A Cake Fit for (My) Princess
by Julie Jones
It was December 1, 2012, and my baby sister was finally getting married to her high school sweetheart after a year-long engagement. I had done quite a few other wedding cakes before this, but I knew this cake had to be special. She deserved the best.
White With Red Roses
A couple months before, we discussed what kind of wedding cake she wanted. She already had most everything else planned for the event; her colors were cranberry red and navy blue, with silver accents. Rich blue and silver fabric, red roses, cranberries, ivy garland, and twinkle lights adorned the reception hall. But no white.
Absolutely no white decorations at the reception; the only white in the room were to be her dress and the wedding cake. So, I knew this creation had to be stunning! The only guidelines she gave me were for it to be all white with red roses between the tiers, and 4-5 tiers tall. Any other design elements were at my discretion.
I knew I wanted to personalize this as much as possible, to make it even more special for the couple. I knew I wanted all of the decorations to be white-on-white, but had to decide on a design for each tier. Of course, she would be getting 5 tiers - the tallest cake I’d ever done. That’s what she wanted, so that’s what she was going to get.
The Inspired Design
I thought about the design for quite a while. I wanted it to be elegant, but not boring; traditional, yet still contemporary. I flipped through wedding cake books, sifted through images online, scanned Pinterest, and finally came to the conclusion that the most special and personal thing to a bride on her most memorable day (other than the groom, of course) is her dress. So, I decided to incorporate elements from her dress into the design.
She wore a beautiful "princess" ball gown, complete with a strapless sweetheart neckline, intricate beading in the bodice, and a full, floor-length skirt with train. It was gorgeous, and she looked gorgeous in it.
I decided to have the bottom tier of the cake (14” round) draped in fondant to resemble the skirt. The second tier was to look like the bodice, including the beautiful neckline and beading. The middle tier had their monogram encircled with royal icing “pearls,” the fourth tier had a brush-embroidery ivy vine (a favorite of her wedding decorations) crawling around it, and on the top tier, I piped a replica of her exquisite tiara.
The Reality Of The Preparation
Once I had the inspiration, the design of this cake came together quite easily. However, actually making this a reality was not so easy a chore. We only needed enough to serve about 100 people, so we obviously didn’t need 5 tiers of *real* cake. I decided to use Styrofoam dummies for the bottom tier and 4th tier, and then make the 2nd, 3rd, and top tiers the real deal. That’s still a lot to bake, level, fill, stack, ice, cover, and decorate.
Another issue that came up was the date itself - December 1st. I, along with nearly all of my immediate and extended family, were going to be out of town for almost a week before the wedding for Thanksgiving. We all congregate at my great-uncle’s house just outside of Houston every year, and we weren’t about to miss it.
That meant that most of the baking and other preparations had to be done before leaving for Thanksgiving. I worked for days and days in my little kitchen at home (between dodging my two children and working a full-time job), and was somehow able to get all of those cakes baked, put together, crumb-coated, and in the fridge.
The 12” tier was white cake with vanilla buttercream, the 10” middle tier was red velvet cake with cream cheese filling, and the 6” top tier was German chocolate cake with coconut-pecan filling.
Yummy! (I also made the groom’s cake - a 12” diam. x 7” tall round “snare drum” in butter pecan with buttercream, complete with gum paste “drum sticks.”)
When I got back home after Thanksgiving, we had 5 days until the wedding. I knew I didn’t want fondant-covered cakes sitting in the fridge (that can cause water spots from the condensation when you take it out and it comes back up to room-temperature, and bubbles under the fondant from the air between it and the cake warming back up). That had to be done the day before.
The Cake Decorating
I concentrated on the Styrofoam dummies (the “skirt” and “ivy” tiers) and got those covered in fondant and decorated. On Friday, the day before the wedding, got the other 3 tiers covered, and two of them decorated. That afternoon, we all met at the reception hall to decorate, and I finished piping the last tier and set up the cake.
Cake Stackers To The Rescue
A couple of years earlier, I had purchased the cake stacking system from Cake Stackers
,which I’d used many times before, but I was never so glad to have that as I was on this day. I would have gone crazy trying to stack this cake, which turned out to be about 25” tall, give or take.
With the stacking system, I was able to easily stack each tier with about a 1.5” gap between tiers for the roses. I did run out of center posts by the time I got to the top tier (I didn’t get my extras in the mail in time, but they did come that next Monday...irony?), so I had to improvise a little, but it all worked out just fine.
Once I placed that top tier on and stepped back, I let out a huge sigh of relief and was finally able to shift my focus to enjoying the excitement of preparing for the wedding. The next day, I watched my baby sister walk down the aisle and go from “little Diana” to “Mrs. Smothers.” The ceremony and the reception were absolutely beautiful.
A Magical Affair
Everything was exactly how she wanted it, and it was magical. Her white dress and the white cake really “popped,” and stood out against the dark blues and reds in the room. It was perfect. I think we served every bit of that cake (except the top tier, of course), and there was only a little of the groom’s cake left over, so apparently it was a hit!
I’m so glad and honored that I could be a part of my sister’s special day, and that I was able to make it even more special for her by giving her the cake that she wanted and deserved. I’m sure I’ll go on to make many more wedding cakes, and that my skills will only improve from here (hopefully), but this will always be one of my favorites, and something special for me to look back on and remember.
My Best Tip
My biggest tip, especially for making a large cake like this, would be to prepare as much as possible beforehand, so you’re not rushing to get all the little things (or big things) done at the last minute.
You can make the fondant and icing ahead of time, prepare the cake board, make sure you have all the tools and supplies you need, etc. You could even bake and fill the cakes ahead of time, wrap in plastic wrap & foil, and freeze until you need it. I’ve done this with birthday cakes (only because of special circumstances).
No one likes to be up until 3:00 AM (or longer) working on the finishing details, because you had to make a another batch of fondant, or had to run to the store for more yellow food coloring and powdered sugar. Haha!
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