes 1-3 weeks ahead and freeze (process described below).  This will reduce your stress and eliminate much of the chaos.
3. If you do not have a professional kitchen, expect to take many hours to make enough batter and bake enough cakes.
4. Expect to have some failures, and buy extra ingredients.
5. Following a recipe already made for wedding cakes is probably a lot easier than using a birthday cake recipe and recklessly multiplying.
6. Keep the decorations simple.
7. Enlist help!!!

I decided on making a tiered lemon cake that I thought would serve about 100, and then 3 chocolate cakes for the remaining 50 people.  We had a small piece of chocolate left over and a full tier of lemon, so I would say I overestimated by about 50 servings. 

Lemon Chiffon Wedding Cake (serves ~120-150 guests depending on size of pieces)
adapted from Love and Olive Oil

  • Stand mixer (extra bowl is very helpful)
  • 2 inch deep cake pans: 12 inch, 10 inch, 8 inch, 6 inch (optional)
  • Spatulas
  • Large mixing bowls
  • 1 box sturdy straws
  • 3 cardboard rounds: 12 inch, 10 inch, 8 inch.  Covered with foil.
  • Flowers or greenery for decoration
For the whole Cake

  • 64 eggs, fresh and local if possible
  • 4 cups olive oil
  • 6-8 lemons depending on size
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 12 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
This is equivalent to six batches of cake.  I used one batch for each 12 inch layer, two batches for one 8 inch and one 10 inch layer.  The 8 and 10 inch combinations left me enough batter to make a small six inch cake that I gave to the bride and groom.

Baking order: first 12 inch layer, first 10 inch layer and first 8 inch layer, second 12 inch layer, second 10 inch and second 8 inch layer along with small 6 inch layer for bride and groom (did not go on top of cake).

To make one batch:
I made chocolate cakes too...
  • 8 large eggs, separated 
  • 2/3 cup olive oil 
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons water 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar 
  • 2 cups cake flour 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Line the bottoms of cake pans with parchment paper. 
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water. 
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites on medium speed until light and frothy, add cream of tarter and whip a little more. 
  5. Slowly add 1/4 cup of sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. 
  6. Sift the flour, remaining sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk gently to combine. 
  7. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg yolk mixture and mix to create a smooth paste. 
  8. Add one-fourth of the egg whites and beat in to lighten the batter. 
  9. Fold in the remaining egg whites until evenly incorporated. Divide among perpared pans. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks. Once cool, run a knife around the cakes to release, then invert onto wire racks. Cakes should come out cleanly. At this point the cake layers can be frozen, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and bagged, for up to a month. Freezing the cakes also makes them easier to work with later.
Lemon Curd Filling (with optional poppy seeds)
From the Food Network
  • 6 lemons 
  • 3 cups sugar 
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 8 extra-large eggs 
  • 1 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons) 
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds (optional)

1.  Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
2. Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
3. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.
4. Stir in poppy seeds when cool.

Vanilla Butter Cream

you will probably want to make this in 3 batches, 1 for day one and 2 for the wedding day.
  • 3 pounds butter, room temperature
  • 12 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk (more or less depending on consistency)
for the crumb coat
  1. Combine 1 stick butter and 1 cup powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon milk and blend on  low until mixture becomes to come together.  
  3. Drizzle in more milk until a fairly thin frosting forms (almost like a glaze)
  4. Use this to coat each layer the night before the wedding.
for the decorative frosting
  1. Combine vanilla, powdered sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low until beginning to look like small pebbles. 
  2. Drizzle in milk until a thick frosting forms.
  3. Beat 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy

Day before the wedding
  1. 5-6 hours before assembly, remove cakes from freezer and thaw at room temperature. Slice off any domed tops so you have 6 even layers.
  2. Slice each layer horizontally and fill with lemon curd.  Replace top and set aside.  
  3. Place one 12 inch layer on the foil-covered cardboard.  Coat top of layer with butter cream and then gently place other 12 inch layer on top.  Insert ~8 straws all the way through the layers in a circle and trim until flush with top of cake. Repeat with 10 and 8 inch layers.  
  4. Coat the outside of each layer with a crumb coat and refrigerate overnight.
Wedding Day
  1. Coat each cake with a thick layer of butter cream and smooth the edges with an offset spatula.
  2. Ideally, transport the cakes to the venue now, and bring along some "touch up" icing.
  3. Place the 12 inch layer on your serving plate.
  4. Gently place the 10 inch layer in the middle of the 12 inch.
  5. Repeat with the 8 inch.
  6. Using a small knife or spatula, touch up any areas of frosting that are imperfect.
  7. Decorate with greens, fruit, or flowers.


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