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It’s been a hectic month with work ramping up, planning my wedding, and furnishing our newly bought house. I’ve been cooking on a regular basis, but just have not had the time to update my blog.

On top of everything, I decided to help my friend Adri, who got married last weekend, with her wedding cake. To say I helped her with no hidden motive is not true, as I wanted to do a practice cake for my wedding. Although our cakes will be very different in flavor, I think I benefitted a lot from this experience in terms of learning about time management, material readiness, and having more confidence to build my own wedding cake. I also am very thankful to have a friend who trusted me enough to let me handle a big part of her day!

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Adri wanted a lemon flavored cake, and I knew just the recipe. I’ve been a big fan of Joanne Chang’s Flour recipe book since it came out. Joanne Chang is an ex-chemistry major turned bakery chef , and she has her own bakery + cafe called Flour in Boston. Her recipe collection is composed of traditional French pastries like eclaires and brioche as well as American staples like Milky-way Pie, Snicker-doodle cookies, and Red velvet cakes. Mark’s favorite dessert is pineapple upside down cake, and he can eat a whole cake from the Flour recipe book by himself if left to his own devices.

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Flour has a recipe for a lemon cake with fresh raspberry filling and lemon buttercream that I had wanted to try for a long time, and I knew this was going to be the perfect recipe for Adri’s wedding.

First, we had to figure out the timeline and logistics of the cake. Adri and I both live in Austin, but the wedding is taking place at her uncle’s house in Fort Worth on a Friday. We were planning on a two tiered cake, which is going to have a heck of a time surviving a 3 hour car ride. On top of that, Adri has work and wedding errands to do, so it would be hard for us to get together on Thursday to just focus on the cake, especially since she’s also planning to go to FW Thursday night. I did some research and devised a plan.

Apparently it’s very easy to freeze a cake, and depending on the type of frosting, you can even freeze cakes completely frosted. My plan was that we’d make the cakes the Sunday before the wedding, freeze them individually and unfrosted. Adri will pick up the frozen cakes and transfer them to FW, leaving them in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. I will make the buttercream frosting Thursday night, bring it to FW Friday afternoon, and frost/finish the cake right before the wedding.

Everything worked out exactly to plan, even with all the craziness that goes into the production of a wedding.

We met up Sunday afternoon and started on the cakes. Instead of baking the cakes in round pans, I utilized the same process that Momofuku Milk Bar cakes are made. We made 3 full recipes of cake batter and poured them into 3 quarter sheet pans, baked them and then stamped out all the layers we needed. In this case, 3 layers of 10 inch cakes, and 3 layers of 6 inch cakes. We ended up with lots of left over cake scraps, but those are great for cake truffles.

To make the cake, cream together room temperature butter, oil, and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until light, then beat in lemon zest and vanilla extract.

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In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together, and add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the contents of the stand mixer and mix until incorporated.

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Add half a cup of the milk and mix until incorporated. Repeat with half of the remaining dry ingredients, followed by 1/2 cup of milk, and then finish with the rest of the dry ingredients. Be sure to allow the contents of the bowl to fully incorporate before each addition of milk or dry stuff. You might also want to scrape the sides in between additions. Transfer the batter to a large bowl.

Clean the mixing bowl, and thoroughly dry the inside. Beat the egg whites with a whisk attachment until they are at soft peak stage. On medium speed, gradually add in 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until the whites reach stiff peak stage.

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Gently fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter in the large bowl to loosen the batter up, then fold in the remaining egg whites.

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Pour the batter into a parchment lined quarter sheet pan, and bake for 25 minutes. Let the cake cool to room temperature while preparing the next cake.

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The cake is filled with a lemon buttercream made from a mixture of lemon curd and buttercream.
To make the lemon curd, combine 1 cup if lemon juice, 1/4 cup of unsalted butter, and 2 tablespoons of cream in a medium pot and heat until just under a boil.

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Whisk together the eggs and egg yolks in a heat proof bowl, and the slowly whisk in the sugar until just combined.

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Gradually whisk in the hot lemon juice mixture into the eggs and sugar into the heat proof bowl, the return the contents of the bowl into the pot, and cook over medium heat.

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This is where you want to pay close attention to you lemon curd. The eggs are being cooked in a hot sugar lemon juice mixture, and you want to keep stirring the pot so that the eggs don’t cook unevenly and turn into a scramble. I like to err on the side of caution and cook the curd at medium heat or just below medium heat. The curd will take its time in thickening up, but when it does, it only takes a minute for it to get to the optimal consistency. You should be able to draw patterns in the curd when it’s ready. Pour the lemon curd into a metal strainer and push the curd through the mesh to get rid of the tiny clumps of cooked eggs. This will ensure your curd is as smooth as possible.

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Pour the curd into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic wrap directly touches the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Let chill in the fridge for an hour or two until cold.

