Geez it’s been a while since my last post (58 days to be exact) and a lot has happened in that short amount of time. You would remember from my last couple of posts HERE and HERE that I was embarking on my brothers wedding cake extravaganza. Thankfully I got the cake there in 1 piece and all 3 layers tasted bloody delicious.
The cake baking process was not without drama, so much so I was reduced to tears at one point (boo!). A few of my fears came to fruition, a lot of on-the-fly changes were made, but I kept my eye on the prize and was able to deliver, what turned out to be, a wonderful wedding cake.
The chocolate cake being the biggest layer meant that it was first off the baking ranks. I thought this would be a good way to ease into the mayhem that is wedding cake baking. Now my oven is very temperamental and every time I use it I never know how its going to behave. Unfortunately it decided to have a bad day, a very bad day. Even with the aid of an oven thermometer my cakes turned out under baked and burnt on top (say what!). No stress, I had bought plenty of ingredients and set about re-baking them, score! They turned out great, I still don’t know how they would’ve baked so differently as I did everything the same the 2nd time round.
I thought ‘If that’s the worst thing to happen then I’m doing good!’. The middle layer was coconut with a white chocolate cream cheese filling (soooo good!), everything went swimmingly until I was cooling the cakes on the rack, for some reason they started to deflate and collapse??? I have made these as cupcakes (they featured in my last post) and they stood up well and didn’t deflate? I was gobsmacked, what do I do. I didn’t want to bake them again as I did everything right and followed the recipe to a tea. After some quiet mediation and a few calming breaths, I decided to convert my go-to vanilla cake recipe to coconut. It turned out a treat and all was well in the wedding cake baking realm (I kept telling myself ‘If that’s the worst thing to happen then I’m doing good!’).
Previously I have had issues with buttercream going under fondant. I found that the buttercream always seems to escape and because it’s usually not white, it stains the fondant (yuk!). After some laborious research I decided to give white chocolate plastique a whirl. I found a relatively simple recipe and got to work, I was making about 1.5KG of this stuff so I had to make sure all measurements and quantities were correct (I didn’t want to stuff this up and waste all that money I had spent on white chocolate). It took ages but I cooked it without a hitch (things were looking up!). I left it out to set overnight and went on to bake my top layer (lemon cake which featured in an earlier post). These came out beautifully and I was starting to get my baking stride on! With all cakes baked, all I had to do was make the fondant and finish off the cake. The baking gods must have not liked me because the next morning my chocolate plastique had not set (insert palpitations here). I quickly threw it in the fridge and hoped for the best. 3 hours later and it still had not set (it was slightly more firm but definitely not set, damn you plastique!). I didn’t have any more time to waste, so after much pacing, I decided to give the cakes a thin crumb coat and put the fondant over the top of that (insert silent pleas here).
I was beginning to think that I would not be able to deliver this wonderful cake that I had promised my brother, I really had to steel myself at this point and give the biggest pep talk ever (it took a lot of convincing myself but I got there!). With a renewed vigour I went ahead and layered and iced the cakes, success! Now for the fondant, I have used store-bought fondant and not been taken by their taste or workability. I decided to make my own, I had previously used the fondant that the recipe came from and knew it would be easy to work with. Unfortunately things went awry, I ran out of light corn syrup! I ran up and down Oxford St looking for it (no go ). My BF offered to ride to Paddington to buy some after a few frantic calls were made to various grocers (what a legend!). I could feel my heart starting to palpitate but refused to succumb to defeat and kept on going. Fondant is simple to make, it just takes a fair bit of elbow grease. With all my ingredients at hand I began to make the fondant. Disaster! It wouldn’t come together, it was just a massive mound of crumbly icing sugar (a few tears began rolling down my cheeks). I double checked my measurements and re-read the recipe, I couldn’t find any fault with my method (a few more tears tumbled down). I started googling other fondant recipes and compared them to mine. I finally figured out that the recipe had stated the incorrect amount of icing sugar (too much!). I then started to search how to fix it, by then the tears were rolling freely and I was crying. I couldn’t help it, all the mishaps of the week had finally taken its toll on me. My BF then jumped it and decided to fix it for me (he’s a keeper!), through quiet whimpers I was able to relay to him how to fix it and he set about pounding it into submission. Half an hour later he created a most wonderful fondant that was easy to roll out and didn’t crack when I smoothed the edges. He had saved the day and I couldn’t thank him enough (maybe he’s the next Buddy?)
Finally, finally, finally the cake was finished (phew!). My brother and his wife were absolutely thrilled with it and in the end that’s all that matters. I’m not discouraged by all these hiccups, now they just seem funny (hindsight is a wonderful thing), and with all disasters I have learnt a few more valuable baking tips. I look forward to the next wedding cake that I bake. Anyone need one? I’m free and willing to bake!
Photos by Joe Barnaby
The recipe that follows is for the bottom layer of the cake. Its dense, its moist, its chocolatey and really hard to stop at one piece. Also great for stacked cakes.
Cake recipe adapted from Peggy's Favourite Cakes & Cookies
- 150g dark chocolate
- 200ml milk
- 450g brown sugar, divided
- 150g butter, salted
- 4 eggs
- 300g plain flour
- 3tbs cocoa powder
- 1tsp baking powder
- 1tsp bicarb soda
- 500g dark chocolate
- 200ml thickened cream
- Preheat the oven to 160°C.
- Grease and line 2 x 8-inch (20cm) round baking tins.
- Place chocolate, milk and 225g of the brown sugar in a deep pan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
- Using a mixer, beat the butter and remaining 225g brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarb soda and add to the mixture while mixing at a low speed.
- While the chocolate mix is still hot, slowly pour it into the dough while mixing at a low speed.
- Once combined divide the mixture between the lined tins and bake, rotating tins halfway through, for about 30-40mins* or until tester inserted into centre comes out clean.
- Cool in pans on rack for 15 minutes. Remove from tins and cool completely on racks.
- Break chocolate into pieces and combine with thickened cream in a microwave proof bowl.
- Zap in microwave for 1 min, stir well and return to microwave.
- Continue to zap in 15sec increments, stirring well between each one, until chocolate is melted and completely incorporated in with the cream**
- Cover and set aside in a cool dark place until needed***
- Trim cake layers. Place ½ ganache mixture on bottom layer, place top layer on and smother with remaining ganache.
* I would start checking at 25min mark, we all know ovens can be temperamental!
** Be careful not to burn the chocolate or the mixture will separate and become unusable.
*** You can even leave this overnight, as long as its not hot weather. If it is hot, place it in the fridge after its cooled until needed.