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Reaching New Heights

8 November Posted by Emily

Welcome back to another story, but we made it longer to make up for the lost week!  We have been busy as bees in the kitchen the last two weeks.  This past Saturday was one of our busiest days of the year (so far).  We participated in the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show on Saturday and Sunday, then we had some large wedding cakes to produce.  We had a lot of late nights punching out little sugar flowers and rolling gum paste.  At times we were also up to our elbows in cookie dough, not to mention our arms got a workout rolling sugar cookies.  Through all of this we also practiced our beautiful piping skills and prepared over a thousand cake pops just as the beginning!  We hope you all enjoyed the samples that we had to offer at the food show.  Now on to our cake of new heights.

Victoria and I come from a large extended family.  So when one is ready to get married, we are always happy to help create their dream cake.  Our cousin Jeff brought his bride, Ella, into our bakery with a specific cake design in mind – THE Royal Wedding Cake.  Which one, you may ask, none other than Prince William and Kate Middleton’s cake from this spring, of course!  They liked the grand look with the multiple tiers stacked together to create one large and stunning display.  Since they were having over 480 guests, they wanted to have multiple flavors for everyone to choose from.  The first must have was our fantastic carrot cake with cream cheese filling – our family loves the moist spiced cake with plenty of carrots.  Then they wanted to delight all the chocoholics out there with our devil’s food cake with a rich chocolate buttercream filling.  We then lightened it up with some mocha truffle cake and vanilla sponge cake with assorted fillings.  There was something for everyone.

After looking up the design of the royal wedding cake for inspiration, we got to work on how many cakes we would need and how we would put it all together.  But the most important question was how we were going to build the support structure.  So we decided to give the project to a trusted carpenter – my husband Ray!  I gave him plenty of ideas and the boards we would be using, so he spent many hours at various hardware stores finding just the right pieces to lock the support structure in place.  I believe he may have even missed a beloved Hokies football game on a Saturday to work on it!  There was much measuring, drilling, gluing, and redoing on his end.  Once he finished with the structure, he turned it over to the bakery to make it more beautiful.

Our team of decorators started weeks in advance to prepare all the sugar flowers and arrangements to adorn the cake.  For the entire day on Friday (the day before the wedding), we had a team of three bakers working on cracking eggs and baking the 21 tiers, or 42 layers, to make up this cake.  As each cake came out of the oven, we worked on quickly cooling and de-panning them to make space in the kitchen.  The decorators and kitchen assistants made gallons of vanilla buttercream (yes, we do use real butter in it) to cover all the tiers of cake and all the various fillings.  Once the layers were cool, we cut, leveled and filled them, then assembled all the tiers to ice them in the vanilla buttercream.  By the time the last tier was iced, the first tier was cool enough for its ivory fondant cover.  Once all the tables got cleared the fondant mats and rolling pins were brought out, and teams worked in tandem to get all the cakes covered.  At this time, there were some arm-wrestling challenges thrown about from the decorators since they got quite the workout from the hand rolling (no machines here) of the fondant.

Now that the cakes were all covered, they were ready to be stacked and decorated.  On the base of the cake, we use four sets of 12″ and 9″ cakes stacked together and slightly off-set.  The decoration on this required a very steady hand since the bottom tier was decorated with our triple drop lacing and finished with a small white blossom.  The top cake had a very simple and elegant embossed fondant ribbon with some vines coming down the top and sides of the cake.  Then there were four sets of 10″ cakes set in between the four stacked cakes.  For this design, we decided on using a fairly new technique of embroidered flowers and leaves.  This technique requires quick hands and delicate piping skills.  We then tied together all the bottom cakes with four smaller cakes.  Once all the side cakes were done, we started on the middle tower.  The bottom cake was decorated with fondant swags to mimic the drop strings, but more appropriate for such a large cake.  We finished the seams with a white gumpaste rose.  The cake on top of that had an embossed fondant ribbon band to tie in the band from the bottom cakes.  We then custom created a small separator to set the top three cakes apart.  We used a beautiful scrolled design and sprayed it with a pearl shine to let it stand out.  We then brought in design elements from the all bottom cakes, but slightly different, to make the top three cakes really stand out and unique.

Now on to the delivery.  All of the sugar flowers were packaged VERY carefully on Friday evening with plenty of foam and tissue paper.  They took up three large boxes.  There were four cars need to take the delivery – two large SUV’s, one minivan (with all the seats down) and one sedan.  One of the SUV’s held all the equipment, including the 4′ support structure and rolling cart.  The other three held all the tiers of cake.  Upon arrival at China Garden in Rosslyn (the reception site), it took multiple trips in the elevator to get the entire cake upstairs.  Once there, we took over the side tables to start putting the cake together.  We used a champagne pintuck tablecloth for the table, then placed our support on top.  We then worked on getting all the 21 tiers of cake up.  Once everything was set, we went to work on placing all the sugar flowers.  We started with large arrangements of roses and calla lilies, accented with some orchids and more small white blossoms.  We kept moving around the cake, all the sides looked the same, there was no back side to the cake.  Once everything was all set, we place the final arrangement on top and the cake looked absolutely regal!

So here are some fun facts about the cake.  This cake would have served close to 900 guests.  The bottom cakes were close to 5″ high each.  We used over 20 dozen eggs, 25 lbs of flour, 30 lbs of sugar and 40 lbs of vanilla buttercream.  From Friday to Saturday, we put in over 60 hours of work on the cake (this does not include the sugar flowers made earlier).  The set up took a team of four almost two hours, not including the delivery time.  And for the retail cost – remember the commercial that promotes “PRICELESS”, and for everything else there is a Mastercard!  I am also including a link to a video made by our Uncle Gene about the cake.  Please enjoy!  http://www.cakesbyhappyeatery.com/royalweddingcake.htm