Happy Sunday! This past week brought a wedding cake! As beautiful as it is, it brought up the subject of structure in a stacked cake and what the process is to create a custom cake for the client and for the artist.
My only guidelines here were that they wanted black and white with red accents. I did know that the Bride was carrying red roses so that is what I decided to go with. There are three types of clients. Those who know exactly what they want and have photos to back it up. Those who have a general outline of what they want. And those who have no idea and just trust me that I will put something beautiful on their party tables for them. Logic would suggest that the first type would be the most difficult for an artist but it is, in fact, the last one that is the challenge. The first and second types at least give you an idea of what they want and like. The last one has no guidelines at all. To be fair, the last type is usually a returning client who I have had the pleasure of getting to know during their past order...so I usually have at least a little to go on before I design the cake. In all cases I sketch up 3-4 cake designs to see which one works for them and they pick out what they like or want to change or combine from those designs for their final cake.
In making this cake the challenge really was working with the soft black fondant. I use Duff's brand black fondant and I simply love it. It is a true black, not a dark purple, and it tastes like toostie rolls! The only drawback when you are working with it, for decorations on a cake, is that it is very soft and even adding tylose doesn't help a whole lot to make it solid. When covering an entire cake it's wonderful and easy to work with so I highly recommend it for that purpose.
The soft details like the ovals on the second tier were very easy to make. I used a "rose petal" cutter that has 5 teardrop shaped ovals on it. I just cut them apart, making a point at one end, and then placed them onto the cake in small groups. But the ruffles were harder. Especially the cake top. For that I cut out rounds of the fondant and then laid them over mini tart pans and let them set up from there. It took 2 days for them to set up enough to be stacked on top of eachother and hold the ruffle design so be patient and give yourself enough time for this type of decoration with black fondant. The side ruffles are just strips of black fondant that I then "accordianed" into ruffles and then, overlapping at the seams, tucked them around the edges of the cake. The black trim strips are actually grosgrain ribbon and were removed before cutting since they are not edible.
Lastly are the roses. These are royal icing roses that I created and then let dry for several days until they were rock hard. For thin royal icing designs you may only have to wait a few hours for them to be solid but for something as thick as a rose it will take days to have them dry out enough to lift onto a cake. If you don't want to wait for this to happen, chances are your local craft or cake store will have them premade for you. Unfortunately they don't taste good so remove them before serving.
Now...structure. With a tiered cake the rule of thumb is to add support for every 4 inches of cake. I start with a cake board then cake then place 4 dowels into the top of that tier. I allow those to just barely stick above the fondant and then place down another cake board on top for the next tier. I repeat this for as many tiers that I have except for the top tier. Then I put one very long dowel into the top of the cake and push it down to the bottom. This dowel has been sharpened so that it will pierce through the cake boards on it's way down to the bottom board. This allows your cake to be more solid for transportation. What is really holding your cake up is the boards and dowels. The tiers are resting on the dowels, not eachother. The only time I change this procedure up is if I am making a particularly large cake. Then I use a system called SPS. The dowels are large plastic dowels and they interlock into the base plates from top to bottom. A very sturdy way to hold up a very large stacked cake. If I am transporting the cake out of town I will use my Cake Safe and instead of using the center wooden dowel I use the steel dowel that comes with the safe. It holds the cake rock steady for the entire trip. I have used this with a 5 tier cake for over 140 miles and the cake arrived just as it left! A simply wonderful invention for cake makers!
This upcoming week brings sugar flowers and a Bridal Shower cake. I simply can NOT wait for the Bride to Be to see this cake! I will share it with you next Monday since Sunday is Easter!