dessert

wedding cake series part 2: assembly and decoration

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We’ve made it this far, friends. Our cakes have been baked, and our chocolate mousse filling and cream cheese frosting are chillin’ like villains in the fridge. (For recipes on these three components of the cake, see my previous post!). It’s 7am the morning of the wedding, and these babies are ready to be put together and made pretty!

In this post, I’ll give you a step-by-step for how the assembly/decoration process went down.

(Before the day-of) Freeze your cake layers, prep filling and frosting: First things first- preparation is extremely important for any big cake/food project. As I said, all of my components and tools were prepped and ready to go (mis en place, anyone?) so that I could enjoy putting the cake together without the stress of finding or making things as I went. So how did I store/transport all the cake layers, mousse, and frosting? Mousse and frosting were made the night before and stored in 2-gallon ziploc bags. The cake layers were baked, cooled, wrapped in 2-3 layers of cling wrap each, and frozen. (I made them 4 days before the wedding). To transport, I found the biggest box I could find, put some ice packs in the box, and drove them up to Vermont with the A/C on high the whole car ride (sorry, passengers).

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I would recommend taking your cake layers out of the freezer about 30-45 min before you’re ready to start, so they can thaw out a bit. On one of my test runs, I tried to level a cake layer while it was still rock solid frozen and ended up with my first ever kitchen knife wound (don’t worry, it was minor).

I placed all of the layers on cardboard cake circles, for ease of stacking later!

Level cake layers: If needed, use a big serrated knife to make cake layers level. Unfortunately I don’t have any good tricks on how to do this right now, other than eyeballing it…

Moisten cake layers: Handy trick for keeping the cake moist- dissolve 1-2 teaspoons of granulated sugar in about 1/2 cup of water, then use a pastry brush to brush the water over the cake.

Pipe filling on one half of the cake layers: As I mentioned, the mousse filling was stored in large ziploc bags. I simply cut a small hole in the corner of a bag and piped the mousse, as shown:

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After mousse filling has been piped onto one half of a tier, carefully stack the other half of the tier on top (I used my hands).

Crumb coat: A crumb coat is a preliminary coat of frosting whose purpose is to entrap all the crumbs that will come off the naked cake when you try to frost it. Frost the cake with a thin layer of frosting, then stick the cake in the fridge for about an hour. The crumb coat acts like a “sealant” for the cake, providing a smooth, crumb-free surface for frosting!

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Frosting: When the crumb coat is fairly solid, we are ready to frost! Use a frosting spreader to even spread the frosting over the tops and sides of the cake. I usually start with the top of the cake, smoothing it out as shown on one of my test cakes here:

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Then, spread frosting over the sides of the cake, going around in a smooth motion with the frosting spreader until you have an even layer all around. Smooth out the edges if they have overhangs of frosting, as needed.

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Stack the tiers: When making tiered cakes, it is important to consider structural integrity, so that the cake doesn’t collapse in on itself! (I had nightmares about this happening). I got plastic cake dowels from Michael’s- I assume you can get them in most stores that sell specialty baking equipment! Insert a plastic dowel into the cake, mark on the dowel where the top of the cake is, then take the dowel out and cut it where your mark is (I had to use a serrated knife to do this). For the bottom tier of the cake, I used five dowel pieces and for the second tier, I used four, as shown:

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Now, to stack, use your hands or two big sturdy spatulas to carefully place each tier on top of the other! Don’t worry about the gap between the tiers for now- we will fix that with frosting!

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Decorate!: Once the cake tiers are stacked, fill in the gaps between the tiers with frosting and touch up with whatever decorative frosting you desire! As I mentioned (and as you can see), I went for a textured look, achieved by simply spreading more frosting in an abstract-painter kind of way all over the cake sides. I then used some pretty flowers for garnish and added my cake topper to finish it all off!

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Whew! We made it. Assembly and decoration took me a good five hours; I went back to the house I was staying at with the bridesmaids, took a power nap, put on clothes that didn’t have frosting on them, and then went to enjoy a seriously beautiful wedding! Here are some bonus pictures from the venue in Chittendon, Vermont. Note- these pictures are completely unfiltered/unedited. God is just that good of an artiste.

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Congrats again, August and Christina!!!!

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