Before you dismiss me as a masochist for deciding to design and bake my own wedding cake, let me explain. I love to bake. Plus, I was marrying a Frenchman whose stepmother was cooking for our reception. Therefore, it was imperative to prove to my new family of culinary wizards that Americans can cook, too.
So with a pride-driven, monumental, three-tiered task in front of me, I started practicing months in advance. Thank goodness my friends enjoy cake.
Selecting the Recipe
My first choice of recipe for my cake was, of course, an American one. Unfortunately, as soon as I slid it out of the oven, I knew I wouldn't be pleased with the result. As someone who is not the biggest fan of American cake, I should have known better than to rummage through the English google archives. The result was a dense, under-flavored piece of sponge. So I went back to the drawing board.
As I sat there researching, my partner was lured into the kitchen by the wafting tendrils of baked goods. However, he stopped himself in his tracks when he saw the source of the scent. Immediately he suggested that I try out a French recipe.
As someone who firmly stands by the opinion that French pâtisserie is superior to American bakery (I can't say I always disagree), he somehow knew that I would bake a better cake if I read in French.
So, with a little bit of help we found directions for an airy lemon chiffon cake that looked heavy on the citrus.
As an American, I will say that I was completely disloyal to my country when I tasted the results - that cake was so good.
The springy texture was positively saturated with lemon. It would have made me pucker had it not had exactly the right infusion of sugar to temper the acidic shocks that laced every bite. It was perfect in every way.
It only took me a heartbeat to realize that a raspberry coulis (which is a cross between a jam and donut filling) would be a perfect spread between each layer of luscious lemon. Thankfully I already had a foolproof recipe for that. Then after I poked holes into the cake and let the coulis soak into the layers, I realized that I needed to frost the entire tower.
Since I had carefully constructed this cake using the maximum amount of local and unprocessed ingredients (because naturally I wanted to add an extra layer of complexity to the project), it only made sense to make frosting using real vanilla beans.Thankfully, after the vanilla beans are processed, the frosting was a chinch to whip up.
Since I knew I wanted a naked cake with florals to match my bouquet, I had to whip up a fairly thick frosting that would stand up to scraping with a pastry slicer.
Then I practiced until I achieved the look I was going for.
Sadly, the real floral decoration would have to wait until my wedding day because I didn't know what flowers I would have access to.
The Real Deal Wedding Cake
So how did I manage to construct this piece of architectural wonder of buttressed baked good the day before my wedding? The short answer is a lot of help.
To start with, about a week before the big day I prepared my frosting and coulis and then froze them. For the 6 layers of cake, however, I would not have been able to do it without the help of my now mother-in-law. That woman was born to work in an American kitchen.
With a 5'1" frame and imperceptibly quick movements, she quickly dominated my kitchen. Flying between work surfaces and squeezing herself into corners to dump the needed ingredients into the appropriate bowl, this woman became my kitchen fairy.
48 lemons zested, 4 dozen eggs separated, and goodness knows how many cups of flour sifted, she did it all as if it were as easy as flipping a page in a cookbook. She never even looked less than flawless doing it. Me on the other hand, I think I had batter caked into my eyebrows by the time I had finished baking.
The Final Product
After 8 hours of baking and with flour in every crevice of my kitchen, we finally delivered the completed cakes to the venue where my little elven helpers kindly assembled and decorated the final product.
And I think it turned out well!