Last Friday the 13th we were invited to a 13th anniversary party in historic Allentown, and I was asked to make a special cake for the occasion....spooky themed, of course!
And it turned into an surprise wedding. Which means that really, I made a wedding cake! It was a hectic week considering I was traveling back and forth to NYC for my class every day and coming home to work on the cake, but I'm so happy I did it. It was a ton of fun to construct, and the couple who asked me are just super nice and I didn't want to say no. It helped that I had sketched a design to follow. I chose 10", 8" and 6" cake sizes, each with about 1.5" layers inside to get the most height possible. I ordered my first bucket of Satin Ice fondant, which is what my boss uses and actually tastes pretty good, along with a whole bunch of other nifty decorating supplies.
So, according to all the online guides I could find, this amount of cake was supposed to serve about 75 people. The hosts were expecting up to 100 guests, so I made another 2 dozen cupcakes, an idea which I have to credit to Cake Journal - too cute! The faces and eyes were cut from fondant, and the mouths were drawn on with food colour marker...also my first time using such a tool. It worked just like a regular marker, which made it feel a bit weird to be using..
Remember these little guys? I had a whole slew of little characters I wanted to add to the cake, which I started making early on in the week...you can store them covered with plastic wrap and use them when you're ready. Who knew my gumpaste flower cutters would come in so handy...I made the spider legs with a daisy cutter and added two little black balls, and made the bat wings using an orchid cutter, slightly reshaped. My favourites though, are still the pumpkins.
If you want to hear all the details, keep reading and I'll give you the whole cake schedule.
How to Make Your Own Spooky Cake for 75 People on a Friday:
(...when you can't do any decorating on the Friday...if you can, you can push the schedule forward by a day)
1) Up to a week before, make all your decorations out of fondant so they have plenty of time to dry and you can see how they turn out. Make extras in case anything breaks. I made about 4 skulls, 4 pumpkins, 2 ghosts, 4 bats, and 2 tombstones.
Anything upright should be cut from a thicker layer of fondant. Attach fondant pieces by moistening slightly with water and a brush. You can use a toothpick for the details, like poking eyes, or making ridges in the pumpkins.
2) Three to four days before, you can bake all your cakes, remove them carefully from the pans, wait until completely cool, and wrap really well in plastic wrap before putting them in the freezer. Not fridge! You will have suspended them in animation and they will taste fantastic. , with a nice fine, dense texture that will be easy to work with. Choose a recipe that works for wedding cakes, such as a pound cake. I used the chocolate and vanilla recipes from the Confetti Cakes book, and turned the vanilla one into a lemon cake (yeah, I know. I never get tired of this flavour...it's just so good). Oh and the cupcakes were Red Velvet.
3) Prepare your simple syrup to brush the cakes with. Equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil and remove from heat.
4) Make lemon curd, and save the egg whites for use in tomorrow's buttercream.
5) Remove your cakes from the freezer; leave wrapped until ready to use.
6) Prepare your icing...I made the swiss meringue buttercream recipe I learned in class, which made about 2.5 quarts. Half was turned into chocolate buttercream by adding cooled, whipped chocolate ganache (chopped chocolate melted into heated heavy cream) and the rest was saved for the lemon cake and cupcakes.
7) Unwrap your cakes, trim them nice and even, brush on the syrup, and do the filling and crumb coating. I decided to pipe the entire filling, but didn't think I needed to spread it flat, and when the cake was cut you could still see all the tubes of icing...not a big deal. Also, when you're using a filling like lemon curd, pipe a dam around the perimeter of the cake to prevent it from leaking out:
Stick everything in the fridge overnight, covered in some plastic wrap:
8) Now, even though you're tired, you should really tint your fondant for the next day, because this is TIME-CONSUMING! It took D and I about 30 minutes to tint all the purple by hand. The mixer didn't seem like it could handle kneading the fondant, which is too bad. We tinted about 4 lbs of fondant total which was more than enough. Don't forget to make black, too. About 1/2 pound should be fine.
9) Cover your cake board. I bought a 1/4" masonite board which is pretty sturdy. For a bigger cake, you'd probably want to get a 1/2" thick one. Wrap it with cake-decorator's foil or florist's foil, or if you don't have either, just use wrapping paper like I did. With the cake cardboard under the bottom layer and all the fondant, it shouldn't get too greasy.
10)Pull out your cakes, and then knead the purple fondant to warm it up. Cover all the cakes with fondant. With a serrated knife, trim the cardboard base flush with the cake. To make the swirls, roll out small pieces of black fondant and taper the tips. Wet a small brush with water, and paint a swirl directly on the cake. Don't use too much water, or else the black will run everywhere! Carefully follow the water swirl with the black fondant and press gently to adhere.
I think I've written about stripes before in another tutorial:
11) Dowel your cake. I'm not going to explain it here because there are hundreds of tutorials on the internet. I like using a stake through the whole thing to give it more support. Assemble the tiers 2 and 3.
12) Make a small batch of royal icing. Pipe your spiderweb design on the second tier, and pipe some more webs onto some parchment to dry. They break easily, so pipe more than you actually need. Now, attach two skewers to the back of the moon and 13 sign with royal. It'll dry hard as rock by the next day. Next, tint the remaining royal icing purple and pipe the borders.
13) Oops, I forgot about the word plaque...that's just a circle of fondant and food colour pen. Make sure it's still pliable and adhere to the cake with a little water.
Friday Party Day:
14) Stick on the piped spiderwebs with a dot of royal icing, because they're not going to travel well in a box. Pack all the rest of your cute little decorations in a paper-towel padded tupperware, and bring a pastry bag of royal icing along with a small round tip and the tip you used for the borders.
15) Once you get to the party, insert the moon and 13 sign and glue on all the decos with royal. Pipe your last border, and you're done! Try your best not to drop the cake now :)
The cake dissected...