In the words of my mother when asked about her favorite flavor of pie:
"I like cake"
And how about wedding cake? Such a wonderful thing to look at while mingling over post nuptial cocktails and just waiting for the judgement of each guest in the house. It is so pretty, but what will it taste like? The way I see it, there are really two parts to a wedding cake: There is the look: the delight on the eye's palate as we take in the layers, design and potentially the match to the wedding's theme. And then there is, of course, the taste. Does the cake really signify anything? Does it have any importance other than satisfying the sweet tooth of a large party of people? I have heard that the number of layers signifies the brides wealth, and I have also heard that if a single girl sleeps with a slice of wedding cake under her pillow she will dream of the man she is to marry. So I would say the jury is still out on significance. In any event, I think that every celebration deserves cake, and what better celebration to have a large castle of a cake built in one's honor than one's wedding?
I spent the last weekend of June 2016 building a wedding cake for the magical forest wedding of my dear friends Koos and Mitch.
My experience making said cake was a humbling one, and it made me cringe a little bit at all of the times that I have judged so harshly another baker's wedding cake. But only a little bit.
This cake journey was one of the most lemoniest variety. I learned many things along the way - the most important of which was to NOT use a convection oven if I can help it. And that I am a much better baker at six in the morning then at ten at night.
I additionally learned that tequila tastes great in lemon cake, and that lemon zest knows no boundaries in this application. Lemon curd is an excellent cake filler and there is a difference between culinary and other types of lavender.
I thought that the internet would be full of recipes scaled to a tiered wedding cakes size needs, but unfortunately I did not find any. After several attempts and a few switcheroos, here is the recipe that I came up with which worked nicely for a 10"8"6" wedding cake, with three layers per tier.
Naked Lemon Wedding Cake with Lavender Butter cream frosting
Adapted from this recipe on Mycakeschool.com
- 11.25 cups cake flour
- 6.75 cups granulated sugar
- 2.25 tspsalt
- 11.25 tsp baking powder
- 6.75 sticks unsalted butter, softened slightly, still cool to the touch
- 18 large eggs, room temperature
- 4.5 egg yolks
- 4 cups buttermilk
- 1.25 cups limoncello or tequila
- 9 tbsp vegetable oil
- 9 tsp vanilla extract
- 13.5 lemons worth of zest,
- 4 lemons worth of juice - just go ahead and use the zested ones
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Grease 2 each: 10", 8" and 6" springform cake pans (my cakes burned a bit on the edges, not sure if flouring would have helped? )
- In the bowl of your mixer sift cake flour, granulated sugar, salt, & baking powder. Whisk to blend.
- In a separate bowl lightly whisk your eggs and egg yolks, just until all yolks are broken. Add buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, lemon zest + juice. Whisk together until well combined.
- Slice soft butter into 1 inch chunks. With your mixer on low to medium speed, slowly add the slices of softened butter, a few at a time to your dry ingredients. Beat approximately 1 minute or longer if needed, until the dry ingredients are crumbly and moistened by the butter. Stop the mixer and use your freshly washed hands to work the larger pieces of butter into pea sized bits. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there is no dry flour. Your mixture should feel a bit like damp sand, with some pea sized pieces.
- Gradually add approximately 1/2 of the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes, the batter will become thick and fluffy. Scrape the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture in 2 additions, scraping the bowl and beating for 20 seconds after each addition.
- Once well mixed taste your batter. Does it have the delicious lemony flavor that you are looking for? If not, squeeze the juice out of a few of those zested lemon halves. Mix, and taste again? Make sure the batter is looking fluffy.
- Measure batter out in two cup increments to distribute equally between all pans. you should have about 2cups per 6", 4 cups per 8", and 6 cups or more in the 10"s. Gently bang each pan full of batter on the counter top to get rid of any bubbles.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate pans in the over at about 20min. Remember that the 6 inch cakes will likely finish cooking before the 10" and so on! Let the cakes cool in their pans 10 minutes then turn out to the counter top
If you are making this wedding cake all in one day, go ahead and make the frosting while the cake is baking, and the lemon curd while the cake is cooling. Remember to clean up after each component, it will help you keep your sanity!
For the frosting, I made a lavendar buttercream by infusing the top half of culinary lavender into about 2 cups of whole milk. Culinary lavender has a much more potent aroma than other varieties of lavender and you can find it at whole foods markets, as well as your friendly, local flower farmer. I got mine from miss Carra of Flowers by Carra in Santa Cruz, CA.
Directions for infusion:
- Rinse 1 bunch culinary lavender.
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat 2 cups whole milk over low heat. Add your lavender and stir constantly until milk is almost frothing, but not quite boiling. We do not want the milk to scald!
- Once milk gets up to temp and has been there with your constant stirring for about 1 min, turn off the heat and let lavender steep. It can steep pretty much until you are ready to use, but at least 10min. Taste your infused milk while it is warm, you want it to be very strong since we are only using a little bit of the milk in our buttercream. Add more lavender if neccessary.
- Strain out lavender and reserve infused milk in fridge.
Make the buttercream frosting (recipe here), but sub your infused milk instead of regular milk. If you have any leftover infusion, I recommend saving it until the cake is all frosted up and on display. You never know, you may need to make just a pinch more of frosting! I know I always do :)
I used Alton Brown's Lemon Curd Recipe. It yields quite a bit of lemon curd, and since I only used it on one layer per tier, this recipe was more than enough.
Building the cake
Here are some helpful video's on exactly how to build that beautiful naked cake. Watch them, and learn.
Superfine bakery - how to measure, ice, build, slice
How to Cake it - hilarious cake maker makes a naked cake
The way that I built each tier was:
- Layer 1: Buttercream ring filled with lemon curd
- Layer 2: Buttercream ring filled with light layer of buttercream and filled in with sliced strawberries
- Layer 3: All Buttercream, smoothed out and beautiful
After each tier was made, I cut 5 dowels to go in the bottom two layers, and then I stuck all three in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up before wrapping in plastic. The next day (wedding day) I pulled the tiers out, and used my frosting spatula to trim up each layer of frosting. Then I stacked my cakes and got to decorating!
This cake made enough slices for all 150 guests. And it tasted great too!