The buttercream is a traditional style frosting where a hot sugar syrup is slowly poured into a mixture of blended eggs, cooking the syrup in the process. The mixture is beaten until cool, then room temperature butter is beaten into the egg and sugar frosting by the tablespoonful until the frosting turns into a beautifully smooth, silky, and shiny buttercream. Unfortunately I had my hands full, and did not have any photos for this step….

Part of the buttercream will be mixed with the lemon curd to make lemon buttercream. This will be used along with the curd to make the filling. The plain buttercream will be used to frost the cake.

Now on to assembly. Remember that we had 4 days between when the cake was made and when it’s served. My plan was to make the individual cakes, filled but not frosted, and freeze them for the few days in between. To stamp out the cake layers, I used a cake ring from a springform pan to make an indentation. For each quarter sheet cake, you should be able to cut out a 10 inch layer and a 6 inch layer, so make sure you measure out the 10 inch cake with the 6 inch in mind as well.

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Cut out the cake round with a sharp knife.

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I also cut out a 10 and 1/4 inch round of cardboard and parchment paper. This is what I will place the 10 inch cake on until right before final frosting, where I will transfer the cake and parchment paper only to the serving plate. For the 6 inch top tier cake, the cardboard and parchment will be cut the same size as the cake.

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For the 6 inch cake, your layer may have a little missing corner. This is easily remedied by using cake scraps to fill in the corner. Use any large curved piece of cake scrap to filling the gap.

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Place the cake ring on top of the cake scrap so that you can see what needs to be trimmed.

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Trim off the extra cake with a sharp knife, and you have a complete round layer of cake!

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To assemble the cake, lay a layer of cake on the parchment lined card board round, dab plenty of lemon syrup on the surface of the cake, made from equal portion of lemon juice and sugar melted together.

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Spread a thin layer of lemon buttercream on top of the cake layer.

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Using a decorator squeeze bottle, outline the cake with more of the buttercream. This is the dam that will keep the lemon curd from spilling out.

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Spread a layer of lemon curd inside the dam, careful to not overfill.

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Sprinkle fresh raspberry halves on the lemon curd.

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Place the next layer of cake on top and press lightly to adhere.

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Repeat with the lemon simple syrup soak, the lemon buttercream layer and dam, the lemon curd layer, and raspberries.

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After topping with the final layer of cake, wrap the cake in plastic wrap, and let sit in the fridge for 24 hours. This will give time to allow all the layers and fillings of the cake to settle down and adhere to each other.

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The next day, frost the cake with a very very thin layer of buttercream frosting, similar to what some may call a crumb layer. The worst that can happen to a cake after freezing is that it may become dry, and the thin layer of fat will help seal the moisture in the cake.

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Freeze the cake for a few hours until the thin layer of frosting is hard, then tightly cover the cakes with plastic wrap. The cakes should be good for at least 1 week frozen. Even two weeks may not be out of question, but I don’t have a data point to validate my assumption.

Adri picked up the cakes on Thursday, and she had no issues transferring the frozen solid cakes in her car to Fort Worth. The cakes spent a night in the fridge defrosting, and by the time I arrived at 2:30PM the next day, they were in good shape to be frosted.

The good thing about this recipe is that almost everything can be made ahead of time. I made the cake frosting the night before, and brought it with me to Fort Worth. The frosting needs a good 10 minute beating before they are back to the right consistency. It may look curdled a little bit at the beginning, but don’t worry and be patient.

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Place the bottom cake on the cake plate, and you should be able to slide the cake off from the cardboard easily. You can leave the parchment paper on the bottom if you have too much problem getting it off. Frost the bottom tier of cake. You don’t have to make it perfect at this point, but try to make the frosting as flat as possible on the top surface. Also frost the top tier of cake.

Measure, and cut out 6 to 8 bamboo skewers the same height as the bottom tier of cake, insert the skewers in a circle slightly smaller than the diameter of the top tier of cake. Place a few skewer in the center of the circle as well. These will act as the support beams for the cake.

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Next, place the top tier of cake, along with the cardboard round, on to the bottom layer, centering on the bamboo skewer supports.

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The cardboard round will ensure the top tier of cake do not sink into the bottom tier, and when the cake is served, remove the top layer first, aided by the cardboard layer, then remove the bamboo skewers.

Don’t worry about the gap between the tiers, that can be filled and hidden by frosting and decorations.

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Fill the gap as much as you can with the frosting.

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Then pipe a decorative circle of frosting around the gap.

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Now would be a good time to make the frosting as smooth as possible. I’ve not perfected my technique yet, so my frosting was not flawless. Adri provided the blue birds cake topper, which I placed on the cake with a sheet of parchment in between.

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I decorated the cake with hydrangeas and fresh raspberries for the final touch.

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The cake on the inside looked perfect, and the freezing did not seem to affect the flavor as it was just as moist as the day I baked it.

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Making your own wedding cake is a lot of work, but with proper planning and research, it can be done, and I enjoyed myself immensely in making it.

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