Thursday, July 8, 2010

Anniversary Cake: Tips & Tricks

A month ago, I was commissioned to create an anniversary cake for my co-worker's parents.  He and his sister were planning an anniversary party for their parents (which they knew about), but he wanted to include a special surprise:  a small replica of their wedding cake.  Sounded easy enough, so I agreed to bake it.  Here's what I had to work with:

I was given a print out of this image, which was a little better than the scan I received by e-mail...but not much.  

I had a vague idea of what the original cake looked like. All the squinting in the world didn't help, but I did the best I could to create an "old school" wedding cake--garlands and all!  There wasn't any way to find out what flavor the wedding cake was without spoiling the surprise, so I was given free rein in the flavor department. Wedding cakes these days come in any flavor/color/shape, but 50 years ago white-on-white almond-flavored cakes were standard fare.  I wanted to stay as true to tradition as possible, so I kept the white almond cake and white shortening-based icing but opted to fill the cakes with a blend of lemon and Bavarian creme pastry fillings (found at many cake decorating or party supply stores, or online through Country Kitchen SweetArt).

White Almond Sour Cream Cake (Link)
- One batch of this batter will make two 6" rounds and two 10" rounds (the yields given in the recipe have never worked for me)
- It is easiest to split the recipe in half and bake one 6" and one 10" layer at a time, especially if you don't own two of each pan size.
- Cake may be baked ahead of time.  Once cooled, the cake layers may be tightly wrapped and frozen.  When ready to decorate, remove the cakes from freezer and allow WRAPPED cakes to defrost on counter.
- Level (cut those unsightly humps off!) and torte (split 'em in two horizontally) the layers for the best presentation.
- What to do with those 8 leftover egg yolks?  Stay tuned :)

Extra Special Buttercream Icing (Link)
- One batch of this recipe was enough to ice and decorate (but not fill) one 6" and one 10" round cake, both 4" tall.  
- Go easy on the heavy cream.  Start with 4 oz. (recipe calls for 6 to 8 oz.) and add more if needed, one Tablespoon at a time.
- Refrigeration is recommended for this icing, so if real estate in your chill chest is scarce, you might want to select a different recipe.

50/50 blend of lemon and Bavarian creme pastry filling (Link)
- How much filling to use?  Well...that depends.  Country Kitchen SweetArt has a handy chart, but those amounts are probably only valid for "regular" two-layer cakes and not the fancy-pants four-layer cakes we have going on here.  
- In case you're wondering, I used a scant ¼ cup between each 6" layer and a scant ¾ cup between each 10" layer.  
- A spring loaded ice cream scoop is mighty handy for portioning the filling.  Mine holds roughly ¼ cup, which makes the seemingly arbitrary filling amounts I listed above seem...less arbitrary ;)

Creamy lemon filling = YUM.
Creating an icing dam helps prevent "filling blowout" later.
A soft pastry brush is great for whisking away stray crumbs.

Here they are, all filled and ready for their icing coats!
The top tier (background) is a 6" round cake, while the bottom tier (foreground) is a 10" round.  The larger tier is set upon a cake base made by covering a stack of four cake cardboard rounds which have been taped together, making sure the corrugations are staggered for sturdiness.

 An old school wedding cake wouldn't be complete without garlands/swags/those hangy down thingys.  Wanna know the secret to great looking swags?

Use a garland marker.  
 These are pretty easy to find, and will only set you back a buck or two.  It's composed of two pieces of plastic and is easily customized by changing the position of the spiked strip along the slotted holder.  Perfectly matched garlands every time!

Here's a look at the (almost) finished product:
My co-worker (well, his sister probably) will have to assemble the cake at the party site.  I've marked off the top of the large tier using the separator plate under the small tier, so all they'll need to do is push the pillars straight in and set the top tier in position.  They are "Push-in Pillars," so no doweling needed.  Once the topper is on they'll be all set!

I think the final cake is pretty close to what the original wedding cake might have looked like...or at least it's close enough!  Finding a similar cake topper was a challenge, so I opted to go DIY and buy all the pieces separately.  The bride and groom figurine (harder to find than expected!) were purchased at a party supply store, as was the 2-piece pedestal they're standing on.  I created the floral arch with loose flowers I got during a sale at Hobby Lobby.  The flowers were twisted around each other to form a general arch shape, then secured with green floral tape.  Lots and lots of floral tape   :)

Hope you enjoyed this peek into all the behind-the-scenes stuff.  This is wedding cake #3 for me (well 4 if you count a Groom's Cake), and the experience has only reinforced what I dreaded to admit a while back:  making my own wedding cake is a BAD IDEA.  The time investment is immense, so I think I'll let the pros handle the job in January!


  1. I love it!! Are they going to send pictures of it once it's assembled?

  2. I love how all the layers are uniform and flat(no domes). How did you do it? Your cake looks gorgeous. BTW, congrats on your engagement. Are you planning to make your own wedding cake? (cake #5-you're a pro now)


  3. Such a beautiful cake! You are a pro :)

  4. hope it tasted as good as it looks !

  5. Oh I love behind the scenes stuff, even though I'm pretty sure I'm gonna stick to small time baking for my friends and coworkers. Your cakes look lovely, and I'm sure the couple will be delighted. Though I'm sure you would've made an amazing cake for yourself, I'm glad you're going to give yourself more time to focus on your big day in general.

  6. What a wonderful re-creation! I've never heard of a garland marker before either - I'm going to keep an eye out for one now! Beautiful job on the cake!