When baking for a big event, it’s best to practice. This lesson is one that I have had to learn the hard way. I’ve made a few cakes for big events – sweet 16ths, 18ths, 21sts. On several of the occasions, things have not gone to plan when I have converted recipes from a single batch to a larger batch which served the 100 or so guests. That is why when my sister asked me to make her wedding cake, I was determined to do a few large-scale trials.
The first trial was a couple of weeks ago. I had put aside the weekend to give the wedding cake trial the attention it deserved. I had to make note of changes I would need to make for the next trial. For the wedding I’ll be making about 100 cupcakes and one cake for the top of the cupcake tower. I decided to do a trial of 50 to iron out these up-scaling issues. The up-scaling issues can occur with cooking time, and especially with sugar-works when making marshmallow, caramel, etc. where temperature is important and a larger batch will take longer to get to the desired temperature, and then remain hotter.
The one thing I am quite firm on for big event cakes is that they must taste good. So many big event cakes are covered in fondant or sickly frosting, and aren’t pleasant to eat. This, of course, makes striking the balance between aesthetics and taste more difficult – for me. These tasty wedding cupcakes must look the part, as well.
One flavour of cupcake is white chocolate mud cake with a salted caramel ganache. This is a combination I have adopted from two separate recipes, both from Women’s Weekly books. The white chocolate mud is meant to have a mock-cream frosting, and the salted caramel ganache is really a recipe for salted caramel truffles that I have piped on top of the cupcake, instead of rolling into truffle balls. This combination is entirely decadent, and it was a big success. However, there are always things you could do better. Hopefully you find these applicable to you, too. Lessons from the white chocolate mud cake with salted caramel ganache:
- Scaling factors: 3 x salted caramel truffle recipe for 2x white chocolate mud recipe (1.5 truffles per cupcake)
- Use 3 tablespoons of mud cake mixture for each patty pan, not 2 tablespoons as recipe dictated for this size of patty pan.
- White chocolate mud cake patty pans were larger than the mocha cupcake patty pans. Will need to source patty pans of the same size, and determine tablespoons as above again with new patty pans.
- Timing: Caramel takes significantly longer to brown in large batches, but once it starts browning, goes dark quickly. Be patient and then ready to take off heat as soon as it shows a blush.
Cupcake Number 2 was a mocha cupcake with espresso buttercream frosting which was borrowed from another food blog, and sounded exactly like what my sister and her fiancee had asked for. It should have been a simple enough recipe, but the cupcake portion of it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped. The espresso buttercream was very sweet and rich, but did have a nice balanced coffee taste, and was needed as the cupcake portion was a little dry.
Lessons from the mocha cupcake and espresso buttercream frosting cupcake:
- Practice: Make a new recipe a few times, or use tried and true recipes. Mud cake lasted well over time, so might try another mud recipe, or alter a known cupcake recipe.
- Technique: Using a larger piping tip created a neater frosting appearance
- Scaling Factors: 2x cupcake recipe + 1.5x espresso buttercream recipe. (I ended up with leftover buttercream).
Practice with the size you will be making on the day – patty pan sizes make a difference to appearance and cooking time.
Find a recipe that is easy to make and is repeatable. It’s stressful enough knowing that you’re making a wedding cake, without worrying if you’ll get the details right.
Practice! If you’re not a professional pastry cook, then practice helps for confidence, which helps for having a level head when things don’t exactly go to plan. Things may not go to plan, so be prepared.
Use recipes you love – at the very least, it will taste delicious!
All of these lessons are learned the hard way – I wouldn’t want to see you in tears on the floor, as I have been in some high-pressure failures. It’s a lovely and thoughtful idea to make a cake for someone you love, and they don’t want to see you upset. Try to have some fun! Your friends will certainly enjoy it.