I’ve been making wedding and specialty cakes for almost 7 years now, and during this time I have researched and have been fascinated the history behind cakes worldwide. Traditions in North America can be very different than back home in Brazil, but the cake being a central part of the wedding celebration is true both here and there.
Wedding cakes as we now them today have been around for about 150 years, but there having baked goods in weddings go over back to the Greek and Roman civilizations. The meaning of wedding cakes, how they are shaped, the recipes used for both cake and icing, the way it’s presented to guests have been evolving through he years. One the first traditions I came across after moving to North America and started making wedding cakes was the fact that some couples would asked me about freezing cakes for their first anniversary. Keeping portion of the cake, usually the top tier for the couple’s first child’s christening, not their anniversary. Apparently one year was enough for both events. Fruitcake didn’t need to be frozen as the fruit is heavily soaked in brandy acting as a preservative. But then again tradition evolved as we know now, once cakes became more contemporary, and couples straying from fruit cakes it became necessary to freeze cakes in order to keep the tradition of saving the cake for one year.
Back in 2011 I was approached by a local blogger to provide advice on how to freeze cakes and my tips were featured at Vancity Bride Blog.
For this assignment I was asked to answers some questions, being the first about naming local wedding cake designers and critique their cakes. Well the first cake designer I’d name is yours truly. But while I certainly have positive things to say about other local cake designers, I feel funny talking about elaborating on a topic so close to home. Instead, I’ve chosen Canadian designers that have wowed me over and over with their ideas and designs. My first mention goes to Allyson Bobbitt and Sarah Bell from Bobbette & Belle in Toronto. Second mention goes to Luisa Galuppo from Luisa Galuppo Cakes in Montreal.
I am constantly wowed by their romantic yet modern approach to wedding cake designs, Luisa actually did an internship Bobette & Belle’s cake designer Allyson Meredith.
In the international stage, I would like to mention the king of wedding cakes Ron Ben-Israel from New York. and my dear-to-heart Marcela Sanchez. An Argentinean-born cake designer who has adopted Brazil as her home and have been amazing worldwide audiences with her talent and was the designer who inspired me and taught me the first steps into cake decorating. Marcela is also responsible for hosting the international cake show in São Paulo, The São Paulo Sugrarcraft Show, where I debut my teaching career last September.
During this weeks course Wedding cakes and Marzipan, I had the opportunity to explore royal icing covered cakes and piped designs. Nowadays royal icing covered cakes are not so common, especially in North America, but it was fun to try. I don’t work with royal icing a lot, so I definitely took the time to practice. Piping intricate designs is a lot more complicated than it looks and I take the hat off to designers who master at this art.
I also made a 3-tier wedding cake in class incorporating the piping skills plus flower making. I’ve chosen this design because piping straight lines requires some skill, specially when they are side by side, which can enhance any flaws.
In class we explored the steps of making and assembling cakes, and I narrowed the steps to assemble a pillared cake to:
- Bake the cakes, making filling
- Assemble cake tiers, alternating cake and filling (onto a cake board, see note on step 10)
- Mask the cakes with chosen icing, most commonly buttercream or chocolate ganache
- Enrobe the cake with a thin layer of marzipan, if using
- Roll rolled fondant evenly, roll it over the rolling pin, and unrolled it over the cake to enrobe it
- Using your hands secure the rolled fondant on the edges and smooth it over the cake
- Smooth fondant using fondant smoothers for a clean look
- Trim the fondant at the bottom edges of the cake
- Repeat steps 1 to 9 for all the cake tiers
- Place each tier into a cake board (note: when making my cakes I take this step all the was to number 2)
- Place each cake o a proper separator plate, with the ‘feet’ to secure the pillars, securing it with icing
- Push pillars down straight into the cake, making sire the pillars touch the cake board
- Place the next tier making sure that the separator plate’s ‘feet’ are inserted into the pillar openings
- Repeat until top tier is assembled
- Place the cake into a sturdy cardboard box, seal the edges to protect from moisture and refrigerate the cake. (Note: there is a huge debate over refrigerating or not fondant-covered cakes, but I have been doing it for a long time successfully. It is a lot safer to transport cold cakes than room temperature cakes.)
- Depending on the final design, how many tiers are pillared and the overall size of the cake it can be transported assembled or each tier boxed separately and the whole cake assembled at the venue. Either way, transport cake box(es) into the car’s trunk, the flattest surface of the car, over a non-slid mat. Believe me it is safe. Drive carefully to the venue, avoiding sudden stops.
After working with wedding cakes we turn to marzipan, modelling fruits and vegetables. I simply used the basics of sugarpaste modelling to working with marzipan and I loved it. But then it was time to airbrush the modelled marzipan.
Despite how many times I translated Mike Elder’s airbrushing classes in Brazil and having gone over his instructions both in Portuguese and in English I have to say that I still don’t think I have a grip of it. As with piping intricate designs on cakes all one’s need is practicing over and over again. The whole class had a mist of food colouring in the air and my classmates were introduced to rainbow snot, so well know by my fellow cakes. Kind of gross but funny.
Some classmates mentioned I wouldn’t learn much from this course, but the truth is I not only had time to practice skills I don’t have time to in my business, as I have a chance to learn how other people’s approach to wedding cakes.