This one time, I made cake for 40 people.

I have made cake for crowds before.  Usually less than 15, which is fine for 1 large cake, but when I was asked to make a birthday cake for my mother’s 60th birthday, I jumped at the opportunity.  Everyone deserves an incredible cake for the 60th birthday.  And then I found out that the preliminary guest list was for 30-40 people.  And parties have a tendency to increase in size, so always aim high.  So I got to thinking about how much cake one might need for 40 people.  And then it dawned on me…. I’d be making my first double tiered cake.  And I panicked, just a little.  And then I got to doing what I do best… PLANNING.  And I planned my little heart out.  Knowing that the party would be taking place in June, I thought a lighter cake may be nice, but also having received a request for chocolate from the cake’s commissioner, I decided to go with my favorite chocolate stout cake.  Not only because it’s chocolate, but because it’s dense, and robust enough to easily support a second tier.  The top tier would be lemon.  Why?  Because lemon cake is incredible, and I know it would pair well with a fruity mouselline buttercream.  So I got to modifying my standard white cake recipe to be exceptionally lemony.  But you know what?  I found a website that does cake calculations.  You have to register, but it’s free, and you can input what size cakes you’re thinking of making, it’ll sketch out what they’ll look like, and stack them for you, and tell you how many people it’ll serve with various sizes of slices.  It was a worthwhile expenditure of 15 minutes.  And I got down to some math in regards to determining how many batches of batter I’d need to make cake for my pans.

And then I got down to cooking. First, let me tell you – there is a reason that wedding cakes cost $500+.  That shit’s time consuming!  Obviously a professional bakery would be far more efficient, but still, it was a great deal of time, and a lot of expense, putting together cake for that many people.  This was exacerbated by the pan size that I chose to use being uncommon, so I had to order a pan for the 6″ cake, and couldn’t bring myself to fork up another $40 for another 9″ square, so I had to bake the cakes one at a time.  I started off by making the lemon curd, which I just now realized I haven’t shared a recipe for before.  Anyway, I made a super thick lemon curd.  It was delicious.  Then I made my raspberry sauce.  This sauce is essentially just thawed bags of unsweetened frozen raspberries, blended thoroughly with some lemon juice.  Then strained through a fine mesh strainer, to remove the seeds.  The sauce is then microwaved (this is an effective way to reduce the sauce without caramelizing any of the sugars), stirred, and then microwaved over and over again, until it has reduced down to a thin jam-like texture.  Then you add enough sugar to make it tasty, and you’re good to go.

making raspberry reduction sauce

making raspberry reduction sauce

The next step was to make the chocolate stout cake.  This required 2 batches of my chocolate stout cake to get 3x 9 inch layers.

That day was a solid 8 hours of cooking/baking/cleaning. When the cakes had cooled, I simply wrapped them in 2 layers of plastic wrap, 1 layer of heavy duty foil, then put each layer separately in a ziploc freezer bag.  Then they went into the freezer. Oh yeah, did I tell you that I had to do all of this 2 weeks in advance?  There’s no way I was going to have time the day before the party, and frozen cakes go together better. More on that later.  Day 2 saw the creation of the lemon cake as well as my buttercream (which I totally forgot to photograph, but was a standard mousseline buttercream with probably a cup of the raspberry sauce I made earlier added in).  For the lemon cake, I will someday share the recipe, but I replaced all of the milk in it with lemon juice, and beat the zest of all of the lemons in with the sugar and butter.  It was great. I needed a dessert to bring to a Father’s Day BBQ we were invited to, so I figured I’d make a double batch of the lemon cake, get my 3x 6″ square layers of cake, and a dozen cupcakes.  This also gave me a small trial on the lemon cake, where if people didn’t love it, I’d have time to throw together another recipe before the birthday party.

The lemon cupcakes got hollowed out, filled with lemon curd, and topped with a small amount of my raspberry buttercream, then garnished with a small strip of candied lemon zest.  They were a hit, and I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to do round 2 with another experimental lemon cake recipe.

The lemon layers got the same treatment as the chocolate ones, except I just wrapped them in double layers of foil.  I had run out of freezer bags.  It all worked out fine.  The morning of the party, I pulled my lemon layers out first and got to assembly.

assembling lemon-raspberry layer cake
First I built a dam of buttercream on the edges of the cake to prevent the soft lemon curd from squeezing out.

assembling lemon-raspberry layer cake

Then I followed up with a layer of raspberry sauce

assembling lemon-raspberry layer cake

And a layer of lemon curd.

assembling lemon-raspberry layer cake

Then another layer of cake.

assembling lemon-raspberry layer cake

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

assembling lemon-raspberry layer cake

The first coat of frosting on a cake is called a “crumb coat.”  This is where you go over the cake, even out any inconsistencies in shape, and trap all of the crumbs of cake.  Then the cake goes into the fridge or freezer, which will solidify the butter in the frosting, and allow you to go back over with a finish coat.  When the lemon cake went into the freezer, I got started on the chocolate stout cake. It looks so pretty, contrasting with the gorgeous pink frosting.

assembling a 9

The chocolate stout cake was a little more straightforward.  I used a 12″ square piece of HDPE (leftover from my duck pond – don’t worry, it’s food grade, and the stuff they make plastic cutting boards out of!)

assembling a 9

A little dab of frosting to help adhere cake to plastic…

http://www.homeindisarray.com/2014/03/a-little-bit-of-progress-on-duckingham.html

Then just layers of buttercream between the cake.  This needed to be extra sturdy, and monkeying around with something slidey when the cake needed to support another one, plus get transported 80 miles wasn’t an option.

assembling a 9

assembling a 9

Then the stout cake got its crumb coat.  And I forgot to keep photographing anything!  I was on the last of my frosting when doing my final coats (I doubled my frosting recipe, and should have tripled it!), so I ended up with a less than perfectly smooth cake, but we got close.  Then I stuck both cakes back in the freezer to solidify as much as possible before hopping in the car and driving them down to where the party was being held.  As soon as I got there, I stacked them (a double layer cake doesn’t need supports as long as the bottom layer is sturdy, whereas a triple layer cake needs dowels to support the weight of the 3 cakes), cleaned up as much of the smudges I had made in the frosting as possible, and piped little thingies around the bases to make them less ugly.  Then all there was to do was make a pedestal out of a sturdy cambro container and some napkins (classy, right?) and top it with candles!  Oh, it was a 70’s themed party, btw, which may explain the crazy outfits, makeup, and hair.

chocolate, raspberry and lemon double tiered layer cake!

I didn’t get any shots of the cake after it was cut (and people seemed to scoop it up pretty quickly!) but it was gorgeous.

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