Monday, March 22, 2010

Wedding Cake

As a tribute to Spring and the all-known wedding season that follows it, I am making wedding-style cakes. The main features of a wedding cake include multiple layers, luscious fillings, rich buttery frosting and decorative piping. As you can probably imagine, wedding cakes are very time consuming, yet very rewarding. Since this one was for leisure, and not for a client, I spent a little less time making the finishing touches and was less concerned about the precision of the piping. I was more concerned with eating it ASAP.

I've created a Vanilla Buttercake with Orange Syrup, Strawberry Whipped Cream and Vanilla-Honey Buttercream. It's a mouthful, I know. But try taking a mouthful of this cake and you will not care what it's called you'll just be glad you're eating it.

There are a few important techniques to remember when frosting wedding cakes. Some are scientific and some are just pure technical. First, always make a crumb coat. This refers to the primer, or the first coating of frosting applied to the cake. It consists of a thin layer of frosting that is meant to evenly coat the cake and inevitably pick up any crumbs. The key factor is to refrigerate the cake after applying the crumb coat so that it will firm up and trap crumbs, preventing them from getting picked up into the top layers of frosting and provide a smooth surface on which to continue decorating.

Second, use 35% whipping cream when making buttercream frostings in place of some or all of the milk in the recipe. Whipping cream contains food gums, such as carageenan, which are polysaccharides that bind water and add viscosity, thereby acting as thickening agents. These compounds are added to whipping cream as stabilizers. So, they will help to stabilize buttercream and prevent it from drying out excessively or becoming grainy. Whipping cream also contains emulsifiers, such as mono- and di-glycerides and a compound called polysorbate 80. These act to prevent separation of the water and fat phases in buttercream, and also promote structure development by stabilizing the air bubbles that become incorporated during beating. This increases the volume of the frosting, adding body and a smooth texture.

Another important factor when making wedding cakes is to use all-purpose flour as opposed to cake & pastry flour. I do this because, although cake flour produces a softer texture, it also makes the cake more crumbly and susceptible to breakage. All-purpose flour has a higher protein content (12%) compared to cake flour (9%), making it more durable. Protein provides strength and structure to cakes, so those made with all-purpose flour are less likely to collapse or crumble under pressure. Since wedding cakes are victims of a lot of manipulation, such as slicing, layering, turning, numerous coats of frosting and piping, a medium-strength flour is best. Just don't use bread flour, or you will definitely end up with a tough cake. That's probably why it's called bread flour so that it only gets used for bread!

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