I was asked to prepare desserts for a friend’s wedding reception. About 80 guests were expected. “Because some people expect to eat cake at a wedding reception”, the bride wanted SOME cake, but not necessarily enough cake for everyone, and she also wanted extra cookies and such.
The bride decided on a tiered set of cakes, 6” (for the bride and groom) and 9” and 12” for the guests. The large and small cakes were to be chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream filling, chocolate buttercream frosting, and polka dot chocolate bows, to match the adornments on her wedding dress. The medium-sized cake was to be carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, also with a polka dot chocolate bow.
For the cookies and such, she chose heart-shaped marshmallow sandwiches with graham cracker bottoms and chocolate tops, round-shaped peanut butter and chocolate pinwheel cookies, heart-shaped shortbread pinwheel cookies with raspberry and chocolate filling, and cranberry turtle bars.I suggested we wrap the cake boards and cookie platters in foil with the brides colors, pink and purple, and she agreed.
Chocolate Polka Dot Bows
First up: Chocolate polka dot bows.
The large and small cakes were to have dark chocolate frosting, while the medium cake was to have white (cream cheese) frosting. To get a nice contrast with the frostings, I suggested we do the large and small bows in white chocolate with dark chocolate polka dots, and the medium bow in dark chocolate with white chocolate polka dots.
I did the loops for the large chocolate bow first. I made the loops by
1. piping dark chocolate dots onto a large strip (rectangle) of plastic, 2. putting the plastic in the freezer until the dark chocolate dots set, 3. spreading white chocolate over the dark chocolate dots, 4. forming a loop by pressing the ends of the rectangle together, and 5. pan>putting the loop in the freezer to set.
After making a few large loops, I realized that the dark chocolate dots were smearing when I spread the white chocolate over them, and you could see the dark chocolate smears behind the white chocolate background:
I made the loops for the small bow, and those came out a little better, but they were still smeared:
I decided to try again. The second time around, the loops came out much better. However, at some point I realized that part of the reason for this is that I had made medium-sized loops for the big bow, instead of large-sized loops. So then I had to go back and make more loops to account for the fact that a large-size bow would require a larger number of medium-sized loops (which I had ended up with) than large-sized loops (which I had started with).
Needless to say, making the white chocolate loops ended up taking way more time than I had anticipated.
As for the medium-size chocolate bow with white polka dots, the white polka dots may have smeared, but if they did, you can’t see the smears against the dark chocolate background. The dark chocolate loops were SOOO fast and easy compared with the white chocolate loops!!
When I was putting the bows together, I decided that the small loops for the small bow were too messy, so I made new loops. Since I had gained so much experince with the loops for the large bow, the new loops for the small bow came out much cleaner.
I was very happy with the final results:
The fact that I used medium-sized loops, instead of large loops, for the large bow made the bow come out flatter. With the larger loops, the large bow would have been higher and rounder, like the medium-sized bow. Aesthetically, I think I would have liked the rounder bow that I would have gotten with larger loops. However, the larger loops surely would have been more smeared than the medium-size loops, and I would NOT have been happy with that. Also, with more smaller loops, more people will probably get a taste of chocolate bow.
I have made the chocolate and peanut butter pinwheel cookies many times, so making those went smoothly. Here’s what they looked like:
As for the heart-shaped shortbread pinwheels with raspberry and chocolate filling, that process didn’t go so smoothly. The dough was too dry, so it cracked when I tried to roll it, and I ended up putting too much filling in the center. The results were ugly cookies:
My sister was happy to take the batch of ugly, but oh-so-delicious, mistakes.
The second batch came out much better:
For the top of the marshmallow sandwiches, I piped lacey hearts out of dark chocolate. Again, I had made these before, so the process went smoothly, though making 80 hearts did take a bit of time.
For the bottom of the marshmallow sandwiches, I made a batch and a half of graham cracker hearts, to make sure I would have plenty of cookies. I ended up with a whole lot of graham cracker hearts, so I had plenty of leftovers.
I made a double batch of marshmallows. I surprised myself by not getting covered in marshmallow, despite the very large bowlful of goo I ended up with (though I did find a small blob of marshmallow later on one of the cabinets). The marshmallows themselves are extremely sticky, but I’ve made them enough that I’ve learned to use plenty of cornstarch while handling them (the recipes for marshmallows all suggest using powdered sugar when handling them to prevent sticking. However, I think they’re sweet enough without the extra powdered sugar, so I use cornstarch, which has no flavor).
When I put all the pieces together, the marshmallow sandwiches were really cute:
Cranberry Turtle Bars
Again, I’ve made the cranberry turtle bars plenty of times, so that process went smoothly. I normally drizzle chocolate onto the pans of bars before cutting them, but then when I cut them, the chocolate breaks. Since I wanted nice, clean, small bites this time, I cut the bars before drizzling them with chocolate on top. It didn’t end up taking that much more time, and I think it was well worth it.
I had never made anything but a 9” cake, so I was anxious to see how the large (12”) and small (6”) cakes would turn out.
The two major issues here are:
1. Figuring out how many recipes for a 3-layer 9” cake to make to have enough batter for a 3-layer 12” cake and a 3-layer 6” cake;
2. Once I get my big bowl of batter, figuring out how much batter to pour into each pan.
For the first step, I calculated the volume of batter for each sized 3-layer cake as
9" Volume: π x r2 x h = π x (9/2)2 x 2 = 127 cubic inches
6" Volume: π x r2 x h = π x (6/2)2 x 2 = 57 cubic inches
12" Volume: π x r2 x h = π x (12/2)2 x 2 = 226 cubic inches
For a 6” cake, I would need (57 / 127) = 0.44 recipes, and for the 12” cake I would need (226 / 127) = 1.78 recipes, for a total of 0.44 + 1.78 = 2.22 recipes.
The second step is figuring out how to allocate batter among 3 large and 3 small pans. I use volume as weights and get 57 / (57 + 226) = 0.20 or 20% of the batter going into the small pans, and 226 / (57 + 226) = 0.80 or 80% of the batter going into the small pans.
This all would have been really ugly, but for the fact that I bought a digital food scale, and that made everything a piece of cake! (groan!) I just converted all the ingredients for one recipe into grams and multiplied those quantities by 2.22 to get the right amount of ingredients, then used the scale to weigh out the ingredients. Once I had the batter, I weighed it, then used the scale to measure out the appropriate portions for each pan: 0.20 / 3 = 0.067 of the total batter for each small pan and 0.80 / 3 = 0.27 of the total batter for each large pan.
I made the batter and poured it into the three large pans and the three small pans. There didn’t seem like that much batter was in each pan. Hmmm. Maybe it will rise a lot.
After baking, the cakes looked really thin. I decided to make another layer (4th) for each cake. So I made one-third of the amount of batter as I had before (1/3 x 2.22 recipes = 0.74 recipes), with 0.20 portion of the batter into a small pan and 0.80 portion of the batter into a large pan. I can’t possibly express how grateful I was at this point to have the digital food scale …
I had three pans of each size cake, and they were filled with the cakes I had just baked. So, I had to remove one layer of each size cake so I could use the pans to bake the 4th layers. At this point, when I could actually see how high the layers were, I realized that somehow I had ended up with half the batter I should have had. I still haven’t figured out where my missing factor of two is…
Even with 4 layers, the cake was still going to be too thin, so I made another layer for each cake (5th). And since, at this point, I had to run out and get more eggs anyway for the carrot cake, I decided to get more sour cream and do a 6th layer for the chocolate cakes.
It’s not that uncommon to see either 4- or 6-layer cakes. But in those instances, the baker will make a 2- or 3-layer cake, then cut each cake in have horizontally. I ended up doing it the hard way. Live and learn.
Now that I had more layers than I had anticipated (six instead of three), I decided to use both raspberry and chocolate buttercreams for filling, alternating by layer. Here’s what the small chocolate cake looked like without the outer layer of chocolate buttercream:
And here’s what the cakes looked like with frosting and bows:
I emailed a couple of people some pictures in progress. After seeing pictures of the bows and the small cake, my mom, knowing I have a small car, emailed me back asking how I planned to get all this up to San Francisco where the reception was being held. I guess my email response “magic wand” didn’t inspire much confidence in her, because she called me up and insisted she drive me in her big car. “In case you need to hold something in your lap… I would just feel much better this way.” In all honesty, I was HUGELY relieved to have her volunteer to accompany me. This is not the first time she’s come to my rescue, and I’m sure it won’t be the last… Thanks Mom! I love you!
Compared to my adventures with the chocolate cakes, the carrot cake was downright boring, which I needed at this point. Here’s how the carrot cake turned out:
The wedding photos just came in. Here's a link to the photographer's blog entry on the wedding reception